Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Drop Beats not Bombs’ benefit concert brings awareness to genocide

By Brian Canova

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Guitarists, dancers, a cappella groups and other performers took center stage last Thursday, showing off musical talents for the cause against international genocide.

These artists performed at the “Drop Beats Not Bombs” benefit concert  at Earthfoods Café in the Campus Center  to raise awareness for the genocides in Sudan, The Democratic Republic of Congo and the emerging conflicts in Libya and Syria.

STAND, was originally an organization called “Students Taking Action Now Darfur” in 2003, born out of the fight to stop genocide in Darfur, Sudan, said Michael Basmajian, organizer of “Drop Beats Not Bombs.”

The organization is now STAND: Student Anti-Genocide Coalition and the student branch of the newly formed Genocide Intervention Network in order to encompass the acting goal of ending genocide worldwide.

Throughout the event – a night that saw 15 performers – members of STAND brought the audience up to speed on the current instances of genocidal violence.

“We seek to not only educate people about these conflicts, but we seek to empower individuals in communities with the tools to combat them,” said Robin Garabedian, co-coordinator of the UMass chapter of STAND. “We’ll do things like keep an eye on what bills are in the office [and] who we can lobby. We try to keep in touch with people who are actually from these areas to make sure we’re doing the stuff that people really need.”

Crimes against humanity – including rape and murder on a mass scale – committed by the Sudanese government against the people of Darfur led to the recent secession of South Sudan from Sudan on July 9.

Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been described as some of the worst in the world. Death tallies since 1998, totaling 3.9 million, are the largest since World War II, reported Time Magazine in May 2006.  The New York Times reported in January 2008, 45,000 Congolese were dying each month. More recently The Washington Post described the prevalence of rape in the Congo as the worst in the world.

As of this year the UMass STAND chapter has elected to additionally focus efforts on the emerging conflicts in Libya, and Syria, where violence has broken out following a spree of similar movements by the people of Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011.   Basmajian said it can be difficult for people to see the ways to help these countries. On the individual level, Baismajian stressed that the consumer can determine where goods purchased are coming from, and which side of the conflicts the profits are being delivered.

Baismajian added that the efforts of STAND are both political and humanitarian, balanced between lobbying and donations to humanitarian relief organizations overseas

Highlights of the night included Liz Adams’ cover of Bon Ivers’ “Skinny Love” early in the event, an a cappella rendition of Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” by the UMass female a cappella group, S#ARP ATTITUDE.

Brian Canova can be reached at [email protected]

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