Invisible Children

Vicky Adong, a roadie for Invisible Children and native of northern Uganda, paints the background of a mural for the Kony 2012 campaign at the Hope Foundation’s outdoor gallery during “Cover the Night,” Friday. The international campaign aims to raise awareness of the infamous Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

With more than 4,700 people attending the Facebook event titled “Cover The Night - Austin, TX 2012,” government sophomore and Invisible Children member Julia Hudson said she knew that the actual turnout would not reach the online estimate.

The UT chapter of Invisible Children participated in Kony 2012 Cover the Night on Friday. Cover the Night is a major global event created by the non-profit organization as a part of their Kony 2012 campaign. Participants were told to obtain Kony 2012 posters and “cover the night” wherever they live, in order to further spread awareness of the infamous Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony.

The UT chapter, along with participants from St. Edward’s and local youth groups, arrived at the Hope Foundation’s outdoor gallery at 3 p.m. to put up posters, with many staying until 3 a.m, Cassidy Myers, Invisible Children Street Team Coordinator said. Almost 40 people hung posters around the gallery, and three 13 feet by 35 feet walls were covered with large Kony posters. The outdoor gallery is located near the intersection of 11th Street and Baylor Street. Smaller groups subsequently broke off to cover the night in various places around Austin.

On one wall, an upside down triangle appeared with the message “Our Liberty is bound together” placed in the middle. Hudson said this image represents Invisible Children’s message of the world as a global community. African citizens affected by the Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army do not deserve the suffering and horrors inflicted on them, and this global community has the power to bring the cruel treatment to an end, she said.

“I’m really happy with how Cover the Night turned out,” Myers said. “The level of participation from people who actually care showed me how excited they were to be there.”

During a break, Ugandan advocate Vicki told her story to all attending of how her uncle was killed by the LRA and how her cousin was taken a few years ago, Hudson said. Invisible Children gave her the opportunity to finish college in Uganda as a result of their continued efforts. After she finishes her tour in America with the Invisible Children roadie team, she will return to Uganda to become a teacher, Hudson said.

Myers said people from every country such as Nigeria, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and London sent Invisible Children pictures of them covering the night.

“From the local, individual events to the Kony 2012 global movement, Cover the Night was everything we could have hoped for,” she said.

Hudson commented on the underlying problem facing Cover the Night and Kony 2012.

“Even though people saw the video and truly care about the problem, the existing problem is not knowing how to help and how to get involved,” Hudson said. “One has to have the personal initiative to make a difference and go beyond simply watching the viral video.”

Hudson said she prefers having a few people around who actually care, rather than a huge group who will not put their whole hearts into the campaign.The video went viral so fast, resulting in a lot of criticism and flack from skeptics. Hudson said Facebook events with the title “Uncover the Night” appeared soon after Cover the Night gained notoriety.

Undeclared sophomore Jayme Grander said she did not see any posters around campus this weekend. Grander said she watched the Kony 2012 video soon after it was released online and it seemed like a noble cause, but she heard from numerous sources that Invisible Children is a scam.

“If Invisible Children and Kony 2012 are a genuine non-profit whose main goal is spreading awareness, then that is noble, but people need to do their research before taking Kony 2012’s message so seriously,” she said.

The Kony 2012 campaign’s next step after Cover the Night is to take signatures and pledge cards from the Kony 2012 website to local representatives this June, Myers said. By signing the pledge card, Kony 2012 supporters are showing their representatives this issue is something they care about and needs representing.

The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, signed by President Barack Obama on May 24, 2010, is one of two resolutions regarding Invisible Children. The second resolution calls for an expansion of the original bill and an increase in the number of military advisors Obama originally sent last October, Myers said. 

Myers said more than 100 House and Senate representatives have signed the pledge out of a total 535 members of Congress, so Invisible Children still has some progress to accomplish.

Brady Morrison and international studies majors Julia HHudson and Caroline Thomas attend a meeting about the Cover the Night event.

Photo Credit: Raveena Bhalara | Daily Texan Staff

The UT chapter of Invisible Children will flood Austin with 1,000 posters in a number of different languages while participating in Cover the Night, the Kony 2012 campaign’s main event Friday.

Members of the club gathered Wednesday during their chapter’s last meeting before the event to discuss the details of Cover the Night. With the help of the Invisible Children Austin Street Team, the UT chapter of Invisible Children and other groups not affiliated with the club will cover Austin with wall art, fliers, posters and stickers in order to continue spreading the message of Kony 2012: Arrest Joesph Kony. Kony is an African warlord with a long track record of wrongdoings including the kidnapping and use of children for child soldiers.

The UT chapter of Invisible Children will spend most of their time during Cover the Night at The Hope Foundation’s outdoor gallery, said Cassidy Myers, Invisible Children Austin Street Team coordinator. A non-profit organization in Austin, The Hope Foundation helps artists who are working on peace projects get their message out to the community, according to their website.

The Hope Foundation offered Invisible Children access to its Hope Outdoor Gallery where murals will be created and large banners will be hung for Cover the Night. The 1,000 posters will be written in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English and other languages to reach as many people as possible, Myers said. Sidewalk chalk and reverse graffiti, a form of tagging where a stencil is placed on a dirty wall and cleaned off, revealing the message, will be used as well.
Keep Austin Beautiful, a non-profit organization focused on the environment, is donating gloves, shovels and paint rollers to use for Cover the Night.

Although Kony 2012 is geared at stopping an international issue, spreading the message of Kony 2012 throughout Austin has also become a community service project, Myers said.

“We want to earn our right to be heard globally by acting locally within our own community,” Myers said. “Why would you try to help someone globally if you can’t even help your neighbor?”

She said supporters do things like mow a neighbor’s lawn in exchange for posting a Kony pickett sign because Invisible Children wants participants to earn their right to be heard. Local communities must better themselves so they can eventually turn their focus to global community issues, she said.

Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell created the original “Kony 2012” video, which eventually went viral and garnered almost 100 million views on YouTube. Russell was detained by police on March 15 and was subsequently brought to a medical facility to be evaluated after he was found running through the streets in his underwear and shouting incoherently, according to the Huffington Post. A video of Russell running through the streets prior to his detainment was shortly thereafter released to celebrity news website TMZ.

“I don’t think Russell’s scandal will affect the impact of Kony 2012,” Myers said. “TMZ overexaggerated the entire incident. Russell was physically and mentally exhausted after giving over 80 interviews within two weeks.”

She said the Kony 2012 movement is so much bigger than any one person, which was exactly what Russell wanted.

International relations sophomore and Invisible Children member Caroline Thomas said she has been involved with Kony 2012 since the student chapter’s inception last fall. Thomas commented on the subsequent Stop Kony YouTube videos obtaining lower views than the first video.

“We understand there won’t be 100 million views for all of Kony 2012’s videos, but there’s still an impact,” Thomas said. “In the end it comes down to removing Kony from his reign of terror and the people who have stuck around must have seen the significance in that endeavor.”

Thomas said the original Kony 2012 video garnered a huge surge of interest, which has helped the chapter build its member base.

History sophomore Danielle Lefteau said she feels like the viral video has done a great job of gathering attention, but most people just watch the video. Lefteau said they will maybe update their Facebook cover photo to “Kony 2012,” but never actually donate their time or money to truly help the cause.

Human development freshman Jenna Javior attended last night’s meeting and said she saw the Kony 2012 video and felt she needed to be involved in the movement.

“I definitely think students can make this happen,” Javior said. “We just have to keep spreading the word.”

A controversy has arisen among a mass amount of Facebook statuses and Twitter messages containing the phrase “Kony 2012.”

At approximately midnight on Wednesday morning, the phrase went viral through Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds, along with a 30-minute video describing the campaign behind it. The video, produced by the non-profit group Invisible Children, is narrated by organization member Jason Russell, who explains his personal experiences in Uganda with the Lord’s Resistance Army and urges others around the world to share his concerns. According to the Invisible Children website, Russell and other members of the group are working to stop Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, from kidnapping children in Uganda and turning them into sex slaves or child soldiers. The video’s slogan “Kony 2012,” refers to the effort Invisible Children members hope will make Kony’s name as significant as other political terrors, such as Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein.

“We believe Kony is the worst war criminal, and a lot of this campaign is awareness because we want to make it known we don’t want him killed,” said Cassidy Myers, Invisible Children Street Team Coordinator for Austin. “We want him arrested and brought to justice in court. We want people to know this is a human issue, that we care about humans in the most remote corners of the world.”

Myers said the organization has targeted Austin, along with five other strategic cities, for expanding the efforts of the Kony 2012 campaign. She said members of the UT student chapter of Invisible Children and other students interested in the issue are crucial in helping raise awareness and eventually stopping Kony. Myers said each Street Team also includes a Ugandan leader, who shares their personal experiences with new members of the group. Myers and the Austin Street Team planned a meeting Saturday at 3 p.m. at Triangle Park to employ student involvement, and has created a Facebook page and Twitter account to reach out to students.

While Invisible Children chapters exist on college campuses across the nation, some believe the organization is not making a significant effort to stop the LRA from the crimes members say it commits. Blog posts sprang up hours after the Kony 2012 video went viral, and several writers opposed Invisible Children for various reasons.

Grant Oyston, sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, has continually updated a post which began March 8 on his blog, Visible Children.

“I do not doubt for a second that those involved in Kony 2012 have great intentions,” Oyston blogged. “But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the Kony 2012 campaign.”

According to the blog, the majority of funds raised by Invisible Children goes to salaries, transport and travel for its staff. Oyston backs these numbers with the organization’s public financial statements available online, and also writes that a “bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking.” Oyston also criticizes the military intervention Invisible Children believes is necessary to disarm Kony, calling it ill-advised.

Myers said she understands how quickly adverse feelings can arise in lieu of the video’s sudden popularity.

“Personally, I’ve given a year and a half of my life to this cause and one of my best friends has lost family because of the LRA,” Myers said. “We have leaders who are Ugandan to make sure we are as effective with our time and resources as possible. There’s no way I would’ve given a year and a half of my life so far if I didn’t believe in this cause.”

Lawyer Kate Cronin-Furman, co-editor of the political blog Wronging Rights, said she has worked in Central Africa and has followed the region’s politics for approximately 10 years. Cronin-Furman said she is concerned the Kony 2012 campaign presents an incredibly simplistic narrative of the problem it seeks to address.

“[It] tells its audience that they are ‘helping’ the victims of the LRA if they purchase bracelets and put up posters,” Cronin-Furman said. “I agree that arresting Kony is a desirable goal, but it’s not clear how raising awareness in America will help accomplish this, and it’s also not clear how removing Kony will end the LRA’s rebellion.”

Cronin-Furman said she understands how young Americans are affected by the atrocities conveyed in the Kony 2012 video and feel the need to help LRA victims, but advises them to look into supporting other organizations involved in relief efforts, such as Oxfam International.

“There are many international organizations that do consistently good work on the ground with civilians who have been victimized by Kony,” Cronin-Furman said.

“Supporting their work would do far more to help LRA-affected populations than purchasing a Kony 2012 wristband.”

Some UT students, such as government sophomore Julia Hudson, are more concerned with helping the people of Uganda than joining an organization. Hudson said she is not a member of Invisible Children, but advocates the effort to stop Kony and believes donating her time to raise awareness will give a voice to the issue. She said she plans to partake in the April 20 Cover the Night event hosted by the Kony 2012 campaign, which aims to cover Austin in posters, pamphlets and stickers highlighting the cause.

“Anyone here is capable to make a difference, hang posters and pass out some buttons,” Hudson said. “And if you are skeptical of giving money to Invisible Children, make these things yourself. The whole point is to shed light on this man and what he has done, so that the LRA can be totally stopped.”