Editor’s Note: Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy, a Minnesota-based professor, wrote this guest blog post about her ‘Enough Moment,’ which inspired the creation of a non-profit organization called World Without Genocide and a poignant project where her students reflected on their decisions to become activists.
‘Enough Moments’ are lightning flashes of clarity when we realize we have to make a difference in the world. We realize that we can no longer be bystanders to injustice but we must become upstanders, people who stand up against hatred and violence locally and globally.
My own ‘Enough Moment’ came a few years ago. I had been to Rwanda, where I met Alice Musabende, a young Rwandan who is an orphan survivor of the genocide. Her grandparents, parents, 12-year-old sister, and 9-year-old and 2-year-old brothers all perished, leaving her utterly alone at age 14.
When I told her story to my students, one of them said, “What are we going to do about this?” And that was my moment, my realization that I had to act, and the organization World Without Genocide developed in response to that obligation.
Last fall, one of World’s associates, Rachel Beecroft, said, “If we’re really serious about a grass-roots movement that will stand up for human rights, we need to have a summer camp for high school students.” Rachel’s moment became our Summer Institute, a three-day program for teens to learn about genocide, to become inspired by one another and by upstanders in our own community and around the world, and to design advocacy programs for their own schools.
Students from 10 high schools joined us for “Child Soldiers and Bullying: Taking a Stand against Genocide and Hate.”
Participants heard from survivors and human rights activists; watched great films; met Carl Wilkens, a rescuer during the Rwandan genocide; learned organizing strategies from Wellstone Action; and studied the tragedy of child soldiers around the world and bullies in our own schools and neighborhoods.
Each participant developed programs for people in their own schools and communities to become advocates of human rights here and abroad.
At the end of the Summer Institute, Monica Chowdhury, a law student on our planning committee, asked each of the students to write about his or her personal ‘Enough Moments.’
One student’s ‘Enough Moment’ came when she visited the World War II era concentration camp Dachau and “saw the hatred and darkness in the flesh.” Another student said ‘enough’ when she learned that people turned away from knowing what was happening in Rwanda.
A student wrote, “When I learned about Darfur from a documentary, I knew if other people could stand up for what’s right, I could, too.”
Our students’ words are now featured on the Enough Moment wall.
They will be Upstander Team Leaders in next summer’s institute, to be held August 14-16, 2012, on the topic, “Children in Genocide: The Holocaust, Rwanda, and Darfur – Victims, Soldiers, Orphans, Refugees, and Upstanders."
They inspire us all to stand up for what’s right. Congratulations to our Summer Institute 2011 participants!
Katie Bowden, Elyse Chaffee, Sarah Feltault, Myra Franzone, Emily Lahyani, Avalon Levey, Mai Chai Lor, Henry Maler, Jeron Mariani, Isaac Marshall, Abigail Martenson, Eloia Peterson, Daniela Prigozhina, Stefani Prigozhina, Beret Sauer, Renee Schwartz, Kyle Skordahl, Sam Weber
Ellen J. Kennedy, Ph.D., is the executive director of World Without Genocide based in St. Paul, MN, which organized its first annual Summer Institute for high school students this year.