Before I ever heard of Darfur, Sudan, I wrote comedies. I don’t think anyone expected me—least of all me, to write a play about genocide. But I did.
After finishing an MFA in playwriting, I was offered a job as New York Times columnist Nick Kristof’s researcher in January 2004. What prompted me to write a play about Darfur was that in the early days of 2004 Nick was shouting pretty loudly for the world to take notice of a genocide unfolding in Darfur. It wasn’t on the news. There were no celebrities, no politicians championing it. I realized that I knew and saw an awful lot, stuff that most people weren’t yet attuned to.
The stories were horrifying, as were the pictures—photos we didn’t put in the paper because they were so much worse than what we did show.
In March 2006, I traveled with Nick, his videographer Naka Nathaniel, and a crew from the "Today Show" including Ann Curry. We slept in aid compounds and underneath the stars of a stunning night sky. We met young children with bandaged bullet wounds and girls who had been raped not 48 hours earlier but told their story because they thought we could help the people of Darfur. We walked through burned and bombed villages, now ghost towns. Those who had little of either offered us tea and food. We saw overcrowded refugee camps and lines of survivors waiting to enter.
We faced all sorts of moral and ethical dilemmas each day, and I was constantly asking Nick and Ann what they felt about what they saw, how would they portray what they saw, and how did they choose to tell their stories, or chase certain stories and let others vanish. One day, we left a village full of elderly, sick and young people as they braced themselves for an attack by the Janjaweed. The rest of the village, those who were able-bodied, had already fled. The Chadian army, warned of the oncoming attack, was driving away from the village as we approached. There was nothing we could do but call an aid organization and tell them that there were some men who’d come in from nearby camps with gunshot wounds. We left a whole village behind, our car silent as we drove away.
There are dozens of stories just like these, some of which you’ll find in my play, "In Darfur." I invite you to read the play, or, if you’re in D.C. between now and Sunday, to come see it at Theater J. If you are looking to fundraise, and would like to perform or do a reading of the play with your own talent in your community or school, I’m delighted to waive any royalty fees if proceeds will be donated to the Enough Project or Genocide Intervention Network.
Join the movement. Darfur has faded from the headlines, and our efforts are needed. Let us not remain bystanders while tens of thousands suffer needlessly.
Winter Miller is the author of a half dozen plays and has worked as a journalist.