Burnt Memories, Family and Path of Dedicated Action

walingWe enter Obama School for Co-education Basic just before classes begin. There is a nice breeze in the mornings, but not quite strong enough to naturally fend off the flies. Young children are filing blue buckets of water and taking them to classrooms. It takes two boys to carry one, but only one girl to carry it on her head. I can feel the harsh air against my skin and down my throat. Glancing to the hills nearby, I notice once again how cloudy the air is.  Dust, sand, smoke.

Four students tell us their part of their stories. Sadly, the general themes run the same. None of their villages are standing anymore. The tukuls, markets, fences and possessions are all burned. All of them walked here, 2-3 days at a time, then a rest, then continuing on. They all know someone who was killed. Memories that I don’t think I could bare to talk about without some sort of process, they share as if it is normal.

I remember how upset I once got when my mother told me that my elementary school burned down. I remember taking a day to think of all my memories of the great halls of Coe Elementary with the, tall ceilings, grand staircases that went up four floors and strong wooden doors. My memories of racing on the playground, and of cracking my tooth on the cement are still clear. I was so upset at the news. I cannot even begin to imagine if all of my hometown was burned. Flames would replace memories of holidays, friends, bicycles and evening walks with my mom. How is that we have allowed flames and bloodshed to replace the memories of innocent children of an entire population?

boys thanking .JPG It is late morning and the sun is getting hot, before we break for the hottest part of the day, we visit old friends, Adef and Achta. Once named, Hassan and Hissein, the two twin boys in Level 2 are now Bashar and Bashir. I tickle little Guisma’s tummy and she giggles. I snap pictures of the twins and show them, they laugh and eagerly follow us around with the camera’s hoping to catch a glimpse of themselves. Every so often I flip the view-finder, just to hear their laugh. Abdelmouni, once a very serious little boy, now walks around briskly playing with his brothers and attempting to wrestle Bashar to the ground. It feels so right to be connected to this family, almost as if they are an extension of my own. In many ways, they are.

waling w water to class 3.JPG Yesterday, the Obama Administration met with activist leaders, including John Prendergast, Jerry Fowler and Gloria White-Hammond. This may be a small step in the right direction, but in no way does it mean that we deter from our current path of dedicated, urgent action for Darfur. A meeting, and former President Bush had lots of those, does not change the situation on the ground. It does not bring aid. It does not bring peace. We must keep our actions consistent and on-going, or this meeting will only be lip-service to quiet the movement. Until there is tangible, visible change on the ground, we must be loud. For Adef, Achta, Guisma, Abdelmouni, and the entire population of children whose memories are of burnt homes, death, and displacement, please, please be their voice.

When you feel tired and hopeless, please turn to the voices of the Darfuris themselves. They have confidence in us. We simply cannot let them down.

Peace, ktj

Katie-Jay keeps i-ACT running on several levels. Much of her work entails coordinating partnerships with other grassroots organizations and implementing the campaigns developed by Gabriel and seeing through the details. She graduated from Portland State University with a BA in Sociology and a focus on Community Development. She has previously worked as a community organizer in Thailand, Guatemala, and with grassroots organizations across the United States.

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6 Responses to “Burnt Memories, Family and Path of Dedicated Action”
  1. Lisa Goldner says:

    Good morning!

    We were all smiling as we watched the videocam session with the Sister School in D.C. We hope the support for this wonderful program continues to grow and benefit all participants.

    This morning I called Kaltoum to share the replies you sent from Adef and Achta regarding her letter to the refugees, and only wish you could have heard the joy and gratitude in her voice as she realized her message had reached some of her people and made a difference. If Kaltoum doesn’t have to go into work (hotel housekeeper), then maybe I can share the videos with her later today. I’ll let you know what she thinks of the children’s songs from yesterday!

    We’re all continuing our actions, here, as you do your great part, there, to make the Darfuri voices heard.

    Salaam,
    Lisa

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Good Morning Lisa!

      Thank you so much for all you do. I hope that for the next trip we can share a small video or even a photo and story of the dedication your own family has had for Darfur with the people in the camps.

      With love,
      ktj

  2. Salaam alaikum. I am Kaltoum Jumah. I am from Darfur. I love my country, but I left by force in 2004, and I still love my country. I crossed many countries to Ghana, and I stayed in a refugee camp for three years. Then I came to live in San Antonio, Texas, United States of America in 2008.

    I wish my country would have peace, and the people could go back to live a better life. I want to tell all the men, women, and children to keep praying to Allah. I want my people to know that people all over the world are trying to help the Darfur people, but it is important for the refugees to continue to pray even more to Allah.

    Right now I live in San Antonio, Texas in the United States, and my life is better, but I miss my family, my country, my friends, and my life in Darfur. Although I feel better because I am safe with my children, here, my heart still hurts for my family and friends in Darfur, and it is still hard for me.

    I want to say thank you for all the anti-genocide people who are helping my people. You are very good.

    I wish that my country would find peace and I could go meet all my people in Darfur. Shokran jazeelan (شكرا (جزيلا El Hamdul ‘Allah.

    Salaam, Salaam ya Darfur, Salaam, Salaam,

    Kaltoum Jumah
    Darfur, Sudan
    San Antonio, Texas USA

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hi Khaltoum!

      Thank you for sharing with everyone else the letter you sent to the Darfur people. They were so touched by your words. They will stay as strong as they can and continue to pray.

      May peace be with you,
      ktj

  3. Kathleen says:

    Hi!

    Please tell the children I am happy my daughter is there to visit them and that I am praying for them all to do well in their studies.

    KTJ’s Mom

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