Yesterday, I noticed my favorite celebs like Oprah Winfrey, Nicki Minaj, Russell Simmons and Sean Combs tweeting "#stopkony." Huh? I was caught up in my own social media hype, not paying attention. But then a follower hit me on Formspring to ask me what I thought about Joseph Kony.
I'm sorry... who?
I swiftly headed to Goggle to look him up.
I'm embarrassed to write that I didn't know his name. Just yesterday, I watched a 30-minute viral video that racked up 40 million views in three days and learned he's a fugitive Ugandan warlord and the head of the Lord's Resistance Army, which recruits children to fight for Kony’s undefined cause. The video, produced by the San Diego-based nonprofit Invisible Children, has drawn criticism for oversimplifying the issues and exaggerating the scale of Kony’s crimes. Still, the core facts haven’t been disputed: He’s sold young girls into sexual slavery. He’s stolen young boys from their families and turned them into child soldiers. He’s made children kill their parents and mutilate others who don't support his thirst for power. He's a terrorist who's been indicted by the International Criminal Court, and President Obama dispatched a special forces team to help catch him.
I watched a video about him by Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children, who details Kony's atrocities. Tears ran down my face. I am ashamed to live in a world where Kony’s been allowed to exist. Children have been fleeing their homes, finding safety among each other in a metropolis in Uganda, where some live waiting to die and still fearful of being snatched in the night and forced to participate in Kony’s terrorism.
"If this happened one night in America, it would be on the cover of Newsweek," Russell said. And he’s right.
We have children in our own backyards who need our help. I can't deny that. But there are those on the other side of the world who need it too. As the video about Joseph Kony's malicious deeds asked of me, I ask you to go tell it on the mountain and spread the word about his appalling, deadly acts. The goal of Invisible Children is to make Kony a household name, not to celebrate him but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.
“The ultimate measure of a [wo]man is not where [s]he stands in moments of convenience and comfort,” said Martin Luther King Jr., “but where [s]he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Where do you stand, and will you help make a difference?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk