Genocide Awareness Series Success

Perry Willig, Staff Writer

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Genocide Awareness and Action Week (GAAW) is a series of Social Justice events, sponsored by the Baker Institute and run by Mariah Dorsey and Umuhoza Pari Lilliane, which features talks on how we can be more conscious of our actions in the international sphere, conversations with genocide survivors, and stories that made us become aware of the genocides throughout history. This year it included a Freedom Seder, a name-reading, and two very special guests, Cambodian Genocide Survivor Ronnie Yimsut and Dr. Omékongo Dabinga. I found the week extremely meaningful.

This year’s theme was Reflections, and reflect we did. Mariah Dorsey, one of the PACS students in charge of GAAW this year, said that the “hiccups” they experienced along the way were taken care of quickly. Her favorite event was the museum event, and she appreciated the beautiful singing of the choir. She said that Ronnie Yimsut’s speech was also powerful, particularly because of the new connections he was seeking to make with Juniata College and bringing students to Cambodia to help him with his project. Since Dorsey transferred to Juniata last semester this is her first community organizing project. She has learned to fund raise, conduct herself in professional meetings, build a strong network, time management skills, and her patience.

Yimsut’s story brought to light how little I know about the Cambodian Genocide. Carried out around the same time as the Vietnam-American War, the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot killed approximately two million people. Cambodians still feel the consequences of the genocide to this day.

Edoardo Amaniera and Austin Meyer were affected strongly by the week. “It was a very introspective, powerful, provoking, and moving week…The poet [Dr. Dibinga] provoked action in me. It made me think about my mission in life and how can I be a change in order to create sustainable humanitarian action. [He] said it’s not about serving one of the big NGOs. It’s about stopping and truly understanding if you’re doing it right. You have to read about the culture and study the field you’re about to be involved in, and make sure you’re not changing the culture of the place, instead integrating yourself,” said Amaniera.

Meyer added that “it was very effective at enticing action through awareness…It made me realize how my everyday actions relate in some way to the atrocities going on in the world.” When asked if there was an event that stood out to him, Meyer responded; “Dibinga’s spoken word poetry was really powerful. He exposed how our everyday behaviors are directly supporting human suffering all around the planet. He shed light on the consequences of our actions. We exist as global citizens…I would encourage you to reflect on your daily actions and research the possible outcomes they could have on other people in the world as a whole.” One of the main emphases of the week was such a concept: that our everyday actions can have international consequences, positive and negative.