"Please help," the girl screeched as I walked by on a sunny day in New York City. She was shaking what looked like an empty fishbowl, but because she was White, fairly well dressed and this was the luxurious upper West Side, I tried to ignore her. I figured she was trying to fund a habit or collect enough money to hit the clubs later that night. No interest from this hard-working mother of two.
But then she started screaming again. "Please help. People are dying in Darfur. They're being killed and they need your help. Any amount you can give is okay." I stopped then and took a closer look. This White American teenager and two of her friends were standing on the corner of conceivably one of the richest neighborhoods in the country trying to get passerbys to stop for a moment to consider the plight of the victims of Sudan's violent genocide. The three of them, in bare feet and looking a bit disheveled but very earnest in the tee-shirts and madras boxer shorts, worked the corner like seasoned hustlers. I was impressed.
Throughout the day in New York City, I kept seeing more and more teenagers with Darfur t-shirts on. Like it was a fashion statement. Like supporting Darfur was cool. At first I was amused, then a little perturbed, like 'did these wealthy White kids have any clue what modern-day genocide really meant?" But then I reasoned, even if they didn't, they were increasing awareness with their simple black & white t-shirts.
When I got home I did some quick internet searching and this unaware Black American woman discovered that yesterday, September 17, 2006 was Global Day for Darfur, which explained all of the shirts and teens with fishbowls. What's more, American teenagers are leading the campaign for funds and peace initiatives for Sudan. Black teens, White, Asian...I'm seeing a multicultural mix of young people up in arms for not only the victims of Darfur but for people around the world who are suffering, caught in the crossfire of violence. I stumbled onto the website Teens4Peace and was overjoyed to see that American teens have more to care about than MySpace, Ashlee Simpson and the latest iPod manifestation.
Makes me proud to be an American (almost!)