One Heartbeat: Reflections from the Conference on Genocide and Slavery: Awareness, Prevention Reconciliation
The day will eternally belong to those who are willing to challenge it. To those who use their voice to bring light to the dark indignities of mankind.
On Tuesday, Nov. 14, the day belonged to the significant six panelists and all in attendance at the conference on Genocide and Slavery: Awareness, Prevention Reconciliation.
The conference was presented by the Coalition Against Global Genocide (CoAGG). A coalition on a mission to educate, motivate and empower individuals and communities to oppose genocide and crimes against humanity.
In cooperation with faculty from Metropolitan State University and the University of Denver, the roundtable sessions took place at the storied St. Cajetan’s Church on the Auraria Campus.
The conference, moderated by CoAGG Chair Dr. Tim Kubik, featured six diverse community activists: Omhagain Dayeen, an artist and a Sudanese refugee; Obeid Kaifo, first-generation Syrian-American Muslim and co-founder of Coalition for an Inclusive Colorado (CIC); Charles “Charlie” Plenty Wolf of the Oglala Lakota tribe, land activist and community organizer; Aubrey Ardema, an attorney and entrepreneur; Dr. Douglas Mpondi, associate professor and department chair of Africana Studies at MSU Denver; and Dr. Ryan Ross, president of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado.
Sunlight beamed through the stained glass windows of the church as Charlie, Obeid and Omhagain navigated the dialogue through the first session of the conference that was focused on awareness and prevention of genocide and slavery.
Obeid Kaifo was extremely passionate telling the assembly more than once, “You have to use your voice to speak out against injustice and provoke change!”
There were several moments of pride and poignancy as the activists described their individual journey to activism. The density of their words had the desired effect as a reflective hush cloaked the sanctuary as it was time to break for lunch.
Reconvening after lunch the significant six on the panel tackled the responsibility of reparations and reconciliation in regards to genocide and slavery. Every one of them brought swaths of insight, information and collective experience, which made for a well-informed dialogue.
Founder and executive director of CoAGG, Roz Duman agreed. “This was not easy to put together. There were so many ups and downs during these past several years and even though there were thoughts of not doing it, I’m glad that at the end we didn’t give up. It was a wonderful beginning.”
Closing remarks were delivered by Program Committee Co-Chair Prof. Arthur Gilbert. He emphasized the positive impact and necessity of keeping this dialogue/conference going and that all of us should remain vigilant in our thoughts and actions.
Throughout the conference, there was a permeating feeling of mutual responsibility and togetherness. The day’s greatest example of this came from Charlie Plenty Wolf and his traditional Native American drum group, The Plenty Wolf Singers. During which the group filled the church with the fury of Native American drumming, pounding until the room started to vibrate. A pause in the vibrations came when Charlie addressed the room.
“Everyone, if you would please join hands and make a circle, we want you to experience what we do,” he said.
A circle formed with hands clasped in someone else’s; the drumming resumes. The beat is softer, and in rhythm like a metronome. Save for the drummers every conference attendee begins to circulate, raising their arms to the rhythm of the drums. Positive energy flows from one person to the next. Time becomes insignificant as the only responsibility is to the rhythm of the room and the person in your grasp. As the drums subside, Irevelinthe accord, and the lasting impression from the conference.
We are all of one heartbeat.