Young activists should take cues from “Kony 2012” viral hit

By Maayan Schechter – Opinion Editor – mschecht@unca.edu

Because Joseph Kony did not abduct, rape and kill thousands of American citizens and children, it is likely most of you forgot about “Kony 2012” and stopped following the news coming out of Central Africa.

It is not entirely your fault; social media and the news stopped talking about it too.

You’ll remember when Invisible Children took control of social media after producing and publishing Kony 2012, a documentary calling for the removal of Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Thousands of Facebook users shared the video on their wall, even users as young as 13 years old. The video became one of the most viral videos in Internet history.

The organization’s newest documentary titled What Happened to Kony 2012, serves as an update on the progress made in bringing down the LRA and Kony.  The video is dramatic, telling the story of a young boy called Daniel for privacy, who was abducted along with his family by members of the LRA. His brother escaped, but his parents were murdered.

Since the release of the small documentary, two of the top LRA commanders were removed and killings dropped 67 percent, according to the organization. President Obama signed a bill into law extending the Rewards for Justice Program on Jan. 15, which pays people for assisting in the capture of Kony and other LRA members. Invisible Children was also able to build The Center Elikya, a rehabilitation home for 130 children working to overcome horrific abuse in Dungu, Congo. The money brought on by the “Kony 2012” campaign was used to build three new FM radio stations, expanding the early warning radio network to dozens of new communities.

However, the world failed in capturing Kony. There are still more than 200 LRA members on the battlefield and thousands of people are unable to return safely to their homes in Central Africa.

As popular as the video was, it was met with intense criticism and a lack of support from many. Critics questioned the motives for the video and whether military action could be best suited as a solution. The younger generation went as far to accuse the even younger generation of hopping on the “Kony bandwagon,” writing statuses suggesting their generation knew about Kony first.

It is inspiring the younger generation gave a voice and an ear to an issue not hitting anywhere close to home.

So what stops this younger generation from creating a buzz for issues affecting thousands of people on the domestic battlefield like in “Kony 2012?”

Here’s a sample: nearly 16 million children, 22 percent of all children in the United States, live in families who fit below the federal poverty level and do not know when their next meal will come, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

Almost 20,000 calls were recorded in 2011 to report human sex trafficking, with almost 3 percent of those callers recorded in North Carolina, according to the Polaris Project, an organization aimed at combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

North Carolina cut K-12 education funding by more than $450 million, the ninth highest percentage in the nation, according to a figure by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Where is the voice of the younger generation?

Where is the passion we all had for “Kony 2012” and the young men and women, families and children abused and killed in Central Africa? Why have we let these issues fall off our radar screen? And why do we all but ignore problems in our own backyard?

Many of us are graduating, going on to graduate school or pursuing other opportunities. Most will move up to the next level, anticipating the day you get to walk up to Chancellor Ponder and shake her hand to get your degree.

How will you make a difference? You can claim you cannot make any difference on your own. You can refuse to help because you are too afraid or embarrassed to raise your voice because you think you do not know enough to speak out. You can become overwhelmed with job, family and school responsibilities and claim your schedule is too busy.

Think again. Take a job related to social justice issues. Start small. Commit to an issue that hits home or one you feel passionate about overseas.  Get your friends and family involved. Build professional and personal connections that will help chart your career and life path.

Just do not give up. It is never too late to seek justice. Congratulations. Welcome to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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