Needham Darfur Initiative

A unique, newsworthy, town-based initiative to raise public awareness of the first genocide of the 21st century.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Visual Fruits






Alan's house











Needham High School



First Baptist Church



The UPS Store



Unitarian Universalist Church



Temple Aliyah









Congregational Church














Temple Beth Shalom















Grace Lutheran Church

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Review of Needham Cable Channel's coverage

The Needham Darfur Initiative was featured on the news program which aired on Thursday, May 18.

I was impressed by how professionally produced the piece was, and I thought the story hit all the right points.

I'll try to get a digital version and create a link to it on the blog.

Letter to Liz Walker, host of Sundays with Liz Walker on CBS/4

Dear Liz:

I imagine this story will be dear to your heart.

I'm working on an initiative to rally the entire town of Needham to raise public awareness of the atrocities being committed in the first genocide of the 21st century, that being in the Darfur region of Sudan. The idea is to blanket the town --- its houses of worship, its businesses, its schools and its homes --- with a consistent visual image, the result of which would be so noteworthy that it would attract not only local, but also national media attention. Needham would be unique in the whole of the U.S. as rallying around this humanitarian cause. This could lead to a "tipping point," i.e. the idea could spread and take hold in other places.

The project has many potential benefits. Even if no specific impact is made at the policy level, consciousness will surely be raised locally. Needhamites will feel rightly proud of their center-stage position in this effort, as the whole town will be unified around the simple humanitarian theme of saving lives. Young people will learn that individual initiatives can indeed be effective, sometimes powerfully so.

The visual image would come from large banners that could be draped on buildings or staked into the ground, as well as smaller versions that could be used in window displays or as lawn signs.

The banners and signs themselves (which come from the Save Darfur Coalition in Washington, D.C.) will be provided at no cost (I'm bearing the cost personally for the time being), as the main idea is only to raise awareness (which must necessarily come before money or action). The message will not be political, but rather purely humanitarian. Contribution possibilities will be mentioned, but only after-the-fact.

As to the current status of the project (which began only one month ago --- the week after the Passover seder which sparked the idea):

I'm communicating with all of the houses of worship in Needham through the Needham Clergy Association. So far, besides meeting with the Clergy Association itself, I've met with a number of Outreach Committees and did a few board level presentations. Two synagogues and three churches have already expressed their approval and support of the program. (Three banners are already on prominent display, with the other two going up within a couple days.) And I'm still slated to speak at two more outreach committees.

The business community appears ready and anxious to participate --- several businesses are just waiting for their signs/banners to arrive. I've been invited to speak at an upcoming Rotary Club luncheon and the Needham Business Association has committed to provide active assistance.

Students at the World Peace Club at Needham High School have committed to distributing packets (including lawn signs, explanatory literature, etc.) to Needham's individual homes. Paul Richards, NHS principal, is strongly supportive of this initiative, as it takes the students out of pure fundraising mode (they had been selling candy bars and bracelets, with the proceeds going to a worthy charity for the cause of saving children in Sudan), and it puts them into a more active communications role.

Besides the High School, I'm now in touch with the principals of all the other schools in town.

The Needham Times, our main local newspaper, started covering the story in their May 11 edition. The story included a photo of the first banner going up --- facing the main entrance of Needham High School. The initiative also was highlighted in the "thumbs up" piece (first position) on the editorial page in that same edition. The Needham Cable Channel featured the project (very nicely) on their May 18 news show.

The "spiritual guidance" introduction of the May 8 session of Needham's Town Meeting, by Rabbi Carl Perkins of Temple Aliyah, I think took the assembly by surprise (this has now been confirmed by hearing it from a few Town Meeting members) by speaking of the Torah portion of that week: (roughly) "thou shalt not stand idly by when harm is being done to your neighbors," a brief history of the word genocide, a brief summary of the situation in Darfur, an exhortation to action in general, and a specific mention of our local example, in which he urged Town Meeting members to participate in the program when they're approached.

The Massachusetts Save Darful Coalition invited me to present the project at their upcoming meeting on June 6. Based on our experiences in Needham, I think they'd like me to lead a broader state-wide effort.

The story has several potential angles. There's the question as to why so few people are even aware of the situation in Darfur. There's the question as to whether a single individual can really make a difference (which is what we were discussing at our seder with respect to Darfur). There's the story of how a whole town, its religious institutions, its businesses and its citizens can become unified around a humanitarian theme, and feel good about itself and its role in consciousness raising, first locally but then possibly much more broadly. There's the "money angle," i.e. by taking away the request for or expectation of a contribution, people appear to be more willing to visibly express their feelings in support of their fellow humans. It's like free catharsis. There's the story of who actually benefits from an iniative like this --- is it really the people of Darfur?

I know you'll give the idea of producing a segment on the "Needham Darfur Initiative" serious consideration, for which I thank you. If the story develops as expected, it will be programs such as yours that propel it onto the national stage. Even if it doesn't, the local benefits are already tangible, and you might be interested in that.

I'm keeping a blog on the project which you'll want to take a look at if you're interested in going further. It's at: http://NeedhamDarfur.blogspot.com.

I'm anxiously awaiting your reply.

Sincerely,


Alan Greenfield

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Proposed letter to Needham residents

Dear Needham friends,

This letter is coming to you from the World Peace Club (WPC) at Needham High School.

It is part of a town-wide initiative to increase public awareness of the most serious humanitarian crisis on earth today, that being the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan --- the first (and hopefully the last) genocide of the 21st century.

Ethnic strife in the area has thus far led to the slaughter of 400,000 people and the displacement of 2.5 million more (a great many of whom will now die of disease or starvation). While the situation in Darfur is clearly a full-blown holocaust, the general level of awareness of it in the U.S. is still quite low --- hence our mission.

Our idea is to visually transform Needham by having all of its constituents ---- schools, churches/synagogues, businesses, homes --- display banners, window signs or lawn signs demonstrating our town’s solidarity in wishing to bring this humanitarian crisis to the public’s attention. The message is humanitarian, not political. Needham would thus become unique in the whole of the U.S., hopefully making the story newsworthy, certainly in local, but also possibly in national media. There's potential for a "tipping point" effect, such that other towns might undertake similar projects, bringing even more focus on the issue.

You may have seen the May 11 edition of the Needham Times, which contained a nice article on the initiative (with a photo of some of our club members hanging the very first banner at the High School) as well as a “thumbs up” review in the editorial section. Also, the May 18 news on The Needham Cable Channel presented the initiative as one of their feature stories. By now you have probably noticed several large banners displayed at many of Needham’s houses of worship, as well as banners or window signs in many of Needham’s storefronts.

For homeowners we have 18” x 24” lawn signs, available at no charge. We encourage you to participate by displaying one. They are available for pickup at practically all of Needham’s houses of worship, or, if you prefer, they may be ordered for free delivery by a WPC member by simply calling (781) 455-8310 and leaving your name and address.

Our initiative has many potential benefits. Even if no specific impact is made at the policy level, consciousness will surely be raised locally. Needhamites will rightly feel proud of their center-stage position in this effort, as the whole town will be galvanized along the simple humanitarian theme of saving lives. And importantly, young people will learn that they can indeed make a difference in this world.

To learn more about the project and details of the situation in Darfur, and/or to provide feedback, take a look at our blog at http://NeedhamDarfur.blogspot.com.

And although this project is not primarily designed as a fundraiser, those who wish to may make a small contribution to one of the charities specified on the enclosed card (all of which are highly rated by independent rating agencies).

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. We fervently hope you’ll join our effort.

Yours truly,


Jeff Escalante
President, World Peace Club
Needham High School

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Needham Darfur Initiative makes TV News!

On Tuesday Josee Lapointe, Public Affairs Producer at The Needham Channel (TNC), captured the first two "handoffs" of the banners --- one to Rev. Debora Jackson of the First Baptist Church, the other to John Moran, owner of the UPS store in town.

We were warned in advance that this was a news story --- there was to be no artificial staging, we weren't to suggest questions for her to ask, etc. I started to get a little nervous.

The questions were what you'd expect --- why would your church/business here in Needham put up a prominent banner about a situation occurring so far away in Africa? Without any advanced warning or preparation, I can tell you that both Rev. Jackson and John gave answers that were truly touching.

You'll all be proud of them when you see the show. (We don't know the story length, but we do know it will be on.) Thursday at 7:30 PM, on TNC (# ?).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Letter sent to principals of elementary and middle schools



Dear Needham School Principals:

I wanted to be sure you were all aware of the "Needham Darfur" initiative to raise public awareness of the first genocide of the 21st century, that being in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The short term intent of the project is to visually transform Needham by having all of its constituents ---- schools, churches/synagogues, businesses, homes --- display (non-political)

banners, window signs or lawn signs demonstrating our unity in wishing to bring to public attention to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Needham would thus become unique in the whole of the U.S., hopefully making the story newsworthy in national media. There's potential for a "tipping point" effect, such that other towns might undertake similar projects, bringing even more focus on the issue.

Banners will be provided at no charge. And members of the High School's World Peace Club (WPC) will be glad to install them for you (if you'd like).

The project, launched only a few short weeks ago, has already achieved several milestones: There was a nice article in last week's Needham Times, not to mention a strong "thumbs up" approval in the editorial section. The accompanying photo showed WPC members putting up the first banner --- prominently featured at Needham High School. The Needham Cable Channel will be documenting the project. I met with the Needham Clergy Association, and am now meeting with individual churches and synagogues, several of which have already agreed to put up banners (which you'll see start to happen this week). In his "spiritual guidance" introducing the May 8 session of Town Meeting, Rabbi Carl Perkins of Temple Aliyah urged members to support the project. Businesses will be putting up window signs (the project has the support of the Needham Business Association and I've been invited to speak at an upcoming Rotary Club luncheon). And lawn signs will be available for homes --- to be distributed along with other materials by the WPC. A blog on the project, at http://NeedhamDarfur.blogspot.com keeps readers informed as to the current status, and it facilitates dialog on the project elements and possible outgrowths.

The initiative will bring many benefits. Consciousness will surely be raised locally (even if no specific impact is made at the policy level). Needhamites will feel rightly proud of their center-stage position in this effort, as the whole town will be galvanized around the simple humanitarian theme of saving lives. And importantly, young people will learn that they can indeed make a difference in this world.

Please let me know if we can hang a banner at your school (probably until the end of the school year). Thank you for your consideration.

Yours truly,


Alan Greenfield
22 Savoy Rd.
Home: (781) 449-5353
Cell: (781) 799-3213
Email: A.Greenfield@comcast.net

P.S.: To be most meaningful to your students, the project should have some attendant curricular material. We haven't focused on this yet, but with some guidance from you could probably develop an appropriate one-time presentation, possibly with some ongoing suggestions for classroom discussions or activities. I'll await your feedback on this part as well.

Monday, May 15, 2006

World Peace Club Meeting

The club agreed that it would do a more limited distribution of information packets than cover all 9,000 homes in Needham --- say, 2000 to start (on the more major streets).

Short term targets are to have the exact contents of the distribution nailed down by May 22, then production quantities are to be available by May 29, with the actual distribution shortly after that.

Alan is to put up (on the blog) a draft of the basic informational piece by this Wednesday, May 17.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

An excerpt from this week's Needham Times editorial page

Thumbs Up !

T
o people in Needham who get the crazy notion in their heads that they can effect change in the world, then act upon it.
Alan Greenfield has turned a Passover conversation about one person's ability to make a difference into a personal challenge, a media stunt and a crusade to make Needham and eventually, he's hoping, the nation, aware of the genocide in Sudan.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Needham Cable Channel

I met today with Natalie Danglade, news editor for the Needham Cable Channel.

She was interested in hearing the story, and was also interested in chronicling it ---- to wit, we're meeting Tuesday, TV camera in hand, to get the basics of the program down on film, as well as to go on location to one or two places to capture the "handoffs" or "installations" of some of the first banners in town.

Clergy Association Meeting

I was invited by Rev. Buehrens, current president of the Needham Clergy Association, to speak briefly at their meeting that was held yesterday, May 11.

The presentation was warmly received.

I asked two things of the clergy that was present:

1) Could we use their churches/synagogues as locations where lawn signs could be picked up by their congregants? Unanimous answer: YES

2) Could we have a brief entry in their regular email newsletter, if they have one (which most did), which would have a link to this blog? Unanimous answer: YES

It felt like all were heartened that the initiative even exists, and would cooperate as much as possible to make it a success.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Article in today's Needham Times

Resident hopes his time, effort, will promote peace in Sudan


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has."


Anthropologist Margaret Mead's famous words aren't on the tip of Alan Greenfield's tongue - but the 59-year-old local resident and marketing specialist with an activist's heart is putting them into action in a humanitarian project he hopes will spread like wildfire.




After his Passover Seder last month, Greenfield decided he wanted to do what he could to combat the deadly political violence in Sudan that, since 2003, has resulted in the deaths of at least 400,000 civilians and displacement of 2.5 million more due to violence.

"I am simply hoping to raise public awareness of the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth today, which is the genocide going on in the Darfur region in Sudan," he said. "[The] systematic rape, systematic slaughter of people and of cows, so people can't eat."




He sees Passover as an "activist" holiday, and was inspired to help the Darfur cause after the rabbi at Temple Aliyah, which he attends, wrote an article about it in a recent temple bulletin.

"The holiday is a reminder of how our people became free many thousands of years ago. It's a call to action for today -what we can do for people today with analogous kinds of problems," Greenfield said.

At his Seder, he challenged his guests to figure out what they could do to help. Some sent postcards to the White House. Others attended a Save Darfur rally in Washington on April 30.


"I went off on my own because I have some time to spare, and I studied what I could do," said Greenfield.


He came upon a site called SaveDarfur.org, representing a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of religious and humanitarian groups that had lawn signs and banners for sale.


"I thought, I could be seeing these banners all over the place, and I haven't seen any."


He decided that if he removed the obstacles of money and the effort it would take to put the banners up, no one could object to an apolitical message on their property.


"It's just supporting the sentiment of saving lives," he explained. "I knew you would be hard-pressed to find anybody against the idea of saving lives."


Needham, Greenfield hopes, could be the start of a "contagious" public relations campaign that could spread across the country on behalf of the humanitarian cause.


He decided to shell out $50 per banner to buy a half-dozen 3-foot-by-8-foot signs, and see what happens. He's enlisted help and support from the Needham Clergy Association, the Needham Business Association and several high school clubs, and so far has got agreement from about 20 businesses and churches to allow him and his helpers put the signs up.


Greenfield is realistic about the potential effect of his efforts.


"In the best situation, we could pretend to affect Washington policy," he said, though he admits that would be reaching far.


What he's hoping is that the work "will promote discussion. It will get people to ask questions. Then, discussions will ensue from that."


SaveDarfur.org likes Greenfield's idea so much, he said, that the organization's board has decided to provide him with however many signs he needs, for free.

"No matter what, this is going to raise the consciousness locally. That might spread. And that is heady stuff," he said.

Words of Spiritual Guidance, Needham Town Meeting, Rabbi Carl M. Perkins

There is a particular verse in the Book of Leviticus that my religious tradition – and the traditions of many of us here this evening, as well, I’m sure – takes very seriously. That verse is, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” According to this verse, each and every one of us has a duty to interfere, a duty to get involved, when someone’s blood is being shed. It is wrong to remain indifferent.

Few people would quarrel with this. Most of us would readily assist a neighbor in distress. And yet, in the global neighborhood in which we live, it’s less clear how we should respond. What if we see a neighbor in distress not in person, but on the television, or in the newspaper? What if that person doesn’t live across the street, but on the other side of the world?

Right now, as we are gathered here at a quintessentially democratic Town Meeting, unspeakable suffering is taking place in a place called Darfur, in Western Sudan. Janjaweed militia, supported by the Sudanese government, are expelling, abusing and slaughtering hundreds of thousands of men, women and children from Darfur. This is ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, perpetrating a humanitarian catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.

What’s going on in Darfur isn’t just murder and mayhem. It’s a calculated effort to wipe out an entire group That’s called genocide. Genocide is a word that came into being only in 1944. It was created by a man named Raphael Lemkin to describe the Turkish effort to wipe out the Amenians during World War I, or the Nazi effort to wipe out the Jews in World War II. Lemkin hoped that by naming and defining this crime, it would make it easier to prosecute its perpetrators.

One might have hoped that, once genocide was defined and labeled a crime, it would vanish from the face of the earth. But this has not come to pass. In every decade since World War II, somewhere in the world, whether in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia or Kosovo, genocide has taken place.

And it’s taking place right now in Darfur.

What can we do about this? The answer is: plenty. First of all, we can educate ourselves. We can learn what’s happening there, and share our learning with others. Second, we can urge our government to act. Several years ago, President Bush labeled what is going on in Darfur as genocide. This is admirable, and yet a nation with our influence and resources can certainly do more.

Let me bring to your attention one local step that we can take -- a very local step -- yet one that can have a profound impact on our community’s consciousness of this humanitarian disaster. Alan Greenfield, a Needham resident and a member of my congregation, is contacting houses of worship, businesses, and other institutions in town with a simple proposal: to put up banners, posters and signs that can draw people’s attention to the wanton suffering in Darfur. He’s willing to pay for them and to put them up; all we have to do is say the word. I hope that when and if you and your congregations or businesses are contacted, you’ll respond affirmatively.

Let me emphasize that this is not – in my view – a partisan matter. It is a humanitarian one. If we truly believe that all men and women are created equal, that all of us are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, such as life and liberty, then it is hard to justify indifference.

Many men and women and children have suffered already in Darfur. Nonetheless, it’s not too late for our nation to try to stop an on-going genocide in its tracks. It’s not too late to save Darfur. If we act now, we can prevent further suffering.

Let us do just that. Let us not stand idly by. Instead, let us speak up for and let us take steps to save the innocent.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Known upcoming project activitie

Needham Clergy Association meeting guest on Thursday, May 11 DONE
Needham Cable Channel interview on Friday, May 12 DONE
Needham Cable Channel taping: Alan, First Babtist Church, UPS Store, May 16 DONE
Needham Congregational Church, Tuesday, May 16 DONE
Temple Beth Shalom Board Meeting, Wednesday, May 17 DONE
Rotary Club of Needham luncheon speaker, Tuesday, May 30
Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur presentation Tuesday, June 6

First Banner Hung at NHS

The first banner being hung kicked off the program on Tuesday, May 9. It was done by four members of the World Peace Club at Needham High. You'd be hard-pressed to miss it, as it's prominently in view in the front of the building.

A Needham Times photographer was there to capture the event, and I'm expecting to see something in the paper this week (i.e. tomorrow).

Kudos to Mr. Richards, principal of NHS, who not only sanctioned the project for the students, but who put his money where his mouth is and allowed the students to hang the project's first banner on the High School itself.

What's the idea?

The following email, which outlines the idea of the proposed initiative, was sent to Chronicle at WCVB on Friday, May 5.


Dear Chronicle Team:

I'm working on an initiative to rally the entire town of Needham to raise awareness of the atrocities being committed in the first genocide of the 21st century, that being in the Darfur region of Sudan. The idea is to blanket the town --- its houses of worship, its businesses and its homes --- with a consistent visual image, the result of which would be so noteworthy
that it would attract not only local, but also national media attention. Needham would be unique in the whole of the U.S. as rallying around this humanitarian cause. This could lead to a "tipping point" effect, i.e. the idea could spread and take hold in many other towns (but with Needham
always remaining as the epicenter).

Potential benefits are manifold. Consciousness will surely be raised locally (even if no specific impact is made at the policy-deciding level). Needhamites will feel rightly proud of their center-stage position in this effort, as the whole town will be galvanized along the simple humanitarian theme of saving lives.

The visual image would come from large banners that could be draped on buildings or staked into the ground, as well as smaller versions that could be used in window displays or as lawn signs.

The banners and signs themselves (as well as installation labor if required) will be provided at no cost, as the main idea is only to raise awareness. The message will not be political, but rather purely humanitarian. Contribution possibilities will be mentioned, but only after-the-fact.

As to current status: I'm communicating with all of the houses of worship in Needham through the Needham Clergy Association. Several synagogues and churches have already expressed their approval and support of the program. The business community appears ready and anxious to participate --- several businesses are just waiting for their signs/banners to arrive. I've been
invited to speak at an upcoming Rotary Club luncheon and the Needham Business Association has committed to provide active assistance. Students at the World Peace Club at Needham High School have committed to distributing packets (including lawn signs, explanatory literature, etc.) to Needham's individual homes. Paul Richards, NHS principal, is strongly supportive of
this initiative, as it takes the students out of pure fundraising mode (they had been selling candy bars and bracelets, with the proceeds going to a worthy charity for the cause of saving children in Sudan), and it puts them into a more active communications role.

The Needham Times, our main local newspaper outlet, is very interested in the story, and will start covering it (with a photo of the first banner going up) with their next week's edition. The Needham Cable Channel (NCC) is very interested in the newsworthiness of the story --- and there's a possibility that high school interns working at NCC will produce a
documentary on the project itself. The Massachusetts Save Darful Coalition is so enthralled that they are considering a broader version of this project as their next major initiative.

The story has several potential angles. There's the question as to whether a single individual can really make a difference. (Despite the common wisdom, the answer is a resounding "yes.") There's the story of how a whole town can become galvanized --- its religious institutions, its businesses and its citizens, and feel good about itself and its role in consciousness
raising, first locally but then possibly much more broadly. And this one, of course, has the added aspect of WCVB being based in Needham.

Thank you for your consideration. If the story develops as expected, it will be programs such as yours that propel it onto the national stage.

I'll look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,


Alan Greenfield
22 Savoy Rd.
Needham, MA 02492
Home office: (781) 455-8310
Mobile: (781) 799-3213
Email: A.Greenfield@comcast.net