Needham Darfur Initiative

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

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.


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