Monday, June 21, 2010

A Prompt & Some New Facts!

WU-Slam Prompt: Congo

Hey everyone! I hope you’re having wonderful, lovely summers and enjoying yourselves to no end. My prompt for the day isn’t quite as uplifting as tan lines or lemonade, but it’s about an incredibly important conflict: the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The DRC has been embroiled in war for over a decade, and now stands as the deadliest conflict since World War II, with 6.5 million lives already lost, and another 45,000 people dying every month. More than 50% of those killed by the conflict are under the age of 5, and the majority of deaths are caused by easily preventable diseases for which there is no adequate medical care. The use of rape and sexual violence has become a gruesome, calculated weapon intended to rip apart people and communities from both their physical and emotional securities. “Re-rape” (being raped repeatedly without end) and “auto-cannibalism” (where a soldier slices a piece of your flesh while you are still alive, and then forces you and your family to eat it) are a horrific norm throughout Congo – and yet our media has all but completely ignored the conflict.

Rape doesn’t only happen in the Congo, it happens everywhere, and there is a certain power created by solidarity across cultures and languages. Women are broken; women are strong and resilient. Through art, we can – at the very least – try to give these women a voice and make people hear their pain.

Think about it. What if 6.5 million people (1067 times Washington University’s undergraduate population) had been killed in the United States in the past decade? What if 45,000 people needlessly died every month across Western Europe? What if rapists freely roamed the streets with no consequences for their actions? What if you had been raped and left incontinent for the rest of your life, urine dribbling down your scarred thighs? What if…?

There was no police department, no judicial system, and no punishment? How would it feel to know that 911 didn’t mean a thing? Write about it.

1. Write about war – one in particular or wars in general – without using any words, images, places, or phrases that are commonly associated with war. For example, you can’t use the words war, guns, bullets, trenches, captain, win, loss, soldiers, troops, battle, etc. Show us what it feels like… we don’t even need to end up realizing you’re describing a war. The idea is for you to show the feelings, the emotions, the scents, the sounds (birds chirping, whatever) that exist in that place, and to make us feel them.

2. Write about a United States in which everything happening in Congo today was instead happening in the United States – and in which such actions were completely normal and commonplace.

3. Write about the difference between numbers and stories. 6.4 million is a statistic, but a single woman – Claudine from Bukavu – who is forced to eat her own fetus is incomprehensible. Write about a story and make it a number. Write about numbers and make those numbers tell an interwoven story. It doesn’t have to be about Congo, it can be about anything.

Write on any of these questions or ideas, or – of course – you can write about anything else whatsoever. I’m currently working as an intern, creating a new non-profit called “Congo Now,” and we’re trying to incorporate slam poetry and other art forms into our advocacy campaign… so I suppose I’ve got Congo on the brain!

Much love to all,


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