Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Party Hat Photo Group

Originally uploaded by Kaunda.

Microcosmanaut and flickr

Kevin at Microcosmonaut was the first to send a check for the Party Hats for Potash effort. He was also kind enough to send me a CD with cool pictures of him and his hat. I made a group at flickr wich can be found at http://flickr/groups/potash/ here. You can add your photos directly or email them to me.

I'm so disorganized, but I think organization is a good thing. In today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette below the fold on the front page was, Black Americans quiet on Darfur crisis: Organizers puzzle over getting more involvement. I'm happy to see the Post-Gazette cover African affairs, but this piece stirs up mixed emotions. The angle of the difficulty of involving black Americans in the issue is quite tricky. The really disturbing thing is the general apathy about the situation in Darfur. Nevertheless, race always seems a factor in American life.

When I've talked to friends about Africa it's been pretty common for them to tell me to contact African American organizations. Many black Americans are interested in African affairs, but it's not a given and certainly these are not issues that black people should care about. My experience since meeting Nathan and finding an interest in Africa has deepened my understanding of the multitude strange and complex ways that race is a filter here in the USA.

I respect Peter Otika Okema. I met him when he served as the president of the African Student Organization at Pitt last year. The piece quotes Peter about black American's and Darfur:
Mr. Okema said he would not call it "neglect," but said Darfur involvement gets pushed to the side because black leaders are "preoccupied with trying to put these things right in this country."
I smiled a grim smile because I can imagine how hard it is for him as an African in the US to negotiate the maze of race in America. Peter calls wrongs as he sees them and isn't ready to support something simply because he's black. On the other hand as a black man in America he knows the plate gets pretty full.

I think that it has really confused matters regarding the Sudan that the conflict has been framed as Arab against African. That's not a frame that the media has drawn out of thin air, indeed that's how it's discussed in Africa. But the commonly held stereotypes here of both Arab and African muddles rather than clarifies matters. In addition people only vaguely following the conflict may remember the North--South conflict which was framed in terms of religion: broadly Muslim against Christian. So people may not know that the people of Darfur are overwhelmingly Muslim. Sudan Watch is a great blog and resource to find out more.

One of the many reasons that I respect Peter Otika Okema is because he's a good organizer. In my email I got from him the press release about the rally and just sat on it. Last spring he actually got me to attend a Darfur rally on Forbes Avenue. Contrary to the contention that black Americans don't care about Darfur, there were several black Americans there. Praises be for young people who do care and aren't afraid to say so.

Here's the information Peter sent about the Sunday, April 30: Bus Trip - Rally to Stop Genocide in Darfur
Sunday, April 30: Bus Trip - Rally to Stop Genocide in Darfur

Help send an unmistakable message. The Rally to Stop Genocide in Darfur on Sunday, April 30 will bring together political and religious leaders, human rights activists, entertainers, journalists and all who support a multinational force to protect the people of Darfur, targeted in a three year long campaign of violence and extermination.

The Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition (PDEC) will be joining concerned citizens from across the country in a March on Washington to tell our leaders that there can be no further delay in bringing protection and peace to the people of Western Sudan. Pittsburgh is proud of our diverse coalition, which has collected a per capita record number of postcards as part of "A Million Voices for Darfur." Our postcards will be delivered to President Bush prior to the Rally.

Coach buses will be leaving Pittsburgh at 7 am, Sunday, April 30 and will return to Pittsburgh that evening. The cost for this trip is $31 per person.

The $31 fee includes a $1 fee to help cover credit card and mail processing fees. You can also pay by a $31 personal check addressed to "Thomas Merton Center" with "Darfur Rally" on the memo line. Send to Darfur Rally, c/o TMC, 5125 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. 15224.

Reserve your bus seats on-line at the Thomas Merton Center

For more information visit Pittsburgh Darfur Coalition

If you're anything like me part of the inhibition about protests is the fear of embarssment. The good thing is there will be so many people you won't have to do anything except be come along. What a lovely time of year to see Washington. The people on the bus will be diverse, comopolitan, and generally lovely. It's a great way to learn about this tragedy and to use your voice to sa "NO!" to genocide.

Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us:
If you can take one peaceful step, then peace is possible.
All American have a particular responsibility to find a way to take that first step toward peace.

One step will lead to another. The great rent in the American fabric is the race. Americans engaging in African issues can begin to recover our sense of humanity and union with the human family.

Here is Peter's Africa Project at the Merton Center. And Thich Nhat Hanh's Amazon page may also be of interest.

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