Thursday, March 29, 2007

Staying Motivated

I hate to admit that I have always been uneasy writing letters to my congressional representatives. I felt like it was a somewhat worthless activity that would not make a difference, especially when my view differed strongly from that of my representative. However, I have had a change of heart after attending a session at the Genocide Prevention Advanced Leadership Summit at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. One of the sessions leaders in a workshop I attended is a former congressional staffer and he had great insight in to how this process works. Some of you probably already know about this, but for the uninformed (like me!) I offer the following:

Congressional staffers are busy, busy, busy, however, they are interested in meaningful dialogue. Advocates who are effective are the ones who can get their paper pushed to the top of the stack. How to do that?
-Prove that we are trustworthy and reasonable.
-Suggest actions that are specific and achievable--give them somewhere to go
-Represent more than yourself (show that you are part of a group of people)
-Follow-up! This is important. If you talk with a staffer, follow-up with a letter. Ask for a response to your issue and a "thank you" for their time.
-Never be afraid to communicate! While "blitz" campaigns where tons of letters are sent on the same topic in a short-period of time can have an impact, it is the week-by-week letters on the same issue that have the biggest impact.

This last point was a theme throughout the Summit. I heard from many people representing many different organizations that we need to build a coalition of genocide prevention that will last long past Darfur. Small efforts over the long-haul are needed to keep our activism meaningful. I think this is such an important point. I think that sometimes people feel like the little they are doing does not matter that much, so they stop doing it. That is simply not true. The little things are in many ways what matter the most. A speaker from a humanitarian aid group said that they love the $5 donations they get as much as the huge grants. It all ultimately matters. So, keep writing those letters, sending those donations, making those phone calls. We can make a difference. Do not let the bad news you read about Darfur cause you to lose hope. Keep thinking about the individuals, people like Mohamed and Omar and Clementine (see previous post) and remember they are the ones we are doing this for. Focus on the one person you can help today. To them, whatever you do will matter.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Genocide Prevention Advanced Leadership Summit

I have just returned from the Genocide Prevention Advanced Leadership Summit at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. I learned so much about the work we are all engaged in and will be blogging over the next several weeks about my experiences, sharing with you many great ideas for continuing our fight against genocide. I want to start by sharing a few statements made by survivors of genocide who were present at the summit. I hope you find their words as inspiring as I did:

Commenting on the international community waiting on Sudan to give permision to place a UN Peacekeeping Force in to Darfur, Mohamed Yahya of Darfur had this to say:

"You are waiting for Hitler to give permission to free the Jews."

Omar Ismail, also of Darfur, offered us this thought as a way to stay motivated:

"What can you do today to make the life of one person in Darfur better?"

I think this is such an important thought to keep in mind. It can be overwhelming to think of helping all the people of Darfur and even more so to think of helping all the people in the world who need us. Focus on one person a day.

The Summit ended with nineteen year old Clementine Wamariya of Rwanda telling her story of escape from genocide when she was only six (read her story here Clementine's Story.) She is a wonderful story-teller and gave a heart-wrenching account of her escape with her older sister and the loss of family and friends along the way. After experiencing horrors that no person, much less a child, should have to go through they made it to Burundi, where they were taken in by a farmer and his family. Clementine, who had come for a fairly well-off family. had this to say of her stay with them:

"They lived in a mud hut, they were very poor, no electricity, it was hot. It was the best life anyone could have, because they were alive and loved one another."

Typing these words brought tears to my eyes. I hope they have touched you in a similar way.

Friday, March 23, 2007

World Affairs Council: "Surviving a Genocide: The Darfur Refugee Experience," with Caesar Ricci On April 9

SAIDC Member and local liason for the national Save Darfur Coalition Caesar Ricci will give a presentation for the World Affairs Council of San Antonio on April 9-- "Surviving Genocide: The Darfur Refugee Experience." This is an incredible opportunity to educate the San Antonio business and professional community about the Darfur conflict, please consider attending to show your support and encourage your colleagues to attend as well!

April 9, 2007
The Omni San Antonio Hotel (9821 Colonnade Blvd.)
11:30 Reception, 12 p.m.
Lunch $ 25 for members, $ 35 for non-members
Corporate Tables Available at $500, $750, and $1,000

Shaken by the humanitarian crisis that has engulfed the Darfur region of the Sudan since government-backed militias began to carry out organized campaigns of murder, rape and economic destruction against the black African population there, student activist Caesar Ricci has travailed for the past four years to bring some relief to those most affected. With the conflict now spreading to nearby Chad, Mr. Ricci visited the Gaga Refugee Camp on the Chadean border to witness the horror and pain first-hand. With photographs documenting the experience, Mr. Ricci will tell of what has and can be done to end what President Bush has called the first genocide of the twenty-first century.

Call Ragan Updegraff at (210) 308-9494 to make reservations

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Senate approves bill telling funds to divest from Sudan

On March 20, the Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill to divest Texas from its investments in companies funding the Sudanese government. The House bill is still in committee.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Global Days for Darfur

"Time Has Run Out" is the theme for the Global Days for Darfur, an international initiative sponsored by the Save Darfur coalition. Two local events will be held in support of this initiative, the goal of which is to influence U.S. and other world leaders to take immediate action to end the genocide.

April 17, 7:00-9:00 PM, University Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. Looking Genocide Victims in the Eyes. Caesar Ricci recently traveled to eastern Chad to visit Darfurians living in refugee camps. Come to see the photographs and videos he took during his journey and learn about practical and effective ways to help the people of Darfur and eastern Chad in their struggle to survive ethnic cleansing. The event will include information about how people can help politically and with humanitarian aid.

April 28, 7:00-8:00 PM, Oak Hills Community Church, Floresville. Time is Running Out. An evening of prayer, information and action. Learn about how you can help people living in refugee camps. Participate in a Die-In to represent those who an no longer speak the truth of their suffering. Event includes music from Dana Clark, Kevin Lewis, Richard Mekdeci, Sarah Mueller, and Sarah and Hannah Kane. Speakers include Ellie Pavliska, Caesar Ricci, Susan Smylie, and Sasha Stinner-Trimble. A silent auction will raise funds for those living in the refugee camps (to donate items to the silent auction, email The event will end with the opportunity to write letters to elected officials concerning divestment and the need for a UN Peacekeeping force. Sponsored by Heart Corps for Darfur, a local teen action group founded by Ellie Pavliska.

Click on SAIDC Events for location information.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Recent Political Developments

Last week, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced bi-partisan legislation with Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to divest the U.S. from companies whose money goes to the Sudanese government.

Cornyn Divestment Press Release

Cornyn's website also added "Darfur" to his list of issues that people can send him messages about. This is great news and evidence that our efforts truly do make a difference. Let's continue to let our legislators know we want action in support of Darfur!

If you are following the Texas Divestment campaign, you probably already know that SB 247 unanimously passed out-of-committee. Gov. Rick Perry has come out in support of this bill. Let's keep the pressure on and make divestment a reality in Texas! See the February 6 post below for links to sample letters and other information about the divestment campaign.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

TX Senate Hearing and Darfur/Darfur exhibition March 12 AUSTIN

The senate hearing on the Sudan Divesment Bill is taking place Monday March 12.
This hearing is crucial to getting the bill out of committee and voted on by the Senate.

Watch it live on the Senate website:

Senate Bill 247 by Senator Rodney Ellis (D - Houston)
Senate Committee on Government Organization
11:00 am - Monday, March 12th

Darfur/ Darfur Photo Exhibition at the Texas Capitol
Also, if you are in or around Austin on Monday, check out Brian Steidle's photo exhibit, Darfur/ Darfur. Darfur/ Darfur is a collection of photos taken by Brian while a photographer with the African Union in 2003. The exhibition, a haunting eye-witness account of genocide and has toured across the world. This is the only time it will be in Texas, so please check it out if you can!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Article about Messinger Talk

Read the San Antonio College Ranger article about Ruth Messinger's talk to SAIDC:

San Antonio coalition urges
stopping genocide in Darfur

Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Conversation with Doctors Without Borders

March 24, 2007
Buena Vista Building Theater

University of Texas at San Antonio - Downtown Campus
501 West Durango Boulevard, San Antonio

Join David Martin Davies, news director for Texas Public Radio and columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, in conversation with four Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) aid workers.

For more information:
A Conversation with Doctors Without Borders

MSF/Doctors Without Borders won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize and has an "A" rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy. According to their web site, they have over 2,000 staff members working at 17 locations in Darfur, and their 2006 budget for Darfur was 25 million dollars.

Support Darfur at SxSW March 10

Break Thru Films & Global Grassroots are hosting a Press Conference & Music Event, Saturday March 10th from 5:30-9:00pm at Lucky Lounge. Press conf/Q&A 6pm, music begins 6:45pm. Free & open to the public.

This event will launch the HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Music Campaign for Darfur, promote the film's premiere, honor Global Grassroots' work in Africa, and endorse the TX divestment legislation.

Annie Sundberg,, 917-687-3712
Gretchen Wallace,, 603-359-0177

THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK, a Break Thru Films production in association with Global Grassroots and Three Generations will enjoy its regional premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX on Sunday, March 11th. The film tells the story of an American witness to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Directed, written and produced by award winning filmmakers Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern, The Devil Came on Horseback is also produced by Gretchen Steidle Wallace and Jane Wells. Screening times:
Sunday, March 11th, 9:30pm at ALAMO LAMAR 2
Tuesday, March 13th, 1:45pm at ALAMO LAMAR 2

About the Film
This feature-length documentary film chronicles the horror of the Darfur genocide as seen through the eyes of a lone American witness. Brian Steidle, a former U.S. Marine Captain, was hired in 2004 as one of only three Americans to serve as an un-armed military observer for the African Union in Darfur. During the height of the conflict, he captured nearly 1000 photographs in areas inaccessible to journalists. Without a mandate to protect civilians nor the directive to fight back, Brian resigned and returned to the U.S. to expose what he witnessed, despite threats to his life. This compelling film bears witness to unmentionable atrocities while celebrating the courage of a population desperately trying to survive. Learn more:

Global Grassroots is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, founded by producer Gretchen Steidle Wallace, which offers training and seed funding to help disadvantaged women advance social change. In 2005, Global Grassroots initiated its work in the Darfur refugee camps of Eastern Chad. A portion of proceeds from the film The Devil Came on Horseback will go to Global Grassroots to help Darfur refugees rebuild their lives.

Three Generations was founded by freelance writer and producer Jane Wells to help survivors of genocide, raise awareness of present and future threats and try and make sure that "never again" becomes more than an empty promise.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Texas Divestment Lobby Day MARCH 7

Sudan Divestment Task Force Lobby Day
March 7, 2007
10AM-3 PM
Austin, TX (Capitol)

Tell your Texas legislators you don't want your state to fund Genocide!
Hosted by the UT White Rose Society and the Sudan Divestment Task Force- TX Campaign
Contact: Leran Minc, UT White Rose Society
Phone: 214.675.3002

Event Schedule:
10a.m. Meet at Texas Hillel (21st and San Antonio) to go over divestment and activities of the day. If you can make this, please please do it will be an important training to get you prepared for the day. **If you can't, tell Leran so he can help you be ready to lobby**
Noon- Lunch at Hillel, enjoy some pizza before running off to lobbying craziness! Please please RSVP for this part!

After lunch until 3ish- Capitol--we will carpool to save parking costs, but if you have to come late call Leran 214 675 3002 when you get there and he'll come find you.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Editorial in SA Express News

Read the editorial by SAIDC member Caesar Ricci in the SA Express-News!
"What is Holding Us Back?"

And also the article by SA Express-News Columnist Jonathan Gurwitz:
"The Next Big One Thumbs Nose at the World"