Darfur Fast for Life

We fast in solidarity with the hungry and starving in Darfur and for lasting peace in Sudan
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Abigail Disney


Abigail E. Disney is a filmmaker and philanthropist. Her first film, a feature-length documentary called Pray the Devil Back to Hell tells the inspirational story of the women of Liberia and their efforts to bring peace to their broken nation after decades of destructive civil war. It won the 2008 Tribeca Best Documentary award and is currently playing in theaters. She is also involved in producing a number of other documentaries with social themes, and is developing a four-hour project for WNET/Wide Angle called Women, War & Peace.

Along with her husband, Pierre Hauser, Abigail is also co-Founder and co-President of the Daphne Foundation, a progressive, social change foundation that makes grants to grassroots, community-based organizations working with low-income communities in New York City. Since 1991, the Daphne Foundation has made millions of dollars in grants in areas ranging from women’s rights to AIDS advocacy, children’s health, labor conditions, incarceration and community organizing. Over the years Abigail has played a critical role in a number of different social and political organizations. She recently retired as Chair of The New York Women’s Foundation, of which she was a board member for over 14 years. She currently serves on the boards of the Roy Disney Family Foundation, the White House Project, the Global Fund for Women, and the Fund for the City of New York, as well as the advisory boards of a broad range of organizations working in the areas of poverty, women’s issues, education and environment.

Abigail received her Bachelors degree from Yale University, her Masters degree from Stanford University, and her Doctorate from Columbia University. She lives in New York with her husband and their four children, one dog, three cats, a fish, a rabbit and an immortal turtle named Alfred.

June 08, 2009 By: Admin Category: Abigail Disney

I have failed. I am truly, sincerely sorry. I apologize to those of you on this site who have fasted as you’ve promised, to those of you who have worked so hard to make this site the amazing place of solidarity that it is, and to those of you who thought of me as someone who could stand by her word.

I have learned a lot from this attempt to fast, much of it about myself and my own limitations, and none of that is appropriate for this blog. Suffice to say, however, I am grateful for the opportunity the fast gave me for some much needed reflection on the role of food in my life, and on my flaws both large and small.

But, this is truly not about me.

Here is what this IS about: the difficulties of being thrust against your will from the only home you’ve ever known, of having had to walk for many miles and days across an unforgiving landscape, of having to contend with fear and physical pain at every step–not only your own but those of the people you love most in the world— the strain of having to try to protect your children from your own position of powerlessness, of the constant gnawing anxiety and uncertainty that comes with not knowing what tomorrow might hold for you, or where you will lay your head in a week, whether or not you will ever be able to go back to your home and the home of your ancestors, and whether this nightmare will last for a week–a year–a decade–a generation–or forever.

And all this you do while contending with a pain in your stomach. The cure for this pain is simple, and one you know well. But the cure is far off and not in your power.

All this you do knowing that your children feel the same pain you do, perhaps worse.

All this you try to do with the spirit of love and generosity required of you as a parent. And even perhaps with a sense of humor or optimism. It may sound impossible, yet in the people I have known who have suffered exactly all of these things, I have seen great humor and optimism and while these things have always astounded me, I now view them with newfound awe and respect.
I failed with none of these millstones around my neck. Would I be one of the bodies littering the road on the walk to the camp? How, then would my children have fared, and who would have cared for them in my absence? How many people and personalities were “selected out” along the way?

I have now come to see the camps as not only overflowing with the men and women I see, but also with the ghosts of the ones like me who never got there. I am riddled with weaknesses I never really needed to reflect upon because the circumstances of my life have never brought me into contention with them. I am buoyed by luxuries and comforts so prevalent I cannot even see them. I am lucky beyond measure. I thank God for my blessings.

And I recommit to do my best by these women and men–they deserve food in their bellies, roofs over their heads and peace for their families.

Abigail Disney – Day 4

May 30, 2009 By: Admin Category: Abigail Disney

Today is the end of day 4 and I now know one thing about myself and that is that Day 3 sucks. Wow did I ever hit a wall! I have to confess that I feel especially challenged by this whole enterprise because I’ve always been particularly focused in on food. You know how a stork brings babies? Well I think instead of a stork I was brought by a stuffed roasted capon, perhaps with chantrelle mushrooms and a nice port wine reduction sauce. But now I’ve gone and made myself hungry again. Oy.

The thing about this task is how much it makes you realize what a center of a family that food is. As a mother, I take a lot of pleasure in feeding my children and in watching them grow. And so the act of cooking for them is such an honor really; it is one of my favorite things about being a mother. There is a kind of conjuring that happens around the family meal, when everyone has gathered and set aside for a moment what they were doing, and come back into a kind of sacred circle, to share stories and thoughts, to break bread and to enjoy the gift we all are to one another. And so when I fast like this, I come to appreciate how difficult it must be for these mothers not to be able to feed their children the food they learned from their own mothers to make. How difficult it must be not to teach their own daughters as well. Something so much more than mere nutrition is at stake here.

So I am really missing this part of my life. And of course I am missing actually liking the stuff I am putting in my mouth. I am missing feeling stuffed at the end of a meal, missing taking one extra bite not because I need it but because it’s there and it’s just so good. I’m missing stopping into a little place for a bite to eat without thinking about it.
I was so discouraged when I woke up this morning. I was really close to just giving up. But I picked up the paper and found the most extraordinary piece by Bob Herbert. It was as though he’d read my mind and written this piece just for me. It recreated my resolve by reminding me of the gravity of what I am doing. Do check it out. It’s amazing. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/30/opinion/30herbert.html

Abigail Disney – Day 2 of fast

May 28, 2009 By: Admin Category: Abigail Disney

I am at the end of the second day of my 30 day fast. It is so amazing how much I feel like I am learning not only about what the food is like for the men and women in the camps, but about how much taste matters. I sort of forgot how bland the food would be. Of course, it has to be. When the World Food Program has no choice but to feed millions in the most cost and labor effective way possible, there is no way it can have flavor. You get the calories into people and you don’t pay any attention to what it tastes like, of course. Taste is a luxury, right? But the drabness, and the repetitiveness must be so incredibly demoralizing to people, especially where the traditional foods are so incredibly spicy and vivid. What a drain it must be on people and a drain in a way that they must almost feel not entitled to feeling drained—because the food is free, so how can they feel ok to compain? So at least right now the difficult thing isn’t hunger so much (talk to me in a week, I think I’ll be singing a different tune!) but the idea of the long 28 days ahead (nothing to a refugee, right??) of nothing but the wheat and the peas and the very, very little bit of salt and sugar!

Abigail Disney joins Darfur Fast for Life

May 26, 2009 By: Admin Category: Abigail Disney

I am fasting because I am hungry for solidarity. I have seen enough starving children, enough refugee camps and enough women whose eyes have the impervious look of those who have been forced to satisfy the sadistic urges of their enemies, enemies they often didn’t even know they had. I have not been to Darfur, or to the camps in Chad and Sudan, but I have seen to imagine the hell they are living in. And yet as an American, it is still so easy to turn away especially with so much else to occupy my mind and heart. I find it easy to let my attention rest on the sparkly bits of glitter that pass for popular culture here, and the helter-skelter of my busy life, not to mention the warm embrace of my family and friends. But I can’t un-know that my brothers and sisters are out there under the beating sun hungry and frightened and wondering who in the world will care enough to help them make it right. I don’t want to slouch into letting that be ok with me. So I am hungry for solidarity. For 30 days I will do a refugee ration fast. I know that I alone can’t make “the” difference with or without my fast, but I do know that if I can act with love and make myself a part of a difference, and I hope to live that example for my family, friends and colleagues.
— Abigail Disney