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Smith to Host Fundraising Event for Darfur

Local activists working to help the people of Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region will hold a community event and vocal concert on Sunday, Oct. 21, at Smith College. “Voices for Darfur,” which will feature local and national performers, will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. Admission is free and open to the public.

“The situation in Darfur remains desperate for the millions of people who have fled their homes and are living in squalid refugee camps,” said event organizer Tamara Kupfer, of the Congregation B’nai Israel (CBI) Darfur Action Group. “The need to provide them with food, water and medical care is just as urgent now as the violence against innocent civilians continues.”

The Darfur Action Group raised $20,000 last year for the Sudan Aid Fund of the Community Foundation of Western Mass, which was founded by leading international Darfur activist and Smith College Professor Eric Reeves, and supports outstanding organizations running life-saving humanitarian aid programs in Darfur, such as Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee.

The CBI Darfur Action Group will again ask for donations at the “Voices for Darfur” concert. Performers will include Evelyn Harris, internationally renowned singer formerly of Sweet Honey in the Rock; the Amandla Community Chorus, known for performing international songs of justice and celebration; 5-Alone, the award-winning PVPA jazz a cappella group; Mak’hela, the celebrated Jewish Chorus of Western Mass; High Definition, the Northampton-based vocal ensemble; and AlSarah & Fatima, an accomplished Sudanese vocal duo from New York.

Proceeds raised at the concert will go to the Sudan Aid Fund to provide humanitarian aid for the civilian population of Darfur.  In addition to Smith and the B'nai Tzedek Youth Foundation, event sponsors include many Western Massachusetts faith-based, community, professional, and activist organizations, as well as local elected officials, including Senator Stan Rosenberg, Representative Peter Kocot, and Northampton Mayor Mary Clare Higgins.

The CBI Darfur Action Group began in April 2006 to respond to the genocide in Darfur.  Visibility about this issue needs to remain high, said group members, noting that hundreds of thousands have been killed and more than two million displaced by government-sponsored militias in Sudan. The CBI group worked with the Northampton Human Rights Commission—also a co-sponsor of the Oct. 21 event—to draft the Darfur resolution recently passed by the Northampton City Council and is currently involved in educational projects and a weekly vigil in downtown Northampton.

“I think the urgency of the Darfur genocide has never been greater,” said Reeves. “Humanitarian workers remain as endangered and embattled as ever. There’s no sign yet that Khartoum is feeling sufficient pressure to negotiate in good faith and that’s where U.S. advocacy has led the way.”

In addition to music and the comments by Reeves at the Oct. 21 program, Mayor Higgins will give brief remarks, and New York photographer Richard Levine will speak of his recent trip to Darfur. In conjunction with this event, Amherst’s Jones Library will host an exhibit of Levine’s acclaimed photographs of Darfur Oct. 21- Nov. 17. Several photos will also be on display at the “Voices for Darfur” event.

For more information, contact Sara Weinberger at Donations may be sent to the Community Foundation of Western Mass, P.O. Box 15769, Springfield, MA 01115-5769. Checks should be earmarked to the Sudan Aid Fund.

-Excerpted from a CBI Darfur Action Group press release

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