STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition will host their second annual benefit concert featuring the locals Acorn Project, Savage Henry and Spokane native Joel Smith this Friday at 8 p.m. in the VU Multipurpose Room. Doors will open at 7:30.
Western senior and club co-coordinator Lacey Rojas said that in a perfect world the Darfur crisis would be over next year, but since that isn't a definite STAND wants to make this concert a tradition at Western.
All of the profits will go directly to Darfur, she said, to support the civilian protection network. This network helps protect the refugees that have been displaced in the conflict which started in Febuary 2003. The most recent estimates state that 400,000 have been killed and 2.5 million displaced, Rojas said; however, these numbers are a few years old.
These displaced Darfurians, many of them being forced into an already overburdened Chad, are targeted by Janjaweed militia as they leave their camps to collect firewood and water, Rojas said. Men caught by the Janjaweed are generally killed and women are raped. The civilian protection network provides protection for the refugees in the form of armed escorts or humanitarian aid workers who get the supplies instead. The funds are also going to solar cookers which will end the treks to find fuel for cooking, Rojas said.
Rojas said that volunteer activists often experience fatigue and frustration when learning about Darfurian genocide and seeing how it is still being perpetuated and denied by the Sudanese government. This concert provides a different sort of fund raising experience.
“This will be a really fun way to get the message out,” sophomore and club co-coordinator, Karena Rounsaville said.
The concert will feature an eclectic sampling of music while supporting local and statewide artists, Rojas said. While Joel Smith plays acoustic folk music with occasional banjo and soulful, nostalgic lyrics, Savage Henry has long, jammy sets of progressive rock. The headliners, Acorn Project, can be described as progressive rock with funk and blues elements, said Oskar Kollen, the band's keyboardist and backup vocalist. Originally the band was approached by STAND finance officer and graduate student, Andrew Holcom.
“We thought it was a great cause and a great way to bring awareness to this issue,” Kollen said.
The band is excited for the on-campus show which Kollen said are usually high-energy and fun to play. LOA Records will provide sound for free, Rojas said, and the concert is $5 for students and $10 for general public. STAND will be collecting donations in the back of the MPR as well as selling the few t-shirts that they have left.
The group said that the displacement camps currently are also in need of higher education and that in the past they have raised money for this cause. Club co-coordinator Sophia Lelevich said that the refugees highly value education and that they had already established schools within their camps before humanitarian aid workers even arrived, immediately after escaping the Janjaweed militia.
STAND has just returned from a regional conference and said that they are really excited to keep working for their cause. They met with over 800 chapters of STAND from colleges all over the nation and saw all of the progress being made over the entire country. This helped STAND members realize that they are effecting change on a global level, Rojas said.
“It's nice to see that other people care,” Lelevich said.
The conference presented them with a new focus for 2008 which will be to target President Bush and ask him to continue his work in the Darfur region of Sudan. President Bush declared genocide three years ago, an action that made him the first U.S. president to declare genocide while the actions were still being perpetrated. This declaration is important because it obligates the United States to respond to the genocide, Rojas explained.
The new campaign is focused on holding the president to his promise of ending the genocide in Darfur as a way to create a presidential legacy. The United States has already given hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Sudan and helped broker a peace agreement between Southern Sudan and its government, according to documents from Rojas. According to these same documents STAND is currently asking that Bush help enforce the United Nations deployment of peacekeepers, providing support to his Dafurian diplomat, encourage the Chinese to divest and break other ties to the Sudanese government, and follow through with U.S. divestment.
Currently, however, STAND is focusing its efforts on the concert as an uplifting moral boost for the club and community.