Divestment Was Just the Beginning
Students visit "Camp Darfur," a group of tents featuring information about the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan. (Photo by Jessica Chou, Daily Bruin)

Divestment Was Just the Beginning

To call attention to ongoing violence in Darfur, committee plans week of events

We have a chance to make divestment a federal law.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin on March 5, 2007. The photo by Jennifer Chou was published as a separate feature on March 6.

By Carolyn McGough, Bruin contributor

Nearly a year after the University of California voted to divest from Sudan, organizers of the Darfur Action Committee on campus say violence in the region still requires student attention and action.

The Darfur Action Committee, or DAC, plans to hold daily events on campus this week as part of "Darfur Week of Awareness: A Call to Action."

DAC is a coalition of UCLA students that aims to educate the campus about the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan, which the U.S. government and United Nations have labeled genocide.

The Sudanese government has been accused of funding attacks on ethnic minorities, causing an estimated 200,000 deaths since 2003. The government denies this.

In March 2006, the UC Board of Regents voted to divest the university's financial holdings from businesses working with the Sudanese government in an effort to place financial pressure on the country to address the violence in Darfur.

"There are a lot of causes out there, but this is something that has a very immediate nature. Every day it's still happening. It's a life-or-death matter on a day-to-day basis," said Ruth Dawson, a member of DAC's steering committee.

"Camp Darfur," scheduled for today in Dickson Plaza, kicks off the week's events. Karina Garcia, a member of DAC's steering committee, said the event will feature a mock refugee camp simulating camp conditions in Darfur.

"The purpose of 'Camp Darfur' is to make the situation in Darfur more real," she said. "You hear the statistics that there are so many people dead and so many refugees, but I don't think it's easy to fully grasp the effects of the genocide."

DAC plans to have a camp with six tents, each displaying pictures and presenting information on genocide, Garcia said. One tent contains representations of similar ethnic violence in Armenia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Cambodia, as well as during the Holocaust.

On Tuesday, a photo exhibit is planned to be set up in the Court of Sciences displaying photographs of Darfur, Rwanda and Cambodia.

"We are using the Court of Sciences because we don't usually target South Campus," Garcia said. "We thought it'd be interesting to pass on information there – it doesn't just interest North Campus majors."

A "speak-out" and a "die-in" are scheduled for Wednesday. Speakers will discuss the situation in Darfur as well as people historically victimized by genocide, Garcia said.

The die-in is meant to draw UCLA students' attention to the genocide in Darfur and create solidarity among students, said Chris Ah San, a member of DAC. Protesters are to lie on the ground, simulating the deaths in Darfur.

The band Northern will play in Bruin Plaza on Thursday, and traditional East African food will be sold for $5 with proceeds being donated to DAC's efforts.

"A lot of our money is fueling our letter-writing campaign," Dawson said.

DAC has been involved in a weekly letter-writing campaign since the beginning of the year.

"We write the letters to various elected officials – representatives, senators, the secretary of state and the president," Dawson said. "We have a different target each week."

Thursday night, there will be a screening of the documentary "Sand and Sorrow," made by filmmaker Paul Freedman and narrated by George Clooney.

"'Sand and Sorrow' gives a concise and informative representation about what is going on in Darfur," Garcia said. "It also features UC divestment and has scenes that include UCLA students."

Ah San said members of DAC hope to bring the same effect to the national scene.

"We've finally been recognized by a number of people in the House of Representatives. We have a chance to make divestment a federal law," Ah San said.

The final event of the week is a trip to the Museum of Tolerance on Friday, and DAC will be providing transportation, Dawson said.

Garcia said DAC has additional events planned for the near future, including lobby training on March 13.

"We are working with the (Undergraduate Students Association Council) external vice president and having training on how to lobby for Darfur and Darfur legislation," Garcia said. "We want people to visit their congresspeople at home when they return for spring break."

Published: Thursday, March 08, 2007