Needham Darfur Initiative

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

Monday, June 19, 2006

Incisive political analysis

The following article is an editorial from last week's New Republic. It's the best analysis of its type that I've seen. AG

Again, Part II
by the Editors

Post date 06.12.06 | Issue date 06.19.06

We recently argued that the West's handling of Darfur suggests it has learned nothing from previous genocides. And, three years into the killing in Sudan, it appears the West has learned nothing from this genocide, either. The most important lesson it has failed to absorb is that the Sudanese regime is composed, in the words of Darfur expert Alex de Waal, of "serial war criminals." Last month, the West once again put its faith in a promise from these criminals to end the violence--this time in the form of a peace deal the government reached with one of the three rebel groups. But we have been here before: In April 2004, Khartoum agreed to a cease-fire with Darfur rebels; in July 2004, it promised Kofi Annan that it would disarm the Janjaweed militias; in November 2004, it made the promise once again in another agreement with the rebels. Yet at no point did the genocide abate; and still, today, after years of diplomacy, the Janjaweed continues to terrorize civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad. Meanwhile, millions of Darfuris remain confined to camps, where they are dependent on humanitarian assistance that is running out and no closer to returning home than they were before.

If we are serious about stopping this genocide, we cannot rely on peace agreements or further expressions of good intent from Sudanese officials. Indeed, we must acknowledge that any approach to stopping the genocide that is acceptable to Khartoum is probably not an approach that will actually end the killing. Saving Darfur requires military intervention--intervention only the West can provide.

The African Union currently has 7,000 peacekeepers in Darfur. But they do not have the numbers, equipment, or mandate to confront the Janjaweed. The United Nations is planning to augment that force with its own troops in the coming months. But China and Russia (veto-wielding members of the Security Council and allies of Khartoum) will probably insist that U.N. troops deploy under a passive Chapter VI mandate rather than under a more robust Chapter VII mandate, which would allow them to more aggressively confront combatants and protect civilians. What's more, Sudanese officials are now backpedaling on whether they will allow U.N. troops into Darfur at all.

A far more effective way to stop the genocide would be with a nato-led force that doesn't wait for Khartoum's permission. The consensus among experts is that it would take approximately 20,000 troops to secure Darfur. Of that number, about 5,000 would be needed to force a stand-down of the Janjaweed and Khartoum's regular military forces. To the other 15,000 would fall the less confrontational tasks of securing the border with Chad; protecting the camps, where refugees and internally displaced persons are still being raped and harassed by the Janjaweed; guarding humanitarian corridors, so that aid groups can resume deliveries of desperately needed food and medical supplies; and, eventually, securing the safe return of non-Arab Darfuris to their villages so they can begin the long process of rebuilding their lives.

These latter troops could come from any country--Western or non-Western--that traditionally supplies peacekeepers for international missions. By contrast, the 5,000 troops tasked with the heaviest lifting should be the best-trained and best-equipped the West has to offer. They should enter the region first--after nato has established control over an existing air base--and clear the way for the arrival of the rest of the forces. Working from the ground and the air, their primary objective should be to stop attacks by the Janjaweed and, where necessary, confront rebel groups as well.

The idea that the Iraq war has made it impossible for nato to come up with 5,000 troops is popular but simply untrue. Two years ago, the British army's chief of staff stated that his country alone could deploy 5,000 troops to Darfur. France has more than 100,000 soldiers not currently deployed, while Germany has nearly 200,000. Yes, the United States will have to supply troops as a signal of its commitment to the mission, and, yes, U.S. air power and weaponry will invariably be used. But saving Darfur does not require enormous numbers of American personnel. What it does require is American leadership. On Darfur, as on Bosnia and Kosovo just a decade ago, Europe is paralyzed. And so President Bush needs to rally our allies to action. We'd suggest a high-profile speech at nato headquarters in Brussels. No, Bush is not the perfect man for the job, but--with the African Union and the United Nations unable to rescue Darfur, and with Europe unlikely to act on its own--he may be Darfur's only hope.

Would Khartoum resist intervention? Absolutely, if, by resistance, we mean that Sudanese officials will protest loudly. But will they actually confront nato militarily? They would be crazy to do so. And, while Sudan's leaders are evil, they are also pragmatic: They have shown time and again that their highest allegiance is to their own power. (Their decisions to cut their once-strong ties with Al Qaeda under pressure from the Clinton administration and to ally with the United States after September 11 are but two examples of their fundamental realism.) If nato announced, at the outset of the conflict, that it would bomb Sudanese targets if Khartoum obstructed the mission in Darfur, there is every reason to believe that government forces would hold their fire. Still, if Iraq has taught America anything, it is the need to anticipate all potential scenarios. And so we must prepare for the possibility that Sudan's leaders would confront our troops. If they did, nato would have to follow through on its threat and attack Sudanese military installations from the air until Khartoum got the message. This is precisely the strategy that nato used in Kosovo--and it worked.

Once nato forces have ended the genocide, the peace can (and should) be kept by the United Nations, as tribal leaders begin the long process of reconciliation. The ultimate goal of Western intervention is not to make Darfur an independent nation; it is to establish an international protectorate that would seal Darfur off from the rest of Sudan, insulating the area from both Khartoum's troops and its penchant for manipulating the region's ethnic politics. This would create the political space for traditional tribal leaders to reassert their authority and rebuild the institutions that once guaranteed peaceful co-existence between Arab and African Darfuris. Yes, this means a sustained and expensive commitment from the international community. Seven years after nato bombed its way into Kosovo, the region's political status remains unresolved, and international peacekeepers continue to patrol the province. But, for all the difficulties of the conflict's aftermath, few regret that nato acted to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo when it did. In Darfur, we can be sure of two things: that restoring normality to the region will not be easy and that we have no choice but to try.

In recent weeks, two objections to Western intervention in Darfur have gained currency. The first is that American troops entering another Muslim country would further inflame anti-American sentiment around the world. We are not so sure. True, the perpetrators of the Darfur genocide are Muslims, but, as in the Balkans, the victims are Muslims, too. Some, including Osama bin Laden himself, have raised the possibility that Al Qaeda would fight Western forces in Darfur. Yet, if it is the worldwide struggle for hearts and minds that concerns us, then a scenario in which Al Qaeda abets genocide against a Muslim population would seem a favorable one for the United States. This is not Iraq: A few weeks ago, thousands of Darfuris demonstrated in a camp, chanting, "Welcome, welcome, USA. Welcome, welcome, international force." Potentially, an intervention in Darfur could help restore, rather than further erode, America's moral standing in the world community. And if not? If the worst happens and the West is vilified in the Muslim world for its mission to Darfur? Then the United States has to weigh the costs of such vilification against the moral imperative of saving hundreds of thousands--perhaps millions--of lives. We think that calculation yields a clear answer.

The second objection is more fundamental. Some have alleged that those who favor intervention in Darfur misunderstand the nature of the conflict there: It is a civil war, they say, not a genocide, and, while the government's tactics have been brutal, the rebels are no angels, either. By this logic, intervention would just help one group of morally dubious actors (the rebels) triumph over another group of morally dubious actors (the government and the Janjaweed).

This argument gets one thing right: The rebels are far from sympathetic. They have committed atrocities, and they continue to play a role in making Darfur a dangerous place for humanitarian workers. But the rebels did not, as one New York Times op-ed recently alleged, take up arms "to gain tribal domination." For decades, Khartoum neglected the region's development. Though the reasons for the formation of the different rebel groups in 2003 were varied, their basic demand--a fair share for Darfuris of national wealth and power--was far from illegitimate. Here again, the analogy to Kosovo is instructive: An unsavory band of rebels, acting on behalf of a population with legitimate grievances, has taken up arms against a central government that espouses a racialist ideology; the government has responded with genocide; and, now, the question before the West is whether to stop the massacres or throw up our hands and declare both sides equally culpable.

It is true that, as in Kosovo, nato forces in Sudan will have to confront rebel groups as well as government-backed militias. But let there be no confusion: It was the government and the Janjaweed, not the rebels, that evicted millions of non-Arab Darfuris from their homes and consigned them to refugee camps, where they face death by disease, hunger, and marauding militias; and it is the government and the Janjaweed, more than the rebels, that are currently making it impossible for these men, women, and children to return to their villages and rebuild. Yes, the rebels need to be disarmed; and, yes, certain groups may reasonably believe that Western intervention will yield political gains for their own tribe. But none of this obviates our moral obligations. It is not for the rebel groups that we must go to Darfur. It is for the millions of civilians in the camps whose relatives have been killed, whose communities have been destroyed, and who, if Khartoum has its way, will never return home. These desperate people were chanting "welcome, welcome USA" for a reason. We are three years too late to save many of their relatives and neighbors. But we are not too late to save them.

the Editors

Heartwarming story coming out of the initiative

I received a call the other day from a mother of a 14 year old girl in Medfield. She had read the article in last Sunday's Globe and was discussing it with her daughter and two friends, who were planning to have a "triple" 14th birthday party this past Saturday. As a result of their discussion, the girls called all of their invited guests (114 in total) and asked them not to bring gifts, but rather to bring the money they would have spent instead, which would then be sent to a humanitarian aid organization to benefit the children of Darfur.

Editorial Page, Needham Times, May 15, 2006

I was so impressed with this drawing that I found Robert Larsen, the artist, and spoke with him about it. I wondered whether he had unfettered editorial freedom. He responded that he did, as long as he was drawing about a local issue. I said that Darfur being halfway around the world surely wasn't a local issue. He said that our initiative made it one, and that it gave him the freedom to draw what he did. AG

Monday, June 12, 2006

Latest photos....

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cover of Globe West, Sunday, June 11

A banner effort to aid Darfur

Needham man calling for help

By Lauren K. Meade, Globe Correspondent
June 11, 2006

You may have seen them in the storefronts of the mom-and-pop
boutiques in the center of town, pegged up on poles in front of a
church or temple, or draped from the high school. Emblazoned
on the green 3-by-8-foot banners:
``A call to your conscience . . ."

And one Needham resident hopes to spread this message from
his front yard on Savoy Road to the White House, one banner at
a time.

Alan Greenfield's plan is this: He will pay for the banners and
yard signs -- all you have to do is put them up. His offer is open
to Needham residents, though he hopes folks in other towns buy
the banners as well. His goal is to blanket the area in green and
capture the attention of the national media, maybe even
President Bush.

He's already written to Oprah Winfrey, but has yet to hear back.

So far, six worship centers in Needham and several businesses
and residents have agreed to post the banners, which Greenfield
purchased from the Save Darfur Coalition website.

The idea was sparked at an otherwise ordinary Passover Seder
this spring, he said.

Some 20 friends and family, Jewish and non-Jewish, had gathered
at the Greenfield home. Greenfield led the Seder, retelling the story
of the Jews' exodus from Egypt, while guests drank wine,
ceremonially dipped vegetables in salt water, and ate charoset, a
sweet paste of apples, nuts, and wine symbolizing the mortar used
by Jewish slaves to cement bricks.

Talk turned from events in biblical Egypt to the genocide taking
place in Africa today.

``Every year Jews sit around a table. It's the same conversation
and the same food. Alan tries to move it forward and make it
relevant to today," said Greenfield's wife, Claudia, during a recent

Determined to do more this year than merely talk about the crisis
in Sudan, Greenfield posed a question to his guests: Could one
person affect a situation as vast and complicated as that in Darfur?

``The sentiment was `no,' " said Greenfield.

He set out to prove them wrong.

In an impulse buy of sorts, Greenfield purchased four banners at
$50 each from the Save Darfur Coalition website. The coalition
describes itself as an alliance of more than 100 faith-based,
humanitarian, and human rights organizations.

Greenfield went to local houses of worship with the banners.
``I thought, ifthey didn't go for it, it probably wouldn't fly," he said.

His synagogue, Temple Aliyah, was the first to put one on display.

Five other worship centers followed suit.

Greenfield spent much of his career in high-tech sales, eventually
becoming a vice president at Brooktrout Inc. Five years ago, he
left the corporate world and purchased a dog-walking business,
Creature Comforts . He runs the company, with a staff of 14, out
of the basement of his home.

As the operation's owner, he devotes about 8 to 12 hours a week
to the job, leaving the rest of the week open for charitable efforts.
Greenfield has volunteered as a companion to the elderly, a Big
Brother, and a career adviser for the Jewish Vocational Service.

Claudia Greenfield owns the Grey Goose boutique in downtown

Besides a few Vietnam protests during college, Alan and Claudia
said, they haven't been active in political or humanitarian
campaigns. A black and white photo on a bookcase in their living
room shows the couple in their younger years. They are sitting
back to back, he in a plaid shirt with shaggy hair, and she in a
white blouse and layered hair.

Greenfield last week spoke before members of the
Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur about his initiative,
hoping it would spread to other towns.

The Rev. John Buehrens, minister of the First Parish in
Needham, said his Unitarian Universalist church put up a banner
because it fits perfectly with its eighth-grade youth group's
campaign to raise money for peacekeeping efforts in Darfur.
The class has raised $1,000 this year by selling green wrist
bands, he said.

Buehrens applauded Greenfield's vision, though he said,
``I don't think it can catch on until people put up yard signs.
That's when you get neighbor to neighbor conversations."

John Moran , owner of the UPS franchise in the center of town,
put up a banner in its window about two weeks ago.
``I've only had one person make a wisecrack about me getting
into politics," said Moran. ``This isn't politics."

Moran said he told the customer about the systematic
destruction of villages in Darfur by Arab militias. ``He didn't
know what was going on."

Recently, Greenfield drummed up support from students
in the high school's World Peace Club.

Despite its lofty name, the club did not start out with humanitarian
ambitions much beyond providing its members with a good time,
according to its president. Jeff Escalante said he and some friends joked
about starting a club with the purpose of holding weekly parties. But
they knew the idea wouldn't fly
with the principal unless the club
had a credible name (hence, World
Peace Club). The partying didn't
take off (no one brought the food,
Escalante said), but the
humanitarian work did.

Escalante, 16, said he researched
several causes and was moved by
the mass killings, rapes, and
looting in theDarfur region of Sudan.

This year, the World Peace Club
raised $400 selling bracelets like
those worn by Tour de France
winner Lance Armstrong. But the
club hit a fund-raising roadblock.
It ran out of buyers.

Greenfield showed up at a club meeting and enlisted the students
in his cause. With the OK of school principal Paul Richards, the
club put up a green banner outside the school.

The club plans to continue collaborating with Greenfield after the
summer break, said Escalante, as well as conduct its own fund-raising

Greenfield said he has been pleased with how the initiative has grown
over the past five weeks. He has been reporting its progress on an
Internet site (

Africa has not been a focal point for many Americans, with the
Iraq War and the aftermath of the Gulf hurricanes and the tsunami
competing for their attention, he said, and he finds the situation
disturbing: ``For a genocide to be going on in 2006, there should
be more awareness."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Needham Cable Channel Coverage

Click the link to check out the coverage we received on the May 18 7:30 PM news program of The Needham Channel.

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:

I'm anxiously awaiting your reply.


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

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 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

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 !

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, 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." 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.