Fame is a powerful word. We live in a world, occupied by families, workers, the busy, the noncommittal, and the few elite. Living in and walking around New York City every day, we understand how these ‘famous’ celebrities and individuals fit into our world. However, when we cross paths with our favorite actor from that popular family-friendly flick from last year, we never cease to be amazed- or at least stop in our tracks for a few seconds and acknowledge their presence.
Invisible Children’s goal with the recently released film, Kony 2012, that went viral within a matter of days, had a similar goal- to make us stop in our tracks, not to be amazed, but to be horrified; not to be starstruck with fame, but to be outraged by the infamous. Invisible Children hopes that soon, and maybe even sooner than expected, Joseph Kony, infamous leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army will become so well known, that every human being on this planet could pick out his face in a crowd or in a magazine and demand his capture. They want this to be the final year of atrocities, the final year that they must hear traumatic stories from children forced into soldiering or sexual slavery. They want children to be rescued from the grasp of Kony’s evil hands, and Kony to be tried by the International Criminal Court. Also, it is a critical time to raise awareness on this issue so that US troops will continue to be deployed in Africa to find Kony. The video has already received well over 100 million views, and more are viewing it even as you read this.
The LRA has been terrorizing various regions in Africa for over 20 years. Although the issues revolving around the conflict are routed deeply in political and economic history, many of their atrocities were committed in Northern Uganda, and they have now moved into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Joseph Kony has been their continuous, power-hungry leader, who is blind to his own crimes and will not stop until he is captured. In summary, Kony is known for building armies of children, who are kidnapped from their homes and usually forced to kill their friends and families and many of the young girls are turned into sex slaves. Invisible Children’s general goals, are not only creating awareness, but having Kony ousted from power and having him arrested, rehabilitating the areas most affected by the LRA crimes, by building schools, creating jobs, and returning kidnapped children to their families. Kony 2012 was meant to make the conflict understandable to the public and to policymakers, and motivate them to action.
Last week, on Wednesday March 21, the NYU Child [not] Soldier club held a screening of the Kony 2012 film. Volunteers (or roadies) and employees from Invisible Children trekked across the country showing the video to anyone who will listen. A former child soldier joined them on the tour. His plea to end the atrocities in his home country only reinforced my commitment to the cause. Not only were the roadies incredibly well spoken and passionate, but they also took time to answer controversial questions at the end. They explained the financial workings of the organization, which have been under public scrutiny in recent days because of the illness of Jason Russell, one of the organization’s founders. They described how Invisible Children is unique in that it divides its efforts into three parts- raising awareness, Central Africa programs (rehabilitation), and management. The spokesperson clarified that they do not fund the Ugandan army, although the US troops deployed are on a mission to assist the army in locating Joseph Kony. Despite the public controversy regarding Jason Russell, Invisible Children will continue to move forward with their important mission.
My eyes were opened to the issue of child soldiering in Uganda during high school, both when I read Ishmael Beah's memoir of life as a child soldier- "A Long Way Gone"- and when I joined the Model United Nations club. I soon learned that Invisible Children had been working to raise awareness about the issue for several years, and I was eager to get involved. The organization is not only impressive for what it has accomplished in the last decade, but also relatable and inspirational, since it was originally formed by college students. Many colleges, apart from NYU, have started their own clubs and organizations to fundraise for Invisible Children's efforts as well as share the Kony 2012 video. Invisible Children’s success at raising awareness about the child soldiering issue is unprecedented. Advocacy and awareness is the starting line for any large project, and now that they have spent many years raising awareness and are on the verge of success, it is time for the Kony 2012 campaign to begin.
To get involved in NYU’s Child [not] Solider club, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. One of our upcoming fundraising events is in partnership with the NYU Chinese Mei Society's "Yuan 2012," and is happening on April 13th, 2012, in addition to our involvement with Invisible Children’s “Cover The Night” project as part of the Kony 2012 campaign on April 20th.