On October 19, 2010 I traveled to Sudbury with my family to meet Lt. General Romeo Dallaire. Having spent time in Rwanda and educating myself over the past 4-5 years about their history and rebuilding efforts it felt as if I had come full circle.
After reading a book called "Left To Tell" the story of a women who survived the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, I was horrified at what had happen there. I was even more horrified that I had really known nothing about it and that I had been so caught up in my own life that I had no interest in the little news coverage that was directed to it at the time. I made a promise to myself that day - I promised that my daughter would never grow up and have to at some point in her life ask herself what was I doing that was so important that I didn't know that was happening. I began a mission to educate myself, my family and anyone that would listen about this horrific event. I began reading books, watching documentaries searching the internet, I guess I became a bit obsessed.
One of the books I read was "Shake Hands With The Devil" The story of Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire and his time in Rwanda heading up the UN Peace Keeping mission in 1994. After reading his book and watching the documentary with the same name I still could not find peace within my own soul for my indifference during that period of time. I knew I had to go there, I had to see with my own eyes what I and the whole world had stood by and let happen. I think I believed that if I went there and did some things to help them with their rebuilding efforts it would some how ease my own guilt and sense of failure as a human being. I was sorely mistaken, I finally realize that nothing I or anyone else does now and for the rest of our lives can ever take back what our silence and lack of engagement allowed to happen.
Riding in the car speaking with Gen. Dallaire about
my time in Rwanda was a gift that to me is priceless. I told the General how I had travelled to all the memorial sites that he had visited in his documentary and we all laughed when he said he could never have imagined that would become a pilgrimage for others. I assured him that it truly had.
I can't change the past, and I know nothing I do will ever erase my own personal failure where Rwanda is concerned - but I can help them rebuild and educate their children in the hope that it will never happen again. I can make sure that I am aware of what is happening all around this amazing planet and when ever and where ever I can, use my voice to speak out on behalf of those who have no voice. General Dallaire asked us during his presentation "Are we all human? Or... Are some humans more human that others" Unfortunately he found out that to some, we are not all equal that some are more valued than others and if you happen to be black and african, well you are of no strategic value and there are just too many of you anyway.
I presented Gen. Dallaire with a Limited Edition Print of my very first painting from my Rwanda Series. I told the General that she represents Rwanda as it is today and that thanks to him she and thousands of children just like her are smiling and happy.