Talking about genocide is never easy, but communities in North Carolina have found a way to have deep conversations using art. Activists sponsored “bone”-making events to raise awareness the month of April. Over 600 people participated in more than 10 events contributing to the One Million Bones project. These gatherings involved the creation of life-like bones made out of materials such as plaster, clay and papier-mâché.
Spearheading these events were activists Mitch Lewis, Scott Sutton and representatives from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill STAND along with high school groups. While participants were busy making bones, Mitch, Scott and their teams were able to use the opportunity to speak with attendees about the history of genocide, atrocities around the world today and what can be done in the future to prevent these atrocities from happening again.
The response from their communities was overwhelming. By the end of the month, more than 1,200 bones had been created.
The culmination of the weeks of hard work was recognized with an event in Raleigh. Activists gathered in a park for a reading of excerpts of the personal stories of those who had survived the atrocities during the Holocaust, Cambodia and Rwanda. Anti-genocide activist Janessa Goldbeck, who had recently completed a cross-country biking/speaking tour, addressed the crowd on global human rights. Attendees also participated in a solemn ceremony laying out all of the bones that their communities had made. The shocking site of bones provided an opportunity for the activists to engage and educate passersby. Scott remarked that for many at the event the site of bones spread throughout a field “…brought a new reality to the abstract ideas of crimes against humanity.”
The organizers wanted to ensure that their members of Congress were aware of how important the issue of stopping and preventing genocide was to their constituents. So they encouraged participants to sign photo frames, bearing specific messages to their elected officials detailing what they can do to help bring an end to mass atrocities. The activists plan to deliver the framed photographs to their congressional offices. It is their hope that a framed image may be harder for their offices to ignore, than just a regular paper position.
From North Carolina, the bones are on their way to Washington, D.C. Next spring they will join thousands of other bones made around country, as part of the One Million Bones project, in a final installation on the National Mall. United to End Genocide looks forward to supporting the One Million Bones project. Stay tuned for opportunities to participate.