The live music that will be streaming from Anisq’ Oyo’ Park this Saturday is expected to draw nearly 1,000 people to the Darfur Freedom Fest — a daylong festival to help support the relief effort for the victims of Sudanese genocide and civil war.
The African Awareness Student Organization (AASO) and Amnesty International, in conjunction with Associated Students, will co-host the free event, which begins at 1 p.m. and lasts until 8 p.m. The festival will feature seven local bands, with styles ranging from blues-groove rock to trip-hop-funk, as well as face painting, beer pong and a raffle of items donated by local businesses. Representatives from Amnesty International, the Red Cross and the ONE campaign, which aims to “make poverty history,” will also be present to collect donations to aid in the relief effort.
Levi Felix, the fourth-year psychology major who directed the event, said people will also be able to attach a doll with their name on it to a large board to commemorate the people killed in the conflict in Sudan. He said he hopes to attach up to 500 dolls — meant to symbolize the roughly 500 Sudanese killed every day — to the board and send it to President Bush, along with a letter urging him to support the relief effort.
Felix said he decided to organize the benefit concert several months ago when he realized that few people in Santa Barbara knew about the situation in Sudan. Felix, whose own family was subjected to the Holocaust, said he empathizes with the victims of the genocide occurring in Darfur.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world besides the Dodgers, Gucci glasses and the Iraq war,” Felix said. “There’s a massive genocide happening right now.”
According to www.savedarfur.org, the Darfur region is an area of Sudan afflicted by both genocide and a 20-year-old civil war as the Sudanese government, rebel groups and citizens struggle over the country’s natural resources and ethnic makeup. A recent estimate from the Coalition for International Justice estimates that 400,000 people have died in the last two years of the conflict — 150,000 at the hand of Sudanese paramilitary forces and an additional 250,000 from starvation, disease or exposure.
Ikenna Ebigbo, a senior global studies major and former AASO president, said the Sudanese war is the longest running civil war in Africa and has claimed over two million lives in its course, many caused by the genocide in the Darfur region. He said a struggle over the oil resources in the country has driven the conflict.
“It’s an oil issue,” Ebigbo said. “You have oil companies trying to invest in Sudan, and you have the government, which wants investment, funding a rebel group called the Janjaweed to drive people off their land.”
Tetlo Emmen, co-chair of the AASO, said he thinks most people are oblivious to the events happening in Sudan and that the media had misrepresented the conflict to the public.
“Americans don’t notice stuff that’s going on in the world,” Emmen said. “We’re in our own little bubble. People should go out and learn for themselves what it’s about because the media distorts African affairs.”
Ebigbo said the violence in Sudan has begun to escalate, transitioning from a war over resources to a struggle over cultural identity.
“It started as a resource war, but now it has morphed into a war along ethnic and religious lines,” Ebigbo said. “It’s like that movie ‘City of God.’ People fight for so long that they forget why they’re fighting.”