New Arrivals and Old Friends (Day 11 from Stacey)

Greetings,

Today, our “mission”, as Ali refers to all work assignments, took us back to our first camp. The travel there takes about an hour and one half and gives me plenty of time to think. I thought a lot about my usual work as compared to what we do here. With performance and writing work I merge with and become the subject, here I have to remain outside so that I can film or photograph ( neither of which I have much experience doing.). Many times I have felt guilty and uncomfortable taking pictures or recording ill children, heart broken parents and traumatized people. It has been hard to hit “record” when someone tells their story or flash a camera in the darkened tent of a sick child. It is counterintuitive to me and I’ve been trying to reconcile my feelings about it. On the road this morning I remembered something I had read recently. It was a story about a photojournalist who witnessed a young African American child being beaten by a white police officer at a peaceful march during the Civil Rights Movement. The photographer threw down his camera and leapt to protect the child from the attack. Martin Luther King Jr. quickly reprimanded the man, insisting that if he did not photograph the incident the world would never be forced to face the brutal truth of that picture and do something about it. I have a new respect for the photographers and journalist who must remain somewhat detached to bring the world the truth of atrocities so that we might be moved to action. It is something I am trying to learn to do that here and struggling with it but I know the purpose and hold onto that.

It was so very quiet and empty when we arrived at the camp because today is a day of ” celebration.” Today, Muslims celebrate the sacrifice of Isaac’s offer of his only son to God. It struck me that this story of sacrifice and testing of faith must currently run very deep in the psyche of the victims of this genocide. The children were all dressed in their very best clothes and the whole camp congregated on a patch of land at the far end of the compound.While we waited for the celebration prayers to be over we wandered around looking a woman, Nourasham, who Gabriel met and bonded with last year. In true accordance with the many miracles on our trip we were led to her house by the very first young man we asked. Out of some 15,000 or so people, most of whom were at worship we found someone who knew her, this was indeed a blessing! As soon as we arrived at her living area her neighbor stepped out and exclaimed,” Hello! You are Zahara’s husband!” He remembered Gabriel AND his wife’s name immediately from over a year ago. It was so beautiful to witness. We learned the sad news of her husband’s death which involved another rape and a soldier.We didn’t get to see,Nourasham, today because the celebration ran later than we expected and the road home is long and dangerous at night. We are so looking forward to their reunion tomorrow.

I’ve been very anxious to talk to the very new arrivals because this camp is still receiving people daily. I wanted to hear directly from them what they had just experienced in Darfur so that we could let people know the current conditions of the genocide. I was not prepared for my reaction. We sat with about twelve men between the ages of around 18 – 40 who had been here for 3 to 10 days. They had been sleeping outside the camp, many with their families, and had not yet been registered. They were without tents and huddled around all the belongings they could carry as they escaped Darfur. As we sat and listened to them, I was filming close up shots of their faces. I kept being haunted by the pictures of the Cambodian victims of Pol Pot. There is a photo of one man that I carry with me to remind myself why we do this work and to keep me moving forward when it feels hopeless. His face captures everything we need to know about his life and death. It goes beyond words to the core of humanity. I see in him the strength and dignity of an ordinary man who is utterly confused and broken by the inhumanity of what is being perpetrated upon him. The photo makes me weep every time I look at it because it is so very human. Today, I saw about twelve of that man sitting three feet in front of me and I felt helpless to do anything. I saw their dignity and confusion. I saw men who were used to providing for and protecting their family stripped of that basic right. We decided that we would share, From America With Love with them tomorrow to give them some hope upon their arrival here to this strangest of places. This was the thing I had looked forward to the most about this trip. It was to be the culmination of a simple idea I’d had to connect people to people before I even fully understood what was happening in Darfur. FAWL felt like something ordinary people could do even if our government would not do anything. I kept thinking that people, in the face of genocide, needed most of all to know they were not forgotten. I’m realizing more and more over the last 8 months that what they need most of all is an END to the genocide. When Ali translated what FAWL was about, I saw the same look on these mens faces that I did on the children’s when we showed them their video a few days ago. I am used to seeing sadness here in the women and children because it seems somehow more acceptable in the culture. These men who’d rode donkeys over the border to sit outside this camp and who knew that the people without donkeys had died, looked like the little boys they once were. I fought back tears then but right now I am alone for the first time since we’ve arrived and I am weeping openly and uncontrollably as I write this. I cry because it does not feel enough. Not this trip or Camp Darfur or from America With Love or any of it. I know we are all doing so much to open eyes and ears and hearts but if we do not stop this now an entire way of life will be lost to us forever. A generation of children will believe that they live in a world that does not value their lives. We will leave both the children here and our children at home to clean up the mess we were too busy or too afraid or too whatever to care enough about. We MUST make our will known to the powers that be and that will must reach a critical mass if we expect them to listen to us. We must stand up and demand immediate action.

On the road back to Abeche, where we’ll be staying each night, I had another hour and one half to think. Would FAWL make any difference to these men tomorrow? Will it cause the people and politicians who left direct messages of solidarity to be more personally connected and accountable to even just these twelve men? We passed a lone Chadian child on the side of the road. He waved and put his hand to his heart as I waved back. I was quickly reminded of another little Chadian boy who had appeared out of nowhere this morning to help us fix a flat tire. I had my answer, YES! It is the little moments and seemingly small actions of individual people all over the world that strengthen, expand and feed this movement that aims to Stop This Genocide. It is too bad that only a few miles down that same road, we chose to speed up as we passed two men stopped roadside to fix their motorcycle. Currently,the dangers and risks are too great here to stop and lend a hand. Every broken down or oncoming vehicle poses a threat and every sound the car makes causes alarm. The road to and from Abeche is always quiet with the residual knowledge of how recently the town was taken by the rebels. The air is thick, the thoughts are deep and the passengers united in the simple effort to get home. Only a small slice of the refugees lives and for us only an hour and one half each way.

In Solidarity,
Stacey

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Comments

20 Responses to “New Arrivals and Old Friends (Day 11 from Stacey)”
  1. Markus C. says:

    Dearest Stacey
    my God prevent anyone to get in the predicament your / our friends are in.
    And if he does, may there be an angel like you be with him.
    Not only you wept at the lines you wrote.
    Why has this world, this incredibly beautiful paradise be filled with all this horror, pain and suffering?
    Will we ever overcome this hell we create to eachother?
    Dearest Stacey and Gabriel blessings and love to you.
    May the New Year make our dreams come true!
    Love and light
    Markus C.

  2. Mom says:

    Hi Sweetheart… I.m at Dad’s
    Marina now so I can use the com-
    puter and not miss todays video and
    blog.

    I, too, can see the face of the
    Cambodian man you showed me at Camp
    Darfur at the UN… and see the
    same faces of the new arrivals!!

    That last man said it all “it’s in
    the hands of the Americans now”…
    let us hope that the courage and
    faith of yourself and Gabriel sends
    the necessary message to the powers
    that be!

    So glad Gabriel found out about
    Nourasham’s baby and so very sorry
    to hear that her husband has been
    killed. May God give her the
    strength necessary to carry on.

    I met a Muslim woman yesterday who
    was telling me of the day of
    celebration — how brave of every-
    one to carry on in the face of so
    much devastation.

    Please be careful during the hour
    and one-half which must feel like
    an eternity…. lit candles today
    for you, Gabriel, all your angels
    and our family in Darfur.

    Rene called and let me know he had
    heard from you – thanks!

    Stay well, stay strong, and know
    that your work has meaning!!

    With love and hope, Mom

    Dad and Christopher send their love

  3. Mom says:

    Hi Sweetheart… I.m at Dad’s
    Marina now so I can use the com-
    puter and not miss todays video and
    blog.

    I, too, can see the face of the
    Cambodian man you showed me at Camp
    Darfur at the UN… and see the
    same faces of the new arrivals!!

    That last man said it all “it’s in
    the hands of the Americans now”…
    let us hope that the courage and
    faith of yourself and Gabriel sends
    the necessary message to the powers
    that be!

    So glad Gabriel found out about
    Nourasham’s baby and so very sorry
    to hear that her husband has been
    killed. May God give her the
    strength necessary to carry on.

    I met a Muslim woman yesterday who
    was telling me of the day of
    celebration — how brave of every-
    one to carry on in the face of so
    much devastation.

    Please be careful during the hour
    and one-half which must feel like
    an eternity…. lit candles today
    for you, Gabriel, all your angels
    and our family in Darfur.

    Rene called and let me know he had
    heard from you – thanks!

    Stay well, stay strong, and know
    that your work has meaning!!

    With love and hope, Mom

    Dad and Christopher send their love

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hello Stacey and Gabriel,
    have been reading your narratives. where do you think people get the idea that it is all in the hands of the Americans now? when actually it is the AU (African Union) that is (or should be) the major political player in this Darfur scenario.
    just a small correction: what Muslims are celebrating today (i live in Senegal so have been in the midst of this celebration all day long) is Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. The Muslim narrative differs from the Judeo-Christian narrative in that for Muslims, Abraham’s beloved son was Ishmael, not Isaac. it is important to Muslims that non-Muslims understand their story. Because Abraham was obedient to the point of accepting to sacrifice his son, God provided a ram instead, and Abraham was spared the grief of killing his son.
    while i understand the emotions that you must be constantly feeling, i look at the dignity and acceptance of the Sudanese and others whom you are interviewing, and i think that could be more central to your story. can people beyond Africa ever really plumb the depths of that character?

  5. connie says:

    to the person who just posted above me: I live in Mexico and am so far from the reality of the crisis but I think that no matter where you are we have the obigation to demand from our govermants to help in whatever way possible, especially those who do have the power to do so,the U.S. is in this position.Of course the AU should do much,much more but I think this situation begs help from whoever.
    The jews waited and waited it took too long but help came.How long will Darfuris have to wait ,are we willing to just sit and watch until who ever it corresponds (AU)save them?
    I also think we need to be better informed as you said about other cultures and in this way understand what for us is sometimes odd.Thank-you,Amor y paz,Connie

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dear Stace and Gabriel,

    First of all I want to say ditto to everything Connie from Mexico just said. We just can’t wait to see how many people are killed, we need to ACT NOW. I live in the United States and I’m proud to say that we DO have the power to do something, but extremely shameful to admit that very little is being done. I know that there are so many political issues that people could say get in the way…but as Gabriel’s shirt says “HUMANITY BEFORE POLITICS” Humans must come first…

    Rachel V.

  7. Mimi says:

    Stacey and Gabriel,
    Thank you for the work that you are doing. As to answer the gentleman from Africa, let us find out how we can all help in this atrocity.
    During the second World War a shipping Vessel from Germany called the Hamburg, filled with German Jews who knew what was going on in Germany, docked in NY harbor asking for Asylum. Our government sent them all 800 men, women, and children back, citing that we had filled our quota for Jewish Immigrants. When the people returned to Germany they were met by the Secret Service and immediately sent to the camps.
    The reason for this story is let people know that we were told what was going on from witnesses to the holocaust and did nothing. This is why we say “Never AGain” Now the government needs to say “NEVER AGAIN’ It is up to all of us to do what ever is necessary to make this stop.
    Prayers and love
    Mimi Schiff

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Stacey!

    From the hope and joy being with yesterday’s babies, to today’s grim reality in the faces of the recently arrived refugees, you run a wide emotional range. Your journalistic endeavor, including photos/videos of heartwrenching subjects, is a phenomenal effort we at home greatly admire and appreciate. You are brave to tell this story, and a hero to the Darfuris for coming to their aid. Do you have a direct link to the White House for your video stories to reach those who most need to hear these refugees plead for U.S. help? I wish you and Gabriel could get a personal audience on your return. You are all in our prayers at tomorrow’s mass for World Day of Prayer for Peace.

    Blessings,

    Lisa Goldner
    Texas

  9. Anonymous says:

    ooooh dear… What to say. I love you. You are doing something exceptional even though you have doubts and great sorrow in your task, I feel it will yield a bounty. Blessings and hope to all.
    Love,
    B (and M)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hello Gabriel!
    My name is Tynia and I am a member of HRWTF and I am glad to hear news from your visit. I hope all is well with you and I wish you a Happy New Year and all the best…looking forward for new updates and more news.

    GOD BLESS

  11. Marilyn says:

    Stacey, there is much to comment on in your post. I’m sure the emotion must, at times, feel nearly overwhelming. I wanted to share with you what we did today. We (my mate and I) spent several hours at our neighborhood park helping to set up 10,000 candle luminaries for a candlelight vigil this evening. It was a project organized by four high school girls. The candles were to represent the 3,000 American lives lost in the Iraq war and the 700,000 Iraqi lives lost. It was quite moving to see all of them lit and to think about what they were meant to represent. I know that sounds heartbreaking and probably the last thing you want to hear right now is anything sad…but it also gave me hope. It gave me hope because these were four 15- and 16-year-old girls who took it upon themselves to do this. It gave me hope for our youth (and they call themselves “Youth for Hope”)…hope that maybe we need to work harder to raise Darfur awareness among youth in America (and worldwide). I couldn’t help but look at all of those candles in the dark and think of all of the lives lost in this genocide. I really have no point to make, or neat way to wrap up this comment. I just wanted to share that with you…and to let you know that I’m WITH YOU and Gabriel. It’s not quite 10:00 Pacific time…as the new year approaches, let me just say blessings to you both in the coming year. Please be safe (and please don’t be too specific about your locations). Sending you love and light.

  12. tony sanders says:

    Stace,
    Happy New Year and God’s blessings to you and Gabriel. The videos are riveting and your work so important. Thank you. Be safe. You remain in our prayers and thoughts.
    tony and Dorie

  13. Mom says:

    HAPPY NEW YEAR, CHARLIE!! With the
    time difference I know it’s now
    the 2nd. for you but you were also
    in my heart at midnight on 12/3106,
    as always, and my wish and prayer
    for you and Gabriel, your team and
    our family in Darfur is peace and
    relief in this new year!

    Will post again later but wanted to
    at lease send New Year wishes!

  14. Mom says:

    Hi Sweetheart… when I go to the
    “comments” for Day 12, I get Day 11
    so I’m hoping this shows up in the
    right spot.

    First of all, I left messages again
    for Brandy and Shannon (I have left
    others — know Brandy has been to
    site but don’t know why not leaving
    comment) Also, got word from Maria
    Cristina who said she sent you a
    message filled with love (haven’t
    seen it on the comment pages.)

    I watched an hour long piece on
    Malosovitch yesterday on Discovery
    Channel…really hit home with all
    that’s taking place now in Darfur!

    So glad for Gabriel’s reunion with
    Nourasham and her children… and
    your little friend, Nourasham, must
    have brought you much joy (as you
    did her)!

    I can feel the “tiredness” that you
    and Gabriel must have – but do the
    best you can to “hang in there” as
    you have brought so much connection
    to the people in these camps and,
    while they need so much more, in a
    way you are their lifeline for now!

    “From America With Love” segment
    with the new arrivals is really one
    of the strongest pieces of film I’ve seen from the camps..a really
    first rate job — their faces said
    volumes — I remember when you gave
    birth to that concept and I was so
    proud of the apparent affect these
    simple messages had on everyone in
    that room!

    Sometimes we just need to cry and
    to give each other permission to
    cry too — you, and the Darfurian
    mother, have certainly earned a few
    well spent tears!!

    With so much pride and love, Mom

  15. Anonymous says:

    Happy New Year Stace and Gabriel! May this be the year the geoncide in Darfur ends.
    love u, Julia

  16. Dad says:

    Hi Stash!
    What a wonderful gift you gave yourself for Christmas! Helping other people in some way has always been so important to you. To be able to do what you are doing will probably be one of the most memorable Christmases of your life. Been following your site daily and so are many other people that I know. I do believe that you are accomplishing what you set out to do – bringing to the forefront of people’s minds the genocide in Darfur. Also, I believe that you being there gives hope to the refugees and faith in humanity for the coming year.

    Missed you very much over the holidays, looking forward to seeing you soon!

    Love,
    Dad

  17. Rene Rivera says:

    My dearest Stacey, Thankyou for the wonderful work you and Gabriel are doing! I only wish I was there with you,helping you in anyway possible.I would like to get involved in the next journey,no matter where or when.With all my respect and Love.Paz.-Rene Rivera.

  18. Rene Rivera says:

    My dearest Stacey, Your writings are so marvelously compelling,and filled with love and life,beauty and hope.My heart smiles,and weeps with pride,and joy.I send you all my blessings,prayers,respect,and unfettered Love,and admiration every second of the day,and night.PAZ Y AMOR…Rene Rivera. P.S.-Saturday makes me sweetly dream.

  19. ANQ says:

    im so happy that your friend is well, i hope we get to see her in the next video, and im sorry for what happened to her husband. he died while being heroic. as do many of these people. may god bless your efforts and rescue darfur from its misery.

  20. anne says:

    Thanks, Thanks, Thanks

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