KSU students show support for Kony 2012

Christina Suttles

Kent State’s Invisible Children members held an informative session Wednesday night expecting no more than 30 participants. Surprisingly, more than 100 students attended the meeting that was supposed to take place in a small room in the Student Center, so organizers were forced to relocate to a larger venue across the hall.

“I’m glad that people are finally hearing about it,” Kristin Mulcahy, president of Kent State Invisible Children, said. “We are trying to arrest a warlord who has been waging war for 26 years. Now that the world is finally hearing about it we need to do something.”

Invisible Children, Inc. is a worldwide organization that aims to draw public attention to Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.

Three filmmakers started the organization after a trip to Africa on which they realized children were being kidnapped by the LRA and forced to become soldiers. As documented by the filmmakers, these children were coerced to kill their parents and mutilate the faces of those who resist Kony’s army.

In an attempt to draw public interest and keep pressure on lawmakers, Invisible Children released a 30-minute video campaign this week called Kony 2012.

The video highlights the struggle of these children and calls for the youth of America to “change the conversation of our culture and get people to ask: ‘Who is Joseph Kony?’”

The video instantly went viral and had nearly 10 million hits on YouTube within 48 hours.

Students present at the event said they support the effort, believing empathy should dictate decision-making and that this campaign reinstates student involvement. “I think it gets people to think bigger,” said Samantha Varner, freshman international relations major. “Bigger than Kent, bigger than Ohio, bigger than the United States. It shows that here on campus at least that as college kids we do care about something that is bigger than ourselves.”

Others are optimistic about what the capture and arrest of Joseph Kony means for activism in the future.

“If we can help bring Kony to justice, we can bring others to justice,” said Megan Baker, vice president of Kent State Invisible Children. “Children are becoming soldiers and sex slaves, and people of our generation are coming together. Most of these people had never heard of this before and if we had this turnout in two days, just think about what it means on a larger scale.”

Watch the video

Some students plan on throwing fundraising parties for Invisible Children over the next few weeks.

“We were already throwing a party on Friday so we just decided to make it a fundraiser and donate the money to Invisible Children,” said sophomore philosophy major Steve Brown.

Kent State Invisible Children had originally reserved the Michael Schwartz Center for its official showing of Kony 2012 April 4, but have to raise funds to reserve something larger after the RSVP for the event hit over 1,000 people.

Students proposed numerous endeavors to raise money, such as Change for Challenge activities, combined fundraising efforts with Greek organizations and selling merchandise.

“Why doesn’t everyone just donate $5 at the door right now?” one student asked.

A significant amount of criticism about Invisible Children surfaced after the campaign kicked off, mainly questioning the financial credibility of the organization.

The most prominent of these criticisms claims that Invisible Children doesn’t contribute a reasonable amount of funding directly to educational structures and programs in Central Africa.

Financial records released by Invisible Children this week demonstrated that roughly 37 percent of their profits go directly to Africa to build schools and health facilities, while another 26 percent goes to awareness programs. Roughly 21 percent went to awareness projects and tools for film creation.

The other 16 percent goes to what the organization says is “management and general.” Many consider this statistic to be too high and accuse the organization of profiting from this campaign.

When asked if these corruption allegations would affect the way students view the cause, Baker said she welcomes the criticism.

“Just because it has criticism doesn’t mean it isn’t a credible cause,” Baker said. “What would you rather have? Some corruption or a warlord killing innocent children? It’s about their safety.”

Baker made it apparent that she doesn’t believe Invisible Children to be corrupt, but used this example as an extreme.

Coming up, KSU Invisible Children has several events planned, such as rock painting and chalking, leading up to the official “Cover the Night” events April 20, when students will cover Kent in posters and signs that read “Kony 2012.”

Contact Christina Suttles at [email protected].