Save the People of Darfur!
By Donna Lamb
In honor of International Human Rights Day, on December 11th the Rev.
Herbert Daughtry and several other clergy held a Save the People of
Darfur Rally in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across the street from the offices
of Andrew Natsios, the US Ambassador to the Sudan, and around the corner
from the United Nations.
The rally began quietly but dramatically. A hearse rolled up, four simple
pine coffins were removed, and, to the sound of ceremonial drumming,
they were carried to the steps where the speaking was to take place.
The coffins were followed by a procession of youth from the Ronald Edmonds
Middle School in Brooklyn, the Bronx School for Law, Government and
Justice, and the other rally participants.
As Rev. Daughtry explained, since 2003, over 400,000 men, women, and
children have died as a direct result of the Sudanese government's brutal
campaign, and 2.5 million people have been displaced. “There are
kidnappings, rapes, and murders almost daily,” stated Daughtry.
“So we have come here to symbolize that through the coffins.”
One smaller coffin represented all the young girls who have died, another
represented all the young boys, and there were two larger coffins, one
standing for the adult males and the other for the adult females who
First to speak was Dr. Karen Smith Daughtry, who declared, “We
come here because we hear the anguished cry of the families who know
not whether they will be murdered in the next hour. We hear the cries
of the children who are orphaned and homeless. We will not stand idly
by while children are killed, husbands are slaughtered, and women are
Dr. Daughtry quoted Bill Cosby who said that nothing is so dangerous
as a woman with a made-up mind. “And our minds are made up,”
she stated. “We, as women, are appalled that this situation has
been allowed to continue unabated. We want the word to go forth that
with these atrocities you have touched our hearts. In doing so, you
have dislodged a boulder, and you will be crushed.”
Another powerful speaker was the Rev. C. Herbert Oliver, who thanked
God that six states have already voted to divest from the Sudan. New
York State, however, is still considering it. They are calling upon
the governor-elect, Eliot Spitzer, to support divestment from the Sudan.
Oliver also noted that what is happening in Darfur should not be divorced
from the problems here at home. “We've had an assassination right
here on our streets in the person of Sean Bell,” he commented.
“Don’t forget Sean Bell.”
Perhaps the highpoint of the rally was the remarks delivered by Imam
Talib Abdur-Rashid, spiritual leader of The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood
in Harlem. He said that participants from the Muslim community were
glad to be there standing with their Christian brothers and sisters
to dramatize the fact that this is a cause that is being lifted up by
people of all different faiths right here in New York City and throughout
the world. “Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others are raising
their voices on this issue because all life is sacred,” he declared.
He told the youth, “We each have to do whatever we can to lift
up the sacredness of life. When we come here today, we're standing together
in solidarity, and that's how we want you to stand.” And referring
to innocent victims cut down by the NYPD, Abdur-Rashid concluded, “Whether
the person's name is Amadou Diallo, Anthony Baez, Gidone Busch, Sean
Bell, or Ousmane Zongo, all life is sacred. Remember that, stand for
that, and we will stand with you.”
Among the other clergy who delivered up prayers or spoke at the rally
were Jacques DeGraff, James Bullock, Cheryl Williams, R.K. Smith,
Joan Brightharp, Rev. Podres Spencer, and Tomas Rivera, who put across
his message in both English and Spanish. Among those joining them were
State Senator-elect Bill Perkins; Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the
Institute of the Black World, 21st Century; Philip Banks Jr., President
of 100 Black Men; and Robert Webster, a student at the Bronx School
for Law, Government and Justice. The hearse was provided by White Memorial
Chapel in Brooklyn, and the coffins were built by Omar Wilkes.
As a final act before disbanding, rally participants pointed to the
building where Ambassador Natsios’ office is housed, and their
fervent call reverberated from the surrounding buildings: “Save
the People of Darfur!”