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[OPINION] Sudan’s Revolution is Your Revolution

June 18, 2019

Marwa Eltahir (far left) and her family in Oumdurman, Sudan mid 1990s

Often
when we talk about violence perpetrated outside of the United States,
specifically in Africa, we feel paralyzed by the extent of terror we face. As a
protective response to witnessing immense violence and secondary trauma we
convince ourselves these atrocities are too vast and devastating to address.
Or, in today’s age of technology, we share a few posts on Instagram or Facebook,
pat ourselves on the back for raising awareness and continue aimlessly
scrolling down our feeds. While social media has undoubtedly been a valuable
tool for raising the visibility of human rights violations around the world, it
has simultaneously had the adverse consequence of numbing our capacity for
empathy. 

In the
case of the Sudan Uprising movement, similar to the initial momentum of the
Arab Spring, the overwhelming show of support, advocacy, and solidarity on
social media channels illuminated the grave violence and injustices perpetuated by the
Janjaweed militia and Transitional Military Council forces. Even when they
attempted to squash the voice of the rebellion by cutting nearly all Internet
outlets in Sudan, the international community continued to use their online
platforms to amplify the voices of Sudanese activists on the ground. 

However,
while this show of support is encouraging, online activism still fails to
expose how this thirty-year long pattern of violence in Sudan, and throughout
other African nations, has devastated communities, fractured families, and
scarred individuals living through it. The images of poor, dead Black bodies
has inundated our social feeds so often that it has become normalized. We have
become numb to the dire human suffering of Black bodies. The multilateral web
of the media only reaffirms and exacerbates these images, creating the illusion
that death and dying is somehow innate to the African mentality, lifestyle, and
condition. 

The violence in Sudan is part of a larger legacy
of colonial imperialism that separates us from them, and justifies the
oppression of Black bodies. It teaches us to sympathize rather than empathize
and creates a vacuum of emotional intelligence that falls upon us to fill.
Choosing to feel the plight and pain of others is no easy task because it asks
us to first acknowledge the biases in our perspectives. That work is a
necessary foundation to the emotional, spiritual, communal empathy with people
outside of our immediate environment. 

Here are
some ways I have galvanized my empathy and found myself reflected in the Sudanese
Revolution:

Sudanese girls listen to the speech of Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of the military council, during a rally to support the new military council that assumed power in Sudan after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir, and o protect the people’s revolution, in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday, June 16, 2019. Sudanese officials say al-Bashir is being taken to the prosecutor’s office for corruption probe. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Understand Context Before
Jumping to Action

When
faced with situations of intense conflict our initial reaction is to seek ways
to immediately resolve this tension. However, before jumping to saving the day,
and acting from a reactionary place, it is vital to understand the context we
are working within. In the case of Sudan, the recent Sudan Uprising movement is
born out of a long and tumultuous history spanning decades of dictatorial
oppression and mass violence against innocent civilians. This revolution did
not appear overnight and its foundations have been built by countless activists
that have given their lives in the pursuit of a free, representative democracy.
Understanding the complex and nuanced political, cultural, social, economic,
religious pieces that have led to this breaking point is the first step to
becoming a supportive ally to the Sudanese community. Action without intention
is counterproductive. Begin by doing your homework, like reading useful
articles such as this piece via The
Root
, watching Hasan
Minhaj’s episode “Protests in Sudan” on the Patriot Act,
and attending community meetings on the issue. After building your knowledge
base, you can begin to leverage the networks and skills in your own life to
uplift the Sudanese revolution.

Disrupt the Monolithic
Representation of Us vs. Them

One of
the tried and true strategies of war is to divide and conquer. Colonizers have
used it time and time again to polarize, split, and dominate indigenous
communities to steal their land and resources. This pattern was repeated in
Sudan and also adopted by recently ousted President of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir.
One of the reasons the Sudan Uprising movement has been successful thus far has
been its ability to shed this fallacy and unite Sudanese people across ethnic,
religious, racial, linguistic, and economic backgrounds. Following in their
example, it becomes imperative for us to do that same work beyond the African
continent. The Sudanese revolution is a mass movement of people who have had
enough of the senseless killing of their bodies and are standing against
systemic, institutional violence. Sound familiar? In innumerable ways the Sudanese
Revolution is reflected in the Black Lives Matter movement, the Occupy movement,
the Immigration Reform movement, the Black Transgender Women’s movement, and
many more. If you care for any of these or other collective movements for
justice and anti-oppression then this is your revolution too. 

Seek and Be Present with
Activists  

Even as a
Sudanese person with family currently in Sudan I too have numbed myself to the
senseless violence I experience second-hand from my cozy Brooklyn apartment.
Therefore, I was excited when a Sudanese friend invited me to a show that
showcased a piece by Ahmed Umar, a Norweigan-Sudanese
visual artist making sense of the world in his own way. His performative
installation, “if you no longer have a family,
make your own with clay”
closed out the show in an immersive, personal story of healing
and play.  Ahmed laid pieces of clay in front of each attendee and after a
short introduction opened the space to us to make our families with our own
hands. I began gently kneading the clay, and before I knew it, I was pounding
it into the ground, hot tears streamed down face as I dug into the clay with my
nails and spread it apart with force, reshaping it against my skin. My anger,
frustration, and loneliness came outpouring and for the first time since the deadly crackdown on Sudanese protestors
that killed hundreds, I truly felt the pain of my people. 

While it
is true that it is not the responsibility of oppressed people to explain their
oppression to you, in the appropriate time and place, seek the voices of those
willing and ready to share their narrative and perspective. More than pictures
on a screen, take a chance and make yourself uncomfortable. Take your shame and
guilt and find the avenue that will translate that into building your reservoir
of empathy. 

Start with Yourself

Last, but
not least, start with cultivating empathy in your own family, community, job.
As the well-known proverb reminds us, you cannot pour from an empty cup. So,
whatever that may look like for you, begin by flexing your empathy muscle in
small but intentional ways in your everyday life. The people of Sudan, those on
the ground and beyond, are reflections of our collective humanity. See them,
and bear witness to their pain, their kindness, and their determination in its
fullest extent. See them in yourself and go from there.

Original article source: http://aurn.com/opinion-sudans-revolution-is-your-revolution/ | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council

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