Photo by Nick Paris.

Music professors participate in a drum circle to raise awareness of the Jan. 9 referendum in Sudan. The local chapter of STAND, a student organization that works to fight genocide, held the event. Members say that if the referendum passes, the outbreak of civil war and possible genocide may be less likely in the region. Photo by Nick Paris.
Rhythmic African beats echoed throughout Quarry Plaza on Nov. 22, grabbing the attention of students on their way to the bookstore.

STAND, a new student anti-genocide coalition, hosted a drum circle in the hopes of promoting awareness of the current crisis in Southern Sudan.

Guest speaker at the event and UCSC lecturer in psychology Tony Hoffman, said that drum circles in Africa are traditionally meant to bring people together.

Some students stopped and took pictures of the large drum circle with their cell phone cameras, while others joined in.

One of the organization’s current goals is to raise awareness about the upcoming Southern Sudanese independence referendum on Jan. 9. Through the referendum, citizens will vote to determine whether Southern Sudan should or should not remain a part of Sudan as a whole.

Molly Murphy, the organization’s co-president, explained why the election is of such importance to STAND.

“The outcome of this referendum is up to the people, but the fairness and possibility of violence is of great concern to us,” Murphy said. “Historically, under the dictator Omar al-Bashir, Sudanese elections have been unfairly rigged and plagued with violence that makes voting unsafe.”

Sudan is still experiencing a violent civil war between the North and South since 1983.

Without a peaceful and fair referendum, Sudan could remain entrenched in its civil war and continue the genocide in Darfur. STAND calls for diplomatic leadership from the United States and others to promote a peaceful and fair referendum this January.

If the referendum were delayed or failed to pass, the outbreak of civil war and possible genocide would be more likely in the area. STAND hopes to call on the diplomatic leadership of the United States and others to promote a peaceful and fair referendum this January.

Murphy and Chiara Cabiglio, co-presidents of the STAND Santa Cruz chapter, brought the organization to life this quarter.

Cabiglio interned with the Darfur Peace and Development organization in Washington D.C, which inspired her to start up an organization of her own in Santa Cruz. Cabiglio coordinated with Murphy, who went to STAND training in Maryland, and they got a few other dedicated people together to form the administrative group.

The UCSC STAND chapter is just one sub-chapter in the national STAND organization that is based in Washington, D.C.

After much planning by Cabiglio, Murphy, and others, the organization, which used to exist at UCSC a few years ago, was reintroduced this quarter.

Nicole Pokojny, treasurer for STAND UCSC, said the group hopes to make people aware of the conflict in Sudan.

“UCSC’s STAND is aiming to spread awareness and advocate against the genocide happening in the world today, in three major conflict zones in particular: the Congo, Burma and Sudan,” she said. “We want to get people interested in learning more about the monstrosities that are happening in the world, and hope that it encourages them to want to work together with other people that care about the same things, and do something about it.”

For now, STAND is still expanding and giving people tangible ways in which they can make a difference: a letter-writing campaign to Congress members, an open-house/open-call day inviting people to call in and help the cause, and speakers who may come in the winter or spring to hold a campus-wide event.

Despite the harrowing subject the club deals with, Pokojny is optimistic about the future of student activism.

“Genocide cannot be stopped tomorrow,” Pokojny said. “But with an organization like STAND, UCSC students can come closer to solving the problem.”