Robtel Neajai Pailey, Washington Informer, May 8, 2006
As momentum increased last Sunday with a rally to end the slaughter of civilians in Darfur, Sudan, Blacks were few and far between in a sea of White protesters on the National Mall. “Save Darfur” campaign rhetoric claims that the appeal of the movement is its assorted religious groups, its protesters from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and political affiliations — but did the average Black person get the memo?
Black leaders were vocal, yet their followers were hardly visible.
Radio talk show host Joe Madison, who has been arrested with other Black activists for protesting the Sudanese government’s support of militias in Darfur, served as the rally emcee. Illinois Junior Senator Barack Obama (D), co-sponsor of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act that pushes for sanctions against perpetrators of the genocide, said, “I know that if we care, the world will care.”
It appeared, however, that most Blacks took a rain check on caring, calling into question whether or not Darfur is a priority for African Americans, West Indians, and others in the African Diaspora. In a display of irony, images of Black Darfurians on a large projector screen were juxtaposed with mostly White protesters.
One of a few hundred Black people in the wave of more than 10,000 bodies, Haitian-American Marie Auguste was there. She had taken a train from New York to participate in the rally. Holding a sign with the message “President Bush You Said Not On Your Watch . . . It Is Happening, Do Something About It,” Auguste bumped into Prisca Doh, a native of Ivory Coast in West Africa, who had been using the poster as shade from the smoldering sun. They became engrossed in conversation about the lack of Black faces in the lines of protesters.
“There’s a very thin line between us here and Blacks on the African continent. Katrina taught us that they react to us the same way — with inaction,” said Auguste, alluding to the importance of solidarity amongst Africans on the continent and Africans of the Diaspora. She continued, “If we can’t be like the Jewish people and demand things for people that look like us, we’re never going to progress.”
Sunday’s rally in D.C. has been described as the largest mobilization against the genocide in Darfur. An estimated 10,000-15,000 attended in D.C. and record numbers came out in at least 30 other U.S. and Canadian cities. Participants were demanding that sanctions be placed on Sudan to pressure the government into stopping militias known as Janjaweed from raping women, scorching homes, and pillaging villages in Darfur.