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THEATER, GENOCIDE & PROTEST: NYC Street Theater Group Acts Against Slaughter in Darfur
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THEATER, GENOCIDE & PROTEST
Street Theater Group Acts Against Continuing Slaughter in Darfur
commentary by Howard Pflanzer

On April 11th at noon, on a bright sunny Spring day, eight of us from our political theater group gathered at the Chashama performance space on 42nd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues to prepare for our theater event highlighting the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Kayhan Irani had prepared the elements of a ritual march with signs and flags accompanied by the regular sounding of a gong.

Before we marched out onto 42nd Street, we prepared half a dozen signs with markers on newsprint memorializing individual civilians in Darfur who had died in the continuing violence:

RIP
ZAKARI AH IZHAQ
BROTHER, AGE 8
Nouri, Darfur

RIP
MOHAMMED, ISSA
GRANDFATHER, AGE 60
Terbeba, Darfur

RIP
FATAMA IBRAHIM
MOTHER, AGE 40
Terchana, Darfur

These were names documented by Human Rights Watch. Real people, in real places who had died.

Once we were on the street we carried the RIP signs and flags made of construction paper with burnt edges and imprinted with the words GENOCIDE, APATHY and FEAR and marched slowly to the measured sound of the gong. We went along 42nd Street and then turned left and marched up 1st Avenue.

People sitting on benches or strolling on their lunch hour looked at us indirectly. One woman give us an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Several blocks up across from the UN a gathering of about forty men from Darfur were holding signs about the genocide and chanting, "Khartoum regime to the ICC (International Criminal Court)" "No war in Darfur."

At this time each of us holding a flag, GENOCIDE, APATHY or FEAR was given a sign to hang around our neck saying Rwanda. Then we handed over our flag to a counterpart in our theater group who had a sign around their neck saying Sudan. We enacted the ritual of passing the horror of genocide from one place in Africa to another. At this point I was given a bullhorn and I started reciting the grim statistics about Darfur.

300,000 Dead
Over a million homeless

"The slaughter, violence and suffering continue. It must stop now," I said. Our theater group marched with the men from the Darfur People Association of New York around the corner to the Sudan Mission all the while chanting to the frenzied pounding of the gong.

A Catholic priest passing by joined the marchers and onlookers eating their lunch at a local café started to take notice of our actions. Ritual theater can be a powerful form of protest. Theater linked with protest can create awareness and hopefully stop the violence and rivers of blood pouring through the streets of the villages of Darfur.

 

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