Genocide project unites campus
Making replica bones is deepening the connection to victims of genocide, students and professors say.
By Jeff Brumley
Growing up Baptist in North Carolina, Keri Arrington had little exposure to the topic of genocide.
Even her first three years at Mars Hill College did little to inform her of modern instances of the brutal practice.
“I didn’t know it was still happening,” she said. “When I did think of it, I thought of Hitler.”
But that changed for the senior in social work at the beginning of the current semester when a professor asked her to participate in the One Million Bones project, a national campaign to use art and education to help victims of genocide.
Arrington immediately said yes – and pledged support from the Social Work Club she leads as president – because she felt it was a spiritual issue.
“As a person of faith, it just makes it that much more heartbreaking that someone would take out an entire group simply because of their race or religion,” Arrington said.
Matching core values
And now much of the college is participating. Nearly 500 Mars Hill students are participating in the project, which includes making replicas of human bones to be displayed in Washington, D.C., next year.
Participation means much more than making replica bones, said Beth Vogler, the social work professor who is coordinating Mars Hill’s involvement.
Participants watch videos and read resource materials on modern-day cases of genocide in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. One Million Bones provides curriculum guides that can be adapted for elementary aged to college students.
The subject can be applied to different subjects, too. At Mars Hill, entire biology, anatomy, art, international relations and political science classes are studying genocide and making the bones, Vogler said.
Social work students are doing it, too.
“It’s actually not a leap because one of our core values is social justice,” Vogler said. Many students may likely meet genocide victims during their careers plus those encountering related issues, like bullying.
“This this is an opportunity to talk about not just what happens in our backyard, but also what’s happening globally,” Vogler said.
‘A human rights issue’
The diversity of involvement at Mars Hill reflects the national movement, said One Million Bones Project Manager Susan McAllister.
Churches and ministries, schools, yoga classes and senior centers are some of the many participants, McAllister said. She estimated that “multiple tens of thousands” of people are making the bones and going through the curriculum.
Two outcomes are expected: increased awareness of genocide and 1 million bones laid out on the National Mall in Washington in the spring of 2013, McAllister said.
It will be more powerful because of the diversity of involvement, she added.
“We want all of these different communities to come together to work on this, which we see as a human-rights issue.”
‘Connecting with each other’
One Million Bones has united the Mars Hill campus, said Jane Renfroe, associate professor of art.
Many of the school’s students are using the pottery studio Renfroe manages to make bones for the project.
Renfroe estimated 3,000 to 4,000 bones will be produced by the end of the semester, and the project will continue again the following term.
Knowing thousands of others around the nation are participating has also been transformative for some students.
“It’s an opportunity to connect students with themselves and with the campus, too,” she said. “We are connecting with each other.”
© 2013 Associated Baptist Press, Inc.