Darfur activism heroic

Heroes live among us at UCLA. Real, living, breathing heroes. I write now of the kindred spirits who compose the Darfur Action Committee.

By David Keyes

Heroes live among us at UCLA. Real, living, breathing heroes. I write now of the kindred spirits who compose the Darfur Action Committee.

Certain students have taken upon themselves burdens and responsibilities far beyond the norm. They bounce like mad from class to activity to event to meeting to activity and back again. Their altruism and persistence knows no limits.

The UCLA DAC transcends lip service to community service; they act with conviction, foresight, resolve and fiery passion. They are a beacon to all campus groups that aspire to foster good.

Today, Sudan is atop the food chain of worthy causes. Over 300,000 people have been slaughtered in Darfur and some 2 million displaced. Many a politician has said "never again," only to avert their gaze when it proves advantageous. Not so at UCLA.

The DAC focuses their eyes with supreme intent upon acting at every opportunity.

UCLA students are naturally preoccupied with midterms, finals, Westwood Brewing Company, Maloney's, friends, girlfriends, parties, weekend promiscuity, sports and the like. It's hard enough for us to plan a day ahead, let alone a week.

To contemplate the political and economic future of a remote population on a continent with no immediately recognizable benefit is perhaps a ludicrous expectation. Africa is, after all, forgotten, war-torn and impoverished. The black continent remains totally irrelevant in the minds of most; color, culture and lack of monetary incentives all play a part in our collective willful blindness.

Yet Darfur, a city which not even one in 100 people could find on a map, has driven a small sect of UCLA students to unrivaled levels of compassion. They devote every waking minute to fighting the good fight. When these students' children ask them where they were and what they did to stop the genocide, only they will have a respectable answer.

From panels to vigils to letter writing to divestment, the DAC projects a sense of well-deserved empowerment. They are rightfully emboldened by the knowledge that they are contributing to greater peace. They are preventing death.

They are not indifferent. They are radicals in a generation of timidity.

Barry Goldwater famously stated that "extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. ... Moderation in defense of justice is no virtue." Praiseworthy is the extremism of our comrades and colleagues who fight for action in Darfur.

For some, the stories of raped women and pillaged communities are enough to immediately jettison them into action. Others are selfish in their pursuit for that inevitable warm fuzzy feeling that comes from helping. Perhaps others just want to meet cute members of the opposite sex at meetings. In the end, however, their intentions don't matter. They are the unsung heroes of UCLA.

There was a day when student activism was popular. It was called the '60s. Hippies and anti-war activists sat around smoking pot, listening to rock 'n' roll, partaking in free love, and oh yeah, holding an occasional poster. The student activism of today is gritty, tough, unpopular and even belittled by the reticent masses. Nevertheless, the DAC forges ahead.

Most recently they sponsored a talk by Samantha Power, a Harvard professor and leading expert on genocide. Her book, "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," is a phenomenal achievement in and of itself. After Power's inspirational speech, the number of students at the weekly DAC meeting tripled.

With enough support and continued determination, the DAC will make a difference in the lives of Darfurians. It is an uphill battle which will not be won easily. Then again, nothing worth achieving ever was.

Keyes is a third-year Middle Eastern studies student.

Darfur Action Committee

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