Rebekah Sokol, Tufts Daily - Nick Kristof speaks at Tufts on 02.27In the past few weeks, I heard words and music from several wonderful folks promoting action on the genocide in Darfur, both sponsored by different segments of the Boston Jewish community. The first was a benefit for AJWS at the Kavod House, advertised in the first “Raise your Voice Against Darfur” post,where the wonderfully talented and inspiring Minna Bromberg sang a collection of her own works and mostly Pete Seeger- folk songs. The concert also included teaching about our responsibility to act on Darfur from Rabbi Or Rose of Hebrew College, and a brief column about supporting targeted divestment from Sudan by Nicholas Kristof of the NYTimes.
Then, a week ago Tuesday, Tufts Hillel sponsored a dinner with and lecture by Nicholas Kristof, who has been a lone passionate voice in the public sphere on Darfur.
Although I was at the May 2006 DC rally and have remained [very] marginally informed on the issue, these two events marked a more specific mental engagement with the issue on my part. Nick Kristof presented footage of some individuals he had met in recent trips to Darfur and neighboring Chad, which, coupled with his commentary about their situations, seemed difficult for the audience to take. My initial reaction to the lecture, was that it was overall pretty good but not stunning. Kristof alluded to the regret we would feel, as Americans, in the future, if we looked back and saw that we had done nothing. In the same vein, he seemed to list future reflection as a primary reason for which we should act and encourage action by others on Darfur. To me, this seemed pat at best, and disconcerting at worst– I couldn’t imagine that this was his primary reason for continuing to visit and write about Darfur, in a way to which nobody else has come close.
I remembered some things he had said at the dinner, when he was asked how he has the courage to return to such dangerous situations knowing he has a family and a life back home. He didn’t really have an answer except to cite the bravery of the people in Darfur and the fact that they are always in much more danger than he, who goes in for brief visits and can always leave.
While I came away from both events with a sense of sadness that we are doing so little, that so few people care, and that I have expressed such minimal interest in the issue in the past, I didn’t necessarily come away with specific plans for action, beyond suggestions Kristof had given, to continue the phone calls to legislators and awareness promotion that has been characteristic of the campaign to this point. This doesn’t strike me as entirely enough of a solution for a public campaign, given the lack of government action on the issue.
But I must consider the level of bravery exhibited daily, weekly and monthly by Kristof, and by Awatif Ahmed Isshag, a 24 year old woman in Darfur, the subject of this amazing LATimes story, who has been tacking a monthly “newspaper” to a local tree for 10 years, reporting about the mundane events and atrocities in her community. I cannot imagine the courage and bravery it would take to do what Ms. Isshag does and her continued passion for journalism and hope for her future.
So since I don’t have the time to commit to a full knowledge and analysis of the situation, given other time commitments, I shoud stop sitting around and criticizing what I perceive as a lack of strategy and nuance on the part of Kristof and others, and be brave enough to fit one small action into each week so that maybe, Awatif Ahmed Isshag, and peers like her, will be able to live out her dream of completing a Masters in Economics at the University of Khartoum and leading a development company.