Thursday, November 22, 2012

Reflections on Run for Congo Women 2012

Yesterday I received a file of luminous photos from the oh-so-talented Meili Ware, who volunteered her services as our official 5K event photographer this year.  The first thing I was struck by was the attentiveness of the photos, the way they seek out the beauty behind people's eyes and capture it.

But these photographs can not just be beautiful and rest there--not this week.  If you've been following the news, you'll know that it has not been a good week for the peace outlook in DR Congo.  Earlier this week, the M23 rebel group took control of Goma, a city of one million people.  At least tens of thousands of people have fled their homes (probably half a million people over the past 6 months or so), and even refugee camps on the edge of the city has been emptied.  Internally-displaced people experience so many crises, including hunger and disease.  Regional leaders have asked M23 to leave Goma, but they have refused.  Violence has been surging in eastern Congo since M23 arrived on the scene in April, and there is every indication that it could continue to get worse.

Looking through the photos, I began to fear that posting them right now would be almost like a flaunting of privilege--look at us, we are safe, we are running luxuriously in the name of people who run for their lives--and I am going to be honest with you about some of the other things I thought.  The fact is, I am always interrogating the nature of the advocacy that we do through Utah for Congo, and I am always thinking about how to elevate our advocacy work to a space that transforms people's relationships with themselves and the world.  (Sometimes I think it is hard to be a friend or family member of an activist, the way we shower you with love and gratitude one minute then the next, demand more and more of you, hands and soul.)

In our advocacy and fundraising work for people affected by conflict in DR Congo, I don't want to rest in an easy space of occasional emotional engagement or in a space of banal sentimentality that validates privilege.  I think we need to work toward complex narratives and contextually accurate stories and ever-so-cautious representation. Stories of brutality in armed conflict are hard to look at, but what is even harder to look at is our own complicity in the global realities of the stories, and the way our privilege is shaping the way we hear the stories.  I want to say a lot of things--sincerely--at once.  I want to say, "Thank you for coming out on this cold morning with a generous donation in your hand and compassion in your heart."  I also want to say, "There is so much more to do, so much more to give or rearrange, so many more questions to be asked.  And brace yourselves, because the questions are not easy."

Looking at these photos I confess I felt overwhelmed with the relative privilege and security that they represent: A gathering without fear of violence, warm coats to protect us from the cold, children bundled safely in our arms.  I am deeply grateful for these safeties, but I have to fight every day against complacency, against the urge to stop asking upon what my safeties are built.  Gratitude has the capacity to sharpen our vision of the world, but if we are not vigilant, it can also make us blind.

Then I kept looking, and I looked closer, and I saw something else in these photos, and it might be precisely what everyone else saw first when they looked at them.  I saw connections, old and new, printed in color and black-and-white:

And looking at the photos, I am reminded that I have one great hope that never stops burning inside me, and that is my belief in the power of connections and relationships, between humans, between humans and animals, between humans and the Earth we live on.  It may sound like a sentimental grasping, but I mean it to be concrete and radical and explosive.  I believe in connections: the connections that allow us to see one another's intrinsic worth regardless of gender or race or class or geography, the connections that teach us to see ourselves as both oppressors and oppressed, the connections that lead us to exercise political solidarity and radical compassion and great, brave leaps of kindness for people we know and people we have never met.

I have no doubt that brave acts of kindness and compassion are happening right now in eastern Congo; amidst the fear and pain and uncertainty, people are helping and holding and healing one another, because those are some of the things that people do.  We can follow their lead and do it here, too: listen, heal, love.

I believe in the power of connections to change the world, and though I don't pretend to know exactly how it will happen, it is a hope that keeps me going.  I think (and I hope this is true) we start by doing what we know how to do, and then pushing ourselves to do it better and more mindfully and with a greater sense of the contexts we are doing it in.

So if you know how to make a rhythm, make it loud and clear.

If you know how to sing, sing.

If you know how to dance, dance.

And if you know how to run...

Thanks--sincere, sincere thanks--to everyone who helped plan the 5K, to all our performers, to everyone who came.  We were able to raise nearly $1,500 for Women for Women's Congo programs that help women and their families affected by war, and we were able to form new connections within our own (globalizing) communities.  

And now.  Let's think together about how we can react as a community, both emotionally and publicly, to widespread political/economic violence in eastern Congo and other parts of the world.  Let's keep learning and listening.  Let's support each other as we ask the hard questions.  Let's do more, together.

You can see more of Meili's photos by joining our Utah for Congo facebook page.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


We are looking forward to seeing you this Saturday at Wheeler Farm for the Run for Congo Women 5K Walk/Run!  I know there is snow on the ground today, but the forecast for Saturday is clear and bright.  And chilly, so dress warm!


Remember that the night before the 5K, we will be hosting Conversations on Congo, an opportunity for you to meet members of Utah’s Congolese community and hear about their experiences related to war, migration, community, and more.  Join us at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 26, at Mestizo Coffeehouse (631 W. North Temple, SLC).  At this event we will be accepting donations for New Roots of Utah’s programs that help increase access to fresh food for refugees in Salt Lake; bring money, seeds or gardening supplies to donate and you will be entered into a drawing for a set of Sugar House Review poetry magazines!


So here’s all the info about the 5K on Saturday, October 27!

Wheeler Farm is located at 6351 South 900 East in Murray.  The registration table will be found in the pavilion on the west lawn, right by the southernmost parking lot.  You’ll see us: signs and lots of people! 

Here’s an overview of the day's schedule.

8:00 a.m.- Registration begins. 
 If you set up an online fundraising page, please bring the website name of your page and the total amount that you've raised.  Otherwise, you can deliver cash and checks (made out to Run for Congo Women).  We don’t want to require a certain amount, but remember, the point of this event is to help Women for Women provide opportunities for women affected by war in DR Congo, so please don’t forget your donation.  And remember, as we always say: Karma loves generosity.

9:00 a.m.- 5K begins!  The 5K course winds through the farm and back into a wooded area.  You will need to do two laps to complete the 5K, and we will provide you with your time upon completion.  You are welcome to run or walk; people will be going at all speeds.  The path is mostly unpaved and a little unpredictable based on moisture, so just so you're aware: You probably can push a stroller through, but it might not be smooth going.

During and after the race, we'll have some activities available to keep you entertained until the awards ceremony.  We’ll partake of the musical talents of Carlos Emjay, Jesse Ward, Jordan Gardner, Mitchell Barnard & Tyler Hess.  We will also have ongoing games and activities for kids.  And kids can always play on the playground beside the pavilion or wander over and meet the Wheeler Farm animals (for free).

10:00 a.m.- Fun races and games for kids We will have heats for different age groups, participant medals, and special medals for the winners.

10:30 a.m.- Awards ceremony.  We will kick off the awards ceremony with a musical performance by Feleti Kay and a dance performance by Deja Mitchell.  Then we will be awarding prizes for the winners of our race! 

After the awards are handed out, we will do our raffle drawings.  (Visit the raffle table anytime during the morning to buy raffle tickets for $1 each.)  Prizes and raffle items have been donated by businesses and individuals.  We’ll have a water bottle and smoothie cards from Jamba Juice, a Miche bag, condiments from Mountain Town Olive Oil Company, a gift card from Scheel’s, temporary memberships to local CrossFit gyms, coffee and mugs from Starbucks, a complete set of literary magazines from Sugar House Review, Mandarin Board decorations, and a variety of fair-trade items and donated hand-made crafts.

We’re also grateful to Rainee Whiting Baldwin of US Synthetic for paying our venue fees.  Thanks to the generous support of individuals and local businesses, we will be able to donate 100% of your donations to Run for Congo Women. 


Please invite your friends and family to come with you!  They don't necessarily have to register at this point; they can just show up and bring a donation with them.  And if you know people who would like to come but don't want to walk/run, that's fine too.  They can come enjoy the music, buy some raffle tickets, and learn more about the conflict in DR Congo.  We want this to be an opportunity for us to have conversations about our complicity in the conflict in DR Congo, and about our collective power to rally for change.

We can’t wait to see you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October Events

The week of October 15, USU students will be breaking the silence around the ongoing armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a series of on-campus events:

Monday, October 15 @ 6:30 p.m.
"Crisis in the Congo"
TSC 227 (USU)
**This event will feature a short film screening and a round-table discussion.

Tuesday, October 16 @ 7:00 p.m.
"War & Peace: An open mic poetry night"
Library 154 (USU)
**Bring your own work to read or present a poem by your favorite author on the theme of war and peace.

Wednesday, October 17 @ 12:00 p.m.
"The Cell Out"

Wednesday, October 17 @ 2:00 p.m.
"Democratic Republic of the Congo: Past, Present and Future"
TSC 335 (USU)
**missy's presentation traces the history of DR Congo through the present-day conflict and addresses what different groups of people are doing to change the future.


Friday, October 26, 2012 @ 7:00 p.m.
"Conversations on Congo"
Mestizo Coffeehouse (631 W. North Temple, Salt Lake)
**Join members of Utah's Congolese community for a panel discussion about armed conflict in DR Congo.  Our panelists will recount their personal experiences related to war, globalization, immigration, and more.

Saturday, October 27 @ 8:00 a.m.
"Run for Congo Women 5K Walk/Run"
Wheeler Farm (6351 S. 900 E., Salt Lake)
**Bring a donation for Women for Women International's DR Congo programs, walk or run your way through our beautiful 5K course, and enjoy a morning of live music, dancing, kids' activities, and education.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Only 5 weeks until the 5K...

...which is plenty of time to get yourself ready!
We hope to see you on October 27!

Great big thanks to Taylor Richmond for this beautiful original artwork, and to Olivia Ward for taking care of our poster design and distribution!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Salt Lake Run for Congo Women 5K Run/Walk- 2012!

Great news!  After a busy summer for our main organizers (let's just say Lindsay's got a new baby and Missy's got a new stamp in her passport), we are back and ready to Run for Congo Women!

Join us for our third 5K Walk/Run on 
Saturday, October 27--
just over two months away!

You can register for the 5K by clicking here.  

Please register as soon as you can so we can get a good count of how many people to expect.  Registration is free, as always; we just ask that you bring a donation on the day of the event.

Register for runners/walkers, and remember that non-running/walking family members (including kids) are welcome to come.  There will also be kids' footraces and games, entertainment, information about DR Congo, and some surprises.

* * *

And, of course, we need help!  If you would like to help with organizing the event, contact us at  We need donations, too--cash or in-kind, venue fees, prizes, raffle items, swag, anything--so please let us know if you or someone you know would like to donate.  As always, we are planning to arrange donations to cover all our organizing costs so that 100 percent of our event proceeds can go to Women for Women International's programs in DR Congo, but we need help from our community in order to make this happen.

If you don't have time to be involved with the planning, you can still help us out by spreading the word about the 5K to your family and friends.  Facebook and e-mail are great ways to get the word out.  Let people know that you will be attending--and tell them why!--and invite them to join you.

Last year we had 124 runners, and we hope that even more people will come this year.  We're planning to make the event as warm, supportive, and meaningful as you have come to expect.  We hope to see you--and your family and friends!--there.