Making the Oppressed Visible



            Every movement towards social justice has its controversies and detractors.  The 30-minute film Kony 2012 is no different. And although filmmaker Jason Russell has created a movement, he has not escaped criticism.

            Nevertheless, what Kony 2012 has accomplished in a very short span is bringing awareness to the atrocities that the children of Uganda have endured for over 20 years at the hands of Joseph Kony.  That is something very few with much more power and influence have been able or have wanted to do to help Africa for years.

            The Kony 2012 documentary has swept the world and motivated a generation that has been described as apathetic, to demand justice for the “Invisible Children” of Uganda. 

At the brutal hands of Kony and his rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Ugandan boys have been kidnapped from their parents and turned into ruthless soldiers.  Furthermore, young Ugandan girls have also been kidnapped and turned into sex slaves for the rebel fighters.

            Russell befriends a Ugandan boy named Jacob in the film who would prefer death rather than being kidnapped by the LRA.

            Kony forces his young, brainwashed soldiers to mutilate the faces of other Ugandans and sometimes even forces them to kill their own parents.  Pouring salt on an open womb, the LRA leader is not fighting for a cause or for the government, but just to maintain his individual power over his countrymen.

            Experts estimate that over 66,000 children have been forced into this brutal way of life by Kony, and over 2 million have been displaced as a result.

            Although Russell has been praised for bringing light to this issue and forcing the United States’ hand to get involved, he has been criticized for the tone of Kony 2012, focusing more on his child Gavin, than the children suffering in Uganda.  Kony 2012 is also criticized for not highlighting the virtual dismantling of the LRA over the years.

            However, what critics of Russell fail to realize is that he is just the messenger.  Now that we have become educated concerning his message of Kony, what do we do with it?  Do we make a real difference and critique law enforcement for not capturing Kony or are we that clueless to just critique Russell’s storytelling abilities?

            Kony 2012 has made the “Invisible Children” front page news throughout this country and a constant subject in the world of social media. 

Because of his efforts, those children are invisible no more.  His brief documentary has forced us “civilized” folks to wake up and realize that if it were not for God’s hands in our lives, we too could have grown up in a country where we would be forced into such a brutal future.

            In the film Russell states, “Where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.”  And most of us have become complacent because of the luxuries we take for granted where we live. 

            This generation has always been considered apathetic and selfish, but thanks to Kony 2012 and the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, that stereotype no longer applies.

            Russell may not win any filmmaking awards, but his award is knowing that he woke up a sleeping generation; a generation that now sees the struggles of those on the other side of the planet, despite the fact that they had been invisible for so long.

Smith is publisher of Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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