I am looking at the flight tracker on the little screen almost right over my head. The little plane on the screen has just left behind the Mediterranean waters and is now over the African continent. It happened so fast, this leaving my comfortable world to be here, a bit closer to the camps.
The week leading up to this was a blur. A week ago, we were on a conference call with Darfur movement leaders from around the country. So many of us felt that we had to do more! Darfur has been an emergency for six years, but now all those words we’ve been using to describe the horrors have become an understatement. After the arrest warrant for Bashir came out on March 4th, aid organizations have been kicked out of many internally displaced camps, leaving people that were already in dire conditions with starvation, thirst, and disease as their most probable future. The dying has started in some of these camps.
From that call, a group of us from LA decided to take it to the streets, and we stayed there for a week. KTJ and I set up one of our Camp Darfur tents at the Federal Building on busy Wilshire Blvd. We painted DARFUR in loud red letters. We were there for six days, with a big rally at the end. From there, the next day we went out to Orange County and set up that same tent on a home’s rooftop. President Obama’s helicopters flew right above it. The next day, we headed out to the NBC studios and set up the tent just a few steps from where Obama drove by. We hope that the big red DARFUR sunk in to the president’s conscience. Other cities have also participated in emergency actions: Boston, New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and more. But, of course, we know that one, two, three, or more actions will not do the job in creating the political will needed to see action for Darfur.
We need help. We need people around the country being loud about Darfur. Talk about it at your diner table. Bring it up at work. Ask your faith leaders to mention the suffering during weekly services. Engage your leaders, at home and in Washington. Are we going to be OK with the consequences, if the nightmare scenarios come through, and hundreds of thousands begin to die? And, did we do enough?
So many mixed feelings flow through me, being en-route to the camps. I always get sad, leaving my kids for these extended periods of time. I miss them right away. They definitely shape everything I do out here because I think of them, when I see the Darfuri children.
It took me some time to write this, since I see the little plane on the screen being a lot closer to N’Djamena. Our friend Bouba will be there to receive us. We’re not sure we have a room, where we usually say, but nothing seems to be certain out here in Chad, and it becomes less certain as we head East.