Cell Out at the University of Richmond

This past Wednesday, I traveled to the University of Richmond (UR) to perform my spoken word poetry and hip-hop on the Congo. I was invited by Maria Sebastian of the school’s
STAND chapter
and Matt Sobel of the UR’s
Sigma Chi Fraternity
. Though I was impressed with the hospitality they showed me, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm on learning about the Congo and the
conflict minerals
issue. The STAND chapter there has less than ten active members. The Sigma Chi Fraternity members there told me they didn’t know much about the Congo. Despite these two points, they had over 200 people in standing-room only attendance on a rainy Wednesday night. As I walked into the Commons Student Center, I saw NCAA games on the TVs and of course Winter Olympic activity. All of the campus life distractions were still taking place that night but these students came out to learn how they could stop violence and destruction in the Congo. That to me is incredible and speaks to what a small group of dedicated people can do to affect change.

What was also great to see was that the students followed up the next day with a “cell-out” protest. This is when participants turn off their phones and leave messages on their voicemails explaining that their phones are off in order to draw attention to how our electronics are supporting violence in the Congo. As we posed for the picture attached to this post, one student asked: “How many people died for that camera to work?” Another student said: “I was thinking the same thing.” That summed it up for me. We are winning because we are getting the average person and student to think about something they may never see on the television. Being able to shift every day minds towards such a profound issue as the Congo is proof positive that we are on the track and must never stop. I can’t wait to visit the next school!

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