I’ve been in Portland all week for a staff retreat, so haven’t watched the STOP KONY video or followed the conversation closely enough. Here’s what’s on my weekend list of things to watch and read:
- Rebekah Heacock, whom I met on a trip to Uganda six years ago, blogged at Global Voices and is curating links on her own site, Jackfruity.
- …And she says that this article on The Atlantic is the best she’s read so far: Solving War Crimes with Wristbands: The Arrogance of Kony 2012
- Via Colorlines: Ugandan Journalist Responds to Kony 2012 Campaign: ‘You Shouldn’t Be Telling My Story’
- Beth Kanter: KONY, Networked Nonprofits, and Transparency
- Ethan Zuckerman: Unpacking Kony 2012
I also wanted to share this incredibly thoughtful note that my roommate and friend Trish Tchume wrote on Facebook earlier this week (emphasis mine). Please take a few moments to read the whole thing:
Been following the back and forth about this Kony 2012 thing and I finally watched the video this morning. My 2 cents? Jason Russell and the Invisible Children organization are not the problem. Is he irritating? Yes. Is the organization questionable? Sure. But my view is that they’re not the real problem.
I feel like I meet dudes like Jason Russell EVERYDAY whether I’m at a conference or talking with some college kid or just walking around Brooklyn. They have this plan that no one else has ever thought of to save babies in the country of Africa by collecting books about organic gardening and starting a yoga collective that’s also a business and….something something…. Here’s what they have in common: They’re people of privilege (yes – most of the time white, most of the time male, most of the time pretty well educated but honestly not always) with some level of empathy who have the audacity to assume they can dream and do really big things and succeed. And they’ve lived lives that have confirmed that over and over along the way. That’s actually a beautiful thing in my mind. Good for them, they’re very lucky. Why would I hate on that?
In my view, the problem arises when their big plans go unchecked. But right now, it seems like the strategy for “checking” is virulent critique aimed at dismantling the person’s or the organization’s credibility and ability to do any good at all. Maybe that’s necessary sometimes but that seems like a shortsighted strategy. I think those of us who are frustrated with the Jason Russells of the world taking up so much space and so many resources can do better than that.
My longview strategy for “checking” the Jason Russells of the world and all his brahs, is to do what I can to build power and a deeper sense of agency amongst the people that have the biggest stake in fixing what’s most messed up in the world. To create spaces where they can also have the idea confirmed over and over again that they can dream big things and succeed – even if their big dreams right now are as simple as sharing an idea in a meeting and having it be heard.
I’ll keep my eyes on the prize of getting to the point where we wouldn’t even have to invest our energy in tearing down the Jason Russells of the world because he wouldn’t be the loudest voice on the scene anymore. He’d have to put his ideas up against the Global Kids and Public Allies and National Urban Fellows and RISE social workers and ReMedia workers and the GetEqual organizers and, yes, the YNPNers of the world – people who get the complexities of these issues and have the ability to address them creatively AND respectfully. And Jason’s little video would just be another spoke on the wheels of justice. I think that will be a beautiful thing.
[UPDATE] More links as of Monday, 3.12:
- Via Boingboing, African voices respond to hyper-popular Kony 2012 viral campaign
- The New York Times is dedicating a Room for Debate to the subject
- My friend Danielle Silber, who works at the IRC, posted this link with the comment “Instead of further militarizing the region, supporting Community Driven Reconstruction work can strengthen local communities and civil society’s ability to attain stability, resist military recruitment, and improve the over-all standard of living.”
- A filmmaker in Uganda wrote his reflection here. Of note: “If people want to improve the lives and prospects of Sub-Saharan African children, they need to understand the things that are threatening them and holding them back…here are the top 50 leading causes of death in Uganda” with a plea to support education, health, and other programs.
Photos: Uganda (Feb. 2006).