Esther Renee Selman
Esther Renee Selman
Founder of Without the Footnotes

Everyday activism: Genocide awareness month

April is seemingly an unfortunate month when we collectively observe the anniversaries of six major genocides. I will refrain from making the same, arguably tired comment about how ‘Never Again’ is a fallacy and instead focus on what we all know as a reality; that genocides continue to occur on varying scales across the globe.

As many of us live safe in our warm houses* the Uyghur people of Xinjiang Province in China are enduring immense persecution and I personally find that Primo Levi’s words haunt me, repeatedly echoing in my mind, following me wherever I go.

I am not sure it is an option for me to be simultaneously aware of Levi’s sentiment and the suffering of the Uyghur people and do nothing about it and what follows is always the same question, what can be done to encourage people to be proactive in alleviating the suffering of others?

It may seem like a gargantuan task to take on the prevention or halting of genocide, but I genuinely believe that tiny acts amount to great things and what we need to embark on are practical, manageable steps, ones we can fit into our day to day. Everyday activism for the everyday person.

So I decided to do the hard work for you and compile a short list of 10 different ways in which you can become proactive in the fight against genocide this April and beyond:

  1. Acts of kindness. Start with self-improvement, do one kind thing for another person each day until that is just a norm.
  2. Donate. To museums, NGOs, educational centers, survivor funds, charities etc. The possibilities are endless, just give what you can.
  3. Buy resources. Contact local schools and libraries or educational centers and see if there are resources you can offer to buy or donate. This can be for a specific genocide or just on the topic in general.
  4. Educate Yourself. Attend virtual lectures, check out Eventbrite and put in key words, you will not be disappointed. Other options are to check out a specific museum, library, educational center and university websites for their upcoming events.
  5. Raise Awareness. Check out hashtags on social media, see what campaigns are out there, find a cause you support and post about it on your own channels.
  6. Challenge. What does genocide education look like where you are from? Check out the curriculum, is it sufficient? Who can you write to about it?
  7. Campaign. What legislation needs your support right now? How can you join the campaign? Can you write to a government official?
  8. Crowd Funding. There are many social impact projects out there that need support. Choose a crowdfunding website and find a project you believe in, donate the price of a coffee, it makes all the difference.
  9. Volunteer. Are there people in your community that need your help? Many survivors of atrocity become refugees, so see what contribution you can make. Befriend survivors perhaps or donate clothes, furniture, a hot meal, help someone move or get to know their new town or city, maybe even a language exchange.
  10. Commemorate. Observe the memorial days, listen to testimony, read about what happened, get involved with a local memorial initiative, talk to friends and family about it. Take time out to light a candle and reflect.

Choose something off the list that you feel capable of doing and do it, then sit back and enjoy the feeling of collective action. Easy.

Should you wish to commemorate the respective anniversaries of each genocide during April you can do so on the following dates:

Armenian Genocide Memorial Day, 27th April.

Yom HaShoah (Israeli) Holocaust Memorial Day, 7/8th April.

Anniversary of the start of the Cambodian genocide, April 17th (National Day of Remembrance, May 20th).

Rwandan Genocide Memorial Day, 7th April

Bosnian anniversary of the siege of Sarajevo, April 5th (Srebrenica Memorial Day, July 11th)

Darfur: April 3rd.

And finally, if you are interested in learning more about the Holocaust and genocide, check out my podcast ‘Without the Footnotes’ where all six genocides are covered in easy-to-digest episodes. Be sure to tag @withoutthefootnotes on your social channels with any activism you may be engaging in! Enjoy!

*If you are unsure of the reference I urge you to read Primo Levi’s poem entitled ‘If This is a Man’.

About the Author
Esther Renee Selman has studied and worked within the field of Holocaust and genocide studies for the last decade. A graduate of the Weiss-Livnat MA in Holocaust studies at the University of Haifa she is the founder of Without the Footnotes (WtF) a social impact project that brings Holocaust and genocide education to new audiences. 'Without the Footnotes' podcast can be found wherever you get your podcasts.
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