Austin Beautiful

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.”

Jessica Shockley and Eddie Nimibutr volunteer Saturday morning at Lady Bird Lake’s annual cleanup project.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Dozens of Austin residents joined the throngs of dogs and joggers at Lady Bird Lake on Saturday in an annual cleanup project hosted by Keep Austin Beautiful.

The nonprofit group works in conjunction with other organizations to put on events such as the lake cleanup.

Little Helping Hands, a local nonprofit organization, was one of the groups that turned out to help. Little Helping Hands founder and executive director Marissa Vogel said about 250 total volunteers had registered for eight different sites by the lake.

“We represent families with young kids and individuals, and through Keep Austin Beautiful we get to lead this site for them,” Vogel said.

An ambitious organizer, Vogel hopes volunteering events such as the lake cleanup will lead to greater things for her organization.

“We started the organization about two years ago this month, and my inspiration was my own kids,” Vogel said. “We were trying to find opportunities for them to get out and get involved in the community.”

Other groups that participated in the cleanup included Austin Standup Paddleboarder, Capital Cruises, Expedition School, Green Feet Fitness and the Surfrider Foundation.

Little Helping Hands volunteer Monica Blackburn said she was very impressed with the level of support Keep Austin Beautiful provided.

“It’s nice working with Keep Austin Beautiful, because there is always someone you can turn to to give supplies or help out,” Blackburn said. “Every time we go out here, the runners always stop and say thank you, and that’s the best part about it.”

Volunteer Loretta King went out with her 4-year-old son that morning to clean up the lake.

“What is great about this program is that there are so many activities available, from tearing down graffiti to ripping up old computers at Goodwill,” she said. “It’s great that we can get our kids out volunteering and enjoying giving back to
the community.”

Lady Bird Lake received a makeover Saturday morning at the Keep Austin Beautiful volunteer cleanup day.

Keep Austin Beautiful organized six different cleanup sites around the lake. More than 200 volunteers collected trash either on the 10-mile hike-and-bike trail or on the water in boats, kayaks and paddleboards.

Trash accumulates on the shoreline after heavy rains, as well as on trails and parkland during nice weather when the park areas are more heavily trafficked, said Felix Padron, Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s park grounds supervisor.

Floating barriers trap some trash before it enters the lake, and both the Watershed Protection Department and the Parks and Recreation Department have crews that work to clean and maintain the trails, banks and waterways, Padron said.

“What [the volunteers] are offering is more manpower,” he said.

The majority of the trash in and around the lake arrives from one of the nine area watersheds, each associated with a different creek. Trash that ends up in storm drains and creeks will eventually find its way to Lady Bird Lake, said Jessica Wilson, Keep Austin Beautiful’s community programs manager.

“You can’t go to one of these cleanups and come away thinking the same way about plastic and Styrofoam,” Wilson said. “The lessons that people learn go a lot deeper, hopefully changing their habits overall and making them better stewards.”

UT history professor Leonard Moore brought his three young children to the cleanup.
He said they came to give back a little bit, spend some time outdoors and try to make an impact cleaning up.

Keep Austin Beautiful repeats the cleanup effort every two months, with volunteers usually collecting about 2,000 pounds of trash at each cleanup, Wilson said.

“It’s an amazing city and the more people that take ownership of their little piece, the better it’s going to be for everybody,” said Austin park ranger Jim Stewart.