Simon Deng is a Sudanese man who was captured into slavery as a child. Although he is free today, he cannot forget his past as he tells his story to the world. Deng organized the Freedom Walk, in which he and many others are walking 230 miles in three weeks.
Their goal is to spread awareness about genocide, rape and other crises that occur in Sudan. On their way to Washington D.C. from New York, they passed through Philadelphia and Temple.
In preparation for their arrival and to help with their cause, several organizations, including Amnesty International, Students for Environmental Action, the African American studies department and the political science department, cooperated to coordinate several events.
“I thought it was important to think about other people around the world and I couldn’t help myself when I heard what was happening,” said sophomore psychology major Jessie Hemmons, one of the student organizers. “I was thinking, ‘Take action now, do something about it and make people aware.'”
“I want to be in people’s faces about this,” said another student organizer, Christine Katz, a sophomore philosophy major. “We’re so privileged here, but look what’s happening [around the world].”
On Tuesday, March 21, Temple held a forum with Harvey Glickman, a political science professor at Haverford College, as a guest speaker.
“State terrorism – that’s what’s going on in Sudan,” Glickman said. One of his messages to the students was to be more connected and active because “the administration will respond to pressure.”
Room 105 of Tuttleman Learning Center was so full of interested students that dozens were left standing. Many students attended the event out of curiosity.
“It was informative and I learned a lot,” said Katrina Williams, a junior majoring in theater arts. “I know I’m going to be with the Freedom Walkers [when they arrive] and go to Washington. I think it’s a good thing.”
But as the students walked out of the forum, many said they were a different person from when they arrived.
“It [was] really emotional in there,” said Julia Bertalan, a junior who is majoring in religion and African American studies. “People are bringing up lots of issues and going on tangents … I definitely want to learn more, do some research. I hope what I’m doing will be helpful.”
On Wednesday, March 22, the Freedom Walkers arrived to Temple with students by the Bell Tower patiently waiting for them. Posted were drawings done by children that captured what is taking place in Sudan.
“There shouldn’t be a reason why this isn’t on the front of newspapers every day,” said Mike Watson, a junior political science major. “For these people to take action, it’s very important.”
At the welcoming rally, many students signed letters that would be sent to President George W. Bush and Gov. Ed Rendell.
“I signed them because it’s important to be active and to be aware of what is going on,” said Amy Aschliman, a sophomore majoring in English and Spanish. “It’s important to let politicians and our congressmen pay attention to what we want them to pay attention to.”
“I don’t know much more I can do,” said senior Bart Keaney, an environmental studies major. “I signed the postcard. I’ll go to the march, but … ”
To Temple student Ayuen Garang Ajok, who is from Sudan and has not seen his family in 22 years, taking any step to help is a powerful one.
“Voices of students are easily recognized,” Ajok said. “Students are tools of this country.”
“People don’t understand the impact of contacting their representative or congressman,” Katz said. “Send a letter. If enough people get together, something can be done.”
Anne Ha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.