Pop Culture, Race & Politics

K.O.N.Y. 2012

(For the record, I’m aware that it’s merely KONY 2012, but I’m going to make a point with that.)

Criticism, like love, is a many splendored thing. Truth is, it’s way easier to criticize something or somebody than it is to acknowledge that something or somebody is actually attempting to make a difference and give credit where credit is due. Such brings us to the present day (well last week and running currently) KONY 2012 campaign by the company and organization Invisible Children.

To be fair, I knew very little about this until yesterday when I read somebody’s Facebook status criticizing the Kony 2012 thing on the grounds that anybody who cares about this now and didn’t pay attention to any myriad African causes is hypocrtical and ill-informed. Fair enough, but totally misses the boat. But we’ll get to that in a moment. Back to me just finding out what in Sam Hill this Kony thing is about.

I’d heard mention of it last week when somebody mentioned some video for Kony. Now, I obviously listen to too much hip-hop because I immediately thought it was some sort of King of New York upcoming tribute to the Notorious B.I.G. Or some wayward reworking of T.O.N.Y. by Capone-N-Noreaga. And because I didn’t care, I let that b*tch breathe. Again, too much hip-hop. But after seeing the critical FB message I watched the entire video, all roughly 30 minutes of it, at work, and found myself in awe at this organizations presentation AND plan to bring attention and awareness to a cause.

Let’s forget the actual target of the cause for a second. Let’s talk about the method. It’s sheer brilliance. In today’s social media driven landscape, Invisible Chidlren, created a video where they showed the birth of a movement from inception to action. And that my friends is impressive. And it’s one that takes full advantage of the way youth move in this nation now from creating viral campaigns and utilizing that message to effect change to the point where the President takes notice and does something entirely based on their work and advocacy. That is how you do something. That’s how you make a difference. I must say that I was completely impressed and inspired by the dedication it took to be both patient enough and believe in something enough to stick with it for the long haul. And the method of creating propoganda to make the man’s name a household name isn’t even obnoxious like some of the Occupy camps that popped up. Interesting that immediate reaction was to draw comparisons. I’m human. Sue me.

Joseph Kony, one of the leaders of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, is undoubtedly a bad man. And while there’s NO way that any 30 minute video could fully capture the complexity of the issue of Kony’s crimes against humanity and the creation of child rebel soldiers, what this video did was create an entire awareness to possibly as many as 74 million people who watched the video on YouTube and who knows how many others who’ve read about it since last week (March 5).

Obviously, that creates controversy. Which is where the criticisms start to come in (all easily Google-able). Is it too little too late? Some say that Kony is nowhere near as much of an issue as he was 10 years ago in Uganda. Maybe true, but he’s still on the ICC’s list of wanted criminals. Some say this video has done more damage than good by giving Kony the heads up that the USA and Uganda are looking for him and will force him to change up his methods of hiding (he’s on the run). Others claim that this organization isn’t clear and transparent about their actual charity work, etc. A claim that the organization itself hasn’t been shy about addressing. Others think the video had the wrong focus. And some folks are claiming some type of “why do you people care now when you didn’t care about anything else….”

I can honestly say that I hate people who make that last argument. You can’t do anything about anything unless you know about it. Speeches only reaches those that know it exists. Knowing what to care about is impossible unless everybody knows where to find out about what’s going on. Which is why this campaign is brilliant. You don’t know who Joseph Kony is? Watch the video. I guarantee you will by the end.

And that’s the point. Creating awareness about somebody in order to get the public consciousness on board. That’s the only way you get change. The Civil Rights movement wouldn’t have lasted if 100 people boarded that train. It wasn’t until the nation saw the brutality in Birmingham and the water hoses and police dogs attacking defenseless and peaceful protestors that the nation got on board (for the most part) with the Civil Rights movement. Which is why I think that much of the criticism levied against the Kony 2012 movement and the Invisible Children organization is sour grapes. This org found a target and found a way to make people care or at least pay attention. I guarantee you that there are people who know Joseph Kony’s name that would NEVER have known under any other circumstance. And that cannot be a bad thing.

At all.

Awareness. It’s the key to change. It’s why the message for every Spike Lee movie is to “wake up”. Pay attention. Be aware of what’s really going on. That’s the premise of Kony 2012. If we were smart, we’d take a lesson from this organization and do the same damn thing with other causes. It’s why Occupy Wall Street both succeeded and failed. It succeeded because for a legit moment in time, everybody was talking about it. It failed because unlike Kony 2012, at some point, it was all just rhetoric and nobody really knew what the hell to ask for.

If you bring awareness to tragedy, at some point people have to do something right. You can’t stick your head in the sand forever. And to me, this method and the cause are worthy of note.

And to be fully honest, at first I was ready to write this entire thing off as more white guilt and liberal do-gooderism until I really started thinking about the fact that you know what, if that sh*t helps to change the world, then I’m all for it. Sometimes, those who seem the most annoying and obnoxious really do have their hearts in the right place and because they care that much, and are white, they’ll have the time, resources, and desire to see something through.

If that helps me get a home loan. Sign me up.

So, good people of VSB, what do you think about the KONY 2012 campaign and ensuing dustup and debate? Hell, do you think about it at all?


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Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Mo-VSS

    I think about what Invisible Children (IC) has done and I, like you, think it’s brilliant. As much as I hate the term “hating” to describe damn near anything, I do happen to think it applies to those who have no legitimate basis to criticize IC.

    Oh and the race thing needs to be retired. If white folks take this up as a cause, so be it. If they open their wallets to help, again, so be it. If they start adopting little Ugandan babies after seeing this, so be it. I don’t know where the notion of “only people who look like you can/should help you” came from but I’d like it retired. Wait, I’ll take it back…I do know where it came from. Black folks (some) not wanting white folks to be seen as the savior of the race. Kill that. If I was in a dire situation, such as some of these children are, I wouldn’t give a damn if martians came down to help as long as there was some relief.

    I do think that as an organization IC can learn from whatever valid criticisms are being directed toward them. I mention “valid” and “legit” as words used to describe the less than positive feedback because anything else is just noise. Any organization with a true intent on doing good, as claimed by the IC, should welcome the chance to hear from both sides of the aisle (election year rhetoric) and position themselves to improve whatever is necessary to continue getting the job done.

  • groove

    i’m in the middle regarding this whole KONY business. i can respect the dedication, perseverance, and awareness created. i think a big issue is how this thing is limited. they have a very tight focus on this man and him alone. watch closely and you’ll see the #2 on the ICC list is from uganda as well. and the fact that the time period is so restricted, causes concern for me. there’s no immediate change for such a lasting issue. so my questions are: what happens after the capture/persecution/death/whatever of kony AND/OR on january 1, 2013? it can’t end there. and so again.. i can respect the awareness created, but for the cause to truly be effective, there has to be a long term train of thought in combination with this short term effort, no?

  • Jay

    I have to take the skeptical view on this with so many videos popping up of ACTUAL Ugandans talking about how irrelevant this is now. And my opinion sort of leans towards that argument that you hate. True, if you don’t know then how can you care. But thats just the thing, we as Americans carry out our lives without knowing or caring much about what else goes on in the world, that is until someone posts a well produced Facebook video, then all of a sudden we’re activists. So, if the vid wasn’t so well produced then people still wouldn’t know or care. We, and by we I mean my guilty self as well, have this totally first world BS upsurge of emotion because someone created an awesome video. Its scares me a little. We are easily led sheep. Plus there are a lot of allegations of how Invisible Children spends their funds. There are further allegations that state that Kony was U.S. backed(clandestinely of course). I can’t say that any of this is true or false, but I think that some measure of skepticism is healthy… as opposed to jumping on the emotional bandwagon.

  • Iceprincess

    Good post P. I agree its not only about kony, per say,but raising awareness & dropin knowledge on these youth thru social networking. I even saw a “stop kony” graffiti scrawled on the train wall yesterday. Brought a smile to my face.

  • The Other Jerome

    I totally agree with your pet peeve on the “Why do you care now, where were you then…” types. If you ever undertake an effort to fund-raise, the first thing you must realize is that people are predisposed to not giving a sh*t… until you put it right in front of their face. What type of sense does it make to chastise someone for not being up on something that is outside of their “Universe”?
    Therefore, when you pitch a concept or push for someone to join your movement, you always pitch it in a way that allows for someone to “easily” become included.
    People who wag their fingers and complain stating “why are you just now interested in this? Where were you such and such years ago…” Must have never even attempted to organize a protest, or raise awareness on an issue, or register voters, or even start a kickstarter campaign.

    That said, there may be some questions about “Invisible Children”. Many raised by Ugandans themselves. However, i must say i very much like what the KONY campaign is attempting to do. And i have no problem with the way IC allocates it money. Yes they only give 30 something percent to relief efforts. The rest is allocated for media, Overhead and lobbying. It’s the lobbying concept i love, because THATS how you get things done in this country!
    You want to affect policy in this country, you either have to put pressure on Politicians through their constituency, vote a new group of politicos in, or Lobby the current set in DC…… and that takes money; tons of it! (as Panama said, this is exactly NOT what Occupy Wall Street does. Thanks for blowing all that change energy folks)
    Of course IC is lobbying Washington to use the US army as a sort of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” group in order to bring this guy to justice. This whole thing is fascinating really…….

  • That Ugly Kid

    While I sympathize with the situation, I will say this. As cold-hearted as this sounds, America. Comes. First. Period. Last time I checked, people here are struggling to find jobs, people are losing jobs, our economy is f*cked up, gas prices are outrageous, etc. It’s about to be Spring/Summer time pretty soon, which means cities like Chicago, Detroit, NYC, etc will once again top “Most Dangerous” lists because n*ggas out here with no life and no future will just sit on corners and by liquor stores looking for an excuse to kill someone now that school is out.

    I could go on. Point is, how can we help someone else when we need so much help, here, in our own backyard. Again, I applaud IC for their efforts and surely Kony must be stopped, but not before we get ourselves back on track. Yes, hooray, we’re helping other people by giving them our already diminishing resources. Pat on the back, good for America. But who’s helping us? No one. Once we fix the USA, then we can go play superhero.

  • MsPackyetti

    Agreed that the last criticism holds little merit. No argument from me-people have various passions and one of the benefits of social media is that you can learn about that which you don’t already know or pursue information about regularly. It’s why I like StumbleUpon. Im not going to regularly google tasty recipes for cranberry orange muffins, but best believe the boo tore them up this weekend, so thanks for the new new, interwebs.

    My issue is the fallacies and half-truths in the messaging. SENSATIONALISM is going to go viral for people, mostly regardless of the format. It was a red flag to me when most of the voices we heard on this (via YouTube, Facebook and Twitwit) were white, western and/or totally domestic. Now we’re hearing from Ugandans, NGO leaders in the area, and those peace workers actually still engaged in this fight about things IC never told us. Kony hasn’t lived in Uganda for years. The US has tried multiple military interactions only to not catch him (thus, stop making it look like the US is just ‘scared’). Simply “bringing awareness” isn’t actually what Uganda needs right now-they need support for rebuilding efforts. And you know who’s saying that? UGANDANS and NGO leaders from the country. Similar to the fact that we’re not crying “Arrest Michael Brown (former head of FEMA),” the right and necessary thing is to continue to yell “rebuild NOLA” and to thusly put our time and resources there.

    And all of this from an organization that encourages the Ugandan army, which is still accused of raping and pillaging that nation. Im not mad that people are now interested. I’m mad that people fall for the okey-doke so quickly and don’t do the research before they hash tag damn near anything.

  • kid video

    I think we found Don Cheadle’s next award winning/nominated role…

  • Kony 2012 is going to end up doing far more harm than good. Any type of activism from outsiders that does not even attempt to integrate the people that they are supposedly trying to help is not worth a damn. It’s just white liberal guilt masturbating and crying (crocodile tears) at the same time to me.

  • @PJ….Yeah, I try to steer clear of political/ controversial sideshows. I too was like Kony….Oh. -__- Especially when I saw Bossip and Michael Skolnik(global grind) tweefing last week about this I just knew it wasn’t worth it.

    But I stand corrected. Invisible Children is a rad organization! I was introduced to them at the Stay Classy Awards last year and was floored by their 2011 campaign. When I met their creative guy Jebidiah Jenkins (yes, that’s his real name. And yes, I took a picture w/ him because his name is Jedidiah) he told me this year’s campaign was going to be sick. Well…he was right! So glad I know about it now!

    Thanks for bringing this to light and clarifying it for those of us who would have otherwise paid it no mind. Look at you all deep-like. \o/

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