Feeding the Millions
Koren to share
Biafran Airlift story at Village Lights
is set for Aug. 25 in Madison
(August 2012) Millions Starving
blare the headlines. Numbed by the extent and depth of human suffering,
most readers find it easier to move to the next story than to engage.
David Koren chose to engage.
In 1968 more than 1 million people were starving in Biafra a
small territory in the African country of Nigeria. In the years following
Nigerias independence from the United Kingdom, leaders from various
tribes and ethnicities vied for control of the country and its oil reserves.
Nigeria descended into civil war. Caught in the fighting were the inhabitants
of Biafra. After a failed attempt by territorial leaders from across
Nigeria to form a confederation, leaders in Biafra opted to secede from
Nigeria and establish their own country. Tens of thousands of Nigerian
soldiers surrounded Biafra, ordered all relief agencies out of the area,
and blockaded all supplies from entering.
The blockade created massive genocide. Nightly newscasts
depicted the horror and tragedy of one of the greatest humanitarian
crises of all time. The Red Cross opted to defy the blockade and air
lift food to Biafra. David Koren was there.
On Saturday, Aug. 25, from 1-3 p.m. the Human Relations Committee of
Madison and Village Lights Bookstore join forces to bring David Koren
to Madison. Koren will offer a multi-media presentation depicting the
struggle to deliver food behind enemy lines to the starving people of
Biafra. He will discuss his new book, Far Away in the Sky.
The books title comes from the Biafran phrase used by children
to describe where they were going when relief planes airlifted them
out of Biafra to hospitals in Sao Tome. The book offers Korens
first-hand account of the heroic effort to save lives. Attendees will
hear the stories of those who were helped, those who served, and
those who died.
Before entering journalism school, Koren served as a Peace Corp teacher
in a village in Nigeria very near where the airlift would take place.
On hearing the call for volunteers to assist in the airlift, Koren knew
the people needing that food were his former colleagues and students.
Koren returned to Biafra, working to unload planes and deliver food.
Prior to heading to Biafra, Koren contacted various news agencies offering
his services as an on-site journalist as well as volunteer.
CBS provided equipment to record the daily events of the airlift. Those
attending the program at Village Lights will hear excerpts from the
tapes allowing audience members to be there for the conversations,
sounds, and detailed descriptions of the events as they unfolded. Because
the tapes spent decades at the back of a closet, capturing the sounds
from the deteriorating tapes constituted an archaeological dig
on my own life, says Koren. Fortunately for history, Koren was
able to transcribe the tapes which became the basis for his book and
offer the detail and authenticity that bring the story to life.
Korens presentation will include both power point and internet
images to illustrate the story and clarify details. He explores the
conflicts between the various sides and the conflicting natures of the
participants themselves such as certain relief workers who worked
tirelessly to feed the Biafrans while still describing them in racist
terms. He hopes the discussion of this particular crisis will lend insights
into the intricacies of current human rights crises and the interventions
which might work to resolve them.
Nathan Montoya, owner of Village Lights, implores residents to come
and hear Korens story. He compares the Biafran crisis to those
reported daily. We forget or dont care or dont pay
attention, says Montoya. He hopes that, in listening to Koren,
people come to care. David has left a huge legacy. Most of us
can only dream of doing that much good for our fellow humans. If one
person is moved to volunteer or contribute to relief efforts, this is
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