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Rocking out for peace in Darfur

The Rock for Darfur concert kicks off Lehigh’s eight-day celebration of International Week. Through dance and song, the concert seeks to rock students into action against the ethnic cleansing in Darfur that many consider genocide.

“By showcasing Lehigh’s talents, the concert aims to recognize the action of student activists and advocacy groups that have done a lot to increase awareness,” says Ahmed Salim ’08, one of the masterminds behind the concert, which begins at 7 p.m. in Packard Auditorium.

A three-prong approach to Darfur’s crisis

This concert, presented by the Association of International Students, the Black Student Union and the Global Union, is one part of this semester’s three-prong approach to the crisis in western Sudan, says Bill Hunter, the director of the Global Union.

“Over the course of the year, we have had an interest in focusing on several international topics,” says Cameron Copeland ’08, president of the Global Union.

After Dafuri refugee Daoud Hari told a tale of the torture and terror that he suffered at the hands of the Sudanese government to over 300 people in Sinclair Auditorium, the Global Union recognized that the student body was interested in learning about the conflict in Darfur, says Copeland.

Although interested in the war-torn region, many students have very little information about the conflict.

“If we were to say that the Sudanese ambassador was coming to speak, many would not make the connection that Darfur was in Sudan,” he says, referring to next Tuesday’s presentation by the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nation.

The Sudanese ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, will defend Sudan’s role in the conflict at 7 p.m. in Rauch Business Center’s Perella Auditorium. Ambassador Mohamad claims that the unrest in Darfur is little more than a tribal conflict spurred by poverty and drought, says Hunter who took a group of students to the ambassador’s presentation at Fairleigh Dickenson University last month.

The Rock for Darfur concert will raise awareness and curiosity about the Sudanese conflict and will provide students an opportunity to respond by donating three dollars at the door. The money raised will support the Enough Project, an activist group seeking to promote peace in Darfur, Northern Uganda and Eastern Congo.

“This is a great opportunity, although not quote-on-quote, educational,” says Copeland. “It’s more interesting and lively than a lecture and will increase awareness of the issue.”

A concert in the making

Calvin John Smiley ’08 met the concert’s headliner, Blitz the Ambassador—a native of Ghana whose real name is Samuel Bazawule—during one of the rapper’s concerts last October. Taken with Bazawule’s positive lyrics that “uplift the people,” Smiley, the president of the Black Student Union, sought an opportunity to introduce him to Lehigh.

That opportunity called in August, when Salim, the Global Union’s vice president of U.N. affairs, suggested that Salim work with the Black Student Union to create a concert that would raise awareness about the crisis in Darfur.

At the beginning of semester, Copeland challenged the five Global Union’s vice presidents to develop innovative programs that would educate the campus about the world.

“Ahmed came to me with the idea of doing this fantastic concert,” Copeland says. “I thought his idea was really unique, and I have been working closely with him to develop it.”

Since then, Smiley, Salim and Copeland have labored to schedule acts and enlist support of Lehigh organizations. As a result, their list of co-sponsors represents a cross-section of the University community and includes: the Visiting Lecturers Committee, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Chaplains Office, Newman Center, Office of Student Activities, University Productions, Dean of Students Office, the L.U. Swim Team, Humanities Center, Theatre Department, ArtsLehigh and Delta Gamma.

The concert’s headliner, Blitz The Ambassador, a socially-conscious rapper, will rhythmically protest perceived injustice in both the United States and Africa.

Opening for Blitz are some of the Lehigh’s most talented student groups, such as the L.U. Dance Team, L.U. Finest Step Team and Lehigh Leela, a dance troupe with the Indian Student Association. Kashi Johnson, associate professor of theater, will protest through spoken word, and Nina Granberry ’08 and Heidi Shonbeck ’09 will sing Lauryn Hill’s “Miseducation” followed by “Amazing Grace.”

“The Lauryn Hill song speaks about individual empowerment,” Granberry says. “Individuals do have the power to change things.”

“Heidi chose ‘Amazing Grace’ be cause it’s a good song for peace,” she says. “Personally, I think that God sees the victims in Darfur’s pain, and He’s aware of what’s going on. The song is a reminder that all hope is not lost, and grace will keep their hope alive.”

For more information on Rock for Darfur and other events during International Week, visit the Global Union Web site.

--Becky Straw

Posted on Tuesday, November 06, 2007

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