Take a stand for Darfur and the Macarena

By Katy Anderson

What does the Macarena and a deadly conflict in Africa have in common? University of Calgary students are pairing with local entrepreneurs to put a stop to both.

Night to Fight: a Benefit for Darfur will feature live local music, an interactive fashion show and a visual art installation in an effort to raise money for international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders.

The awareness event will be held at the MacEwan Hall Ballroom on Saturday and is co-sponsored by the U of C chapter of STAND, an international club dedicated to advocating for the prevention of genocide, and by grassroots Calgary publication atbt Magazine. Art can add meaning to the distant conflict, said atbt Magazine co-founder Brendan Kane.

“We’re trying to push students into activism, but into fun activism, you know,” said Kane. “I think in terms of the issues in Darfur, it’s a very dark subject and people have a hard time relating to it, so we’re trying to put things together so people can initially relate and at least have knowledge about the situation.”

STAND president Michelle Cheung is adamant that, although far away from the conflict, Calgarians can make a difference in the war in western Sudan, which has killed an estimated 400,000 and displaced over two million.

STAND, was founded in 2007 by a group of American students who were shocked that they didn’t know about the conflict. Members are hopeful the genocide in Darfur can be ended, they stopped using the acronym Students Taking Action Now Darfur to emphasize its temporal nature.

“Our hope is that we can stop the genocide in Darfur and after that the organization can continue to work towards stopping other crimes against humanity,” said Cheung.

She encouraged students to get angry that the Canadian government, known for its efforts to ensure peace, isn’t taking action.

“I know a lot of students feel like they can’t do anything in terms of affecting policy changes, but we have this huge voice that is so untapped and so many people don’t know about what’s going in Darfur,” she said. “The more we get angry about what’s going on, the more likely that Canadian politicians are going to be forced to listen to us.”

Cheung encouraged students to call 1-800-Genocide, a hotline that directs callers to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and even the foreign minister, noting the more people that voice concerns, the higher Darfur will rise on the agenda.

Saturday’s event will feature 30 local artists and their wares from Market Collective, a live visual arts installation by Art Life Gallery, an interactive fashion show put on by Split Pea Vintage and a speech given by Alberta Liberal leader David Swann, who once fasted on parliament hill for Darfur.

Kane also promised that the bands– The Kronic Groove Band, The Fast Romantics, Platinum Alibi and Calm Asa Coma– will be so lively and fun, the event may start a new social trend, putting an end to grooving techniques from the days of yore.

“You’re going to see people doing dance moves that they’ve never attempted before, all brand new dance moves like the twist when that was huge and the Macarena,” said Kane.

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