Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Musings: Invisible Children and the KONY 2012 campaign

Unless you've been living under rock and don't use social media, you've probably heard about the KONY 2012 video by Invisible Children. It was posted last Tuesday, and instantly went viral. The 30 minute film whose primary goal is to raise awareness about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony and make him a household name, has gotten over 74 million views on YouTube. With such publicity comes speculation and questions. Don't believe everything you hear that is critiquing the non-profit. Invisible Children responded with a very well written piece on their website, I suggest reading it. 

When I first heard about the LRA and Joseph Kony I was mortified at this injustice and treatment of tens of thousands of Ugandan children. For more than two decades, Joseph Kony’s tactics of war have been brutal. Kony and the LRA have abducted more than 30,000 children in northern Uganda. He has forced children to kill their parents or siblings. He abducted girls to be sex slaves for his officers. At the height of the conflict in Uganda, children “night commuted” to avoid abduction. Every evening they would leave their homes and walk miles to the city centers. Hundreds of children would sleep in school houses, churches, or bus depots to avoid abduction by the LRA. The LRA left Uganda for good in 2006 when the Juba Peace Talks began. Since 2008, they have continued their attacks in the border regions of northeastern Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic.

Invisible Children began after a group of Southern Californian students went to Uganda in 2003 to film the conflict. What they discovered was the catalyst for forming the non-profit. Their mission as stated on their website is to stop LRA violence and support the war-affected communities in East and Central Africa. The three ways they achieve this mission are:

1) Make the world aware of the LRA. This includes making documentary films and touring them around the world so that they are seen for free by millions of people.
2) Channel energy from viewers of IC films into large-scale advocacy campaigns to stop the LRA and protect civilians.
3) Operate programs on the ground in LRA-affected areas that provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.

I had the great pleasure of hearing the founders of Invisible Children speak at the 2010 Classy Awards in San Diego, which honors achievements by non-profits. They won the nationwide award for Most Effect Awareness Campaign. You can read my post about the night here. I went up to one of the guys afterwards, and told them about Ruined, a play my theatre had coming up about abuse of women in the Congo. I told them that we'd love to have them attend the Opening Night. Then our fabulous marketing team got them involved as community partners for the play and one performance helped raise money for Invisible Children. I had the pleasure of meeting the Co-founder and Filmmaker Jason Russell and Chief Operations Officer Chris Carver at the Opening Night of Ruined. Since then I've been a huge fan of this non-profit and what they stand for. If you have not watched the video, GO WATCH IT NOW! It will open your eyes and definitely make them tear up. 

Jason Russell (left) and Chris Carver (right) at the Ruined Opening Night party.

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