By STEVEN NALLEY
In the spring, Washington D.C.’s National Mall will be covered in bones.
Every clay artwork bone created in “A Path Forward,” a fundraising challenge offered by the Students Rebuild initiative, will do more than generate a $1 donation to help rebuild lives torn by genocide in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The bones themselves will become part of the One Million Bones project, an art installation on the National Mall aimed at calling the federal government to act against genocide.
Mississippi State University hosted one opportunity for volunteers to make bones for the project Wednesday at South Hall, and it will host two more opportunities in the coming weeks: one from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 27 in a conference room on South Hall’s fourth floor, and another from 7-10 p.m. Nov. 27 in the Colvard Student Union Ballroom.
Antoinette Jenkins, a senior at MSU, is the One Million Bones state coordinator for Mississippi, and she said every site coordinator is responsible for 7,000 bones.
Volunteers are allowed to make bones of all types from the clay provided, she said, and a contributor can also have a bone made in his or her name in exchange for a $5 donation.
“Each bone is a universal symbol of someone’s life that has been lost as a result of genocide,” Jenkins said. “We are so blessed to live in America where we don’t have to worry about someone going outside our house and shooting. When I looked on the website to see what (One Million Bones is) about, I instantly wanted to be involved.”
Jenkins said she intends to reach out beyond MSU to reach the 7,000-bone goal, finishing by Jan. 17. Wednesday was the first major bone-making event she has hosted, she said, but other organizations on campus made bones before then, and any organization can contact her about making bones at email@example.com  or firstname.lastname@example.org .
“I’ve reached out to every major university in Mississippi, but there are several community colleges that are interested in helping out with the program as well,” Jenkins said. “I’m also going to try to do this at the junior high (schools) and middle schools throughout Mississippi. We already have some interest from the high school here and the junior high (school).”
Jenkins said she is grateful for the support network that has already built around her branch of One Million Bones. S&W Storage donated two storage units for completed bones, she said, and Dandy Doodles donated the use of its kiln to bake the clay.
The MSU art department has also expressed interest in letting Jenkins use its kiln, she said, and the department has already played a significant role in getting students involved. For instance, Adrienne Callander, an art professor at MSU, came with several art students to Wednesday’s volunteer event.
“I thought it would be a really good opportunity to have a hands-on art-making experience outside the classroom that was socially significant,” Callander said. “Anything that’s going to raise awareness and potentially slow genocidal movements is worthwhile.”
Callander said One Million Bones is not only activism, but also a work of art, and she likes the fact that its creators do not have to be artists in the traditional sense to partake.
“If you think of art as a vehicle for communicating ideas, there you have it,” Callander said. “In this case, you have an idea that is political and pacifist. Plus, it seems like the visual impact of the project is something that can reach far more people than, say, a congressional paper on the subject.”
One of Callander’s students, Kaylie Mitchell, said Callander presented One Million Bones as a voluntary assignment, but the cause was strong enough to attract her on its own. Mitchell encourages others to join the project, she said, and her favorite part of One Million Bones is its hands-on nature.
“Instead of signing a petition or throwing in a dollar,” Mitchell said, “creating something with your hands is so much more meaningful for a cause than passive ways of funding it.”