Last week a group of Ithaca College students traveled to Washington D.C., to attend an “activist bootcamp.”
The students went to our nation’s capital to attend the Pledge2Protect 2011 conference, organized by STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, and the newly merged Genocide Intervention Network and Save Darfur Coalition. The weekend included activism and leadership training from Organizing for America and the New Organizing Institute.
We went through hours of training and learned about what exactly is going on in STAND’s conflict focus areas, including The Congo, Burma, Sudan and the developing situation in Libya. Conflict updates were given by Genocide Prevention Movement leaders including Rebecca Hamilton, author and journalist; John Prendergast, author and former diplomat and negotiator under the Clinton Administration; and Sam Bell, executive director of the Genocide Intervention Network.
The whole weekend was an intense experience and gave students an opportunity to see the movement as it exists beyond the college campus. The IC STAND chapter has been extremely successful in progressing the Anti-Genocide Movement’s mission. As well as fundraising, IC STAND is currently participating in the national Conflict Free Campus Initiative, which is bringing awareness to campuses across the nation regarding the conflict mineral trade in Eastern Congo, and what campuses can do to put forth an effort to end the conflict mineral trade. But this weekend was the first time many members of IC STAND witnessed the power a large group of organized individuals can have on an issue. It was incredible to see the satisfaction on students’ faces when important leaders of the Anti-Genocide Movement listed off instances where STAND’s organized call-ins to members of Congress, the White House, the State Department and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations affected change in how the United States handled issues of foreign policy.
The students from Ithaca who attended Pledge2Protect left D.C. with more knowledge of how to organize students and tell personal narratives. We also got a chance to see we were a part of something bigger than ourselves and realize that our efforts are making a difference in world politics and policy. While some of our peers are apathetic toward the world around them, we realize our impact and meet that apathy with activism and motivation. We each took the time out of our lives and schedules to build the individual tools we need to make a difference. The power is in the collective force of the movement, but without the strength and dedication of the individual students willing to make a difference and work to create a world without genocide, there would be no movement.
We are the future of the Anti-Genocide Movement and are critical components in the fight to end genocide globally.
Rachel Merkin is a senior integrated marketing communications major and president of the college’s chapter of STAND. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.