OPINION: Move:DC, power in numbers and how we can change the course of history

People from around the world came together to attend Invisible Children's Move:DC, which included a march on the National Mall. (Photo courtesy of Invisible Children.)
People from around the world came together to attend Invisible Children's Move:DC, which included a march on the National Mall. (Photo courtesy of Invisible Children.)

On Saturday, Nov., 17 over 10,000 people convened at Washington D.C.'s Walter E. Washington Convention Center for something quite extraordinary. As part of the non-profit organization Invisible Children, individuals from across the United States and more than 60 countries came to demand justice as part of Move:DC.

Move: DC called upon individuals from around the world to gather for a global summit to listen to ten representatives from international organizations and countries affected by the LRA. The summit was followed by a march to the National Mall.

The San Diego-based nonprofit became a household name after their 20-minute documentary "Kony 2012" became the most viral video in history. 

The message of the film was simple: to stop Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army. For more than 25 years, Joseph Kony and the LRA have been abducting children and forcing them to become child soldiers. The LRA have forced young girls to become sex slaves, making rape a weapon used to terrorize communities. Children as young as ten have been forced to strap an AK-47 to themselves and kill their own families and members of their communities. Their crimes are too horrific to be put adequately into words, but their crimes are numerous.

According to the nonprofit The Resolve, Joseph Kony has killed over 2,400 people, abducting over 3,400 and displacing upwards of 440,000. 

The LRA began in 1986 in Northern Uganda and has since spread to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. As of January 2012, the LRA has committed 247 attacks on communities in the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Invisible Children.

That is approximately one attack every 30 hours.

In October of 2011, President Obama sent 100 non-combative, advisory troops to the region. However, due to the lack of technology available and the inability for the troops to cross borders, Joseph Kony still remains in hiding. 

Now eight months after “Kony 2012”'sr elease, at Move: DC representatives from each of the following organizations and countries were present at the event: the International Criminal Court, the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Northern Uganda and the African Union.

Moderated by Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey and John Pendergast, the co-founder of the Enough Project, this marked the first time leaders from across the globe convened to discuss the issues relating the LRA. 

The event also marked the first time that leaders from so many international communities met to discuss not only this issue, but any issue on African affairs on such a large scale.

Following the Global Summit, more than 10,000 people marched from the Convention Center down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House and the National Mall.

That Saturday, I was in a crowd where I was a part of something quite remarkable.

I have been involved with Invisible Children since my sophomore year at George Mason University, when a screening of the film “Tony” came to campus. The film premiered before “Kony 2012” and documented the story of another boy, Tony, whom the founders of Invisible Children met during a return trip to Northern Uganda. Ever since I have stood, along with my friends, with Invisible Children. We have since started an Invisible Children student organization at Mason.

In April of 2011 I attended my first Invisible Children event, where I dedicated 25 hours to staying silent to commemorate the 25 years that the war had been going on.

In 2011, Invisible Children GMU was able to raise over $8,000 in little less than a month to provide early warning radio towers in at-risk countries to let individuals know of oncoming LRA violence. We’ve also raised money for rehabilitation centers for post-traumatic stress disorder and for scholarships that allow LRA-affected individuals to attend school in Northern Uganda.

Criticism about the legitimacy of the organization and Joseph Kony became personal to me and my friends in the wake of Kony 2012.

For me, Invisible Children has done something no one else has been able to do. Whether you agree or disagree with the Kony 2012 campaign or the work Invisible Children is doing, by watching the film individuals finally knew Joseph Kony’s name. And by that, the film served its purpose.

The Friday before Move:DC, I was one of 800 people who lobbied Congress on behalf of this issue. I and several others attended five lobby meetings with both senators and representatives from Virginia. This marked my third time lobbying on behalf of Invisible Children to help spur action to find Joseph Kony and bring the LRA to justice.

I was joined by nine other students from George Mason in thanking leaders in Congress for their continued efforts, but also in communicating that more needs to be done in order to ensure that Joseph Kony is found and put on trial by the International Criminal Court. Individuals from all fifty states came by plane, car or bus to be a part affecting change.

My experience at Move:DC is hard to put into words. For those that were there, there is a mutual understanding and a loss for words for what we were all a part of. For those that didn’t attend, no words can adequately describe what it means to be in a room of more than 10,000 people who care about ending the LRA’s atrocities. It is so rare that you get so many people to agree on one thing, let alone an issue that is occurring across the ocean on another continent.

Say what you will about Invisible Children, but I know in my heart that what I am doing, and what thousands of others are doing, is right. It is not motivated by anything else but love and dedication. The stories I have heard and the people I have met through Invisible Children who were directly affected by the LRA have demanded me to not just stand by and let these atrocities continue.

I am privileged enough to live in the United States where my vote and voice actually matters. Sitting in the Russell Senate building on Friday made me realize just how important the work I was doing actually is.

I did not choose where I was born or what citizenship I had.

I could have easily been one of Joseph Kony’s child soldiers or one of Joseph Kony’s sex slaves. I had no choice. As such, it is my responsibility to act when I see injustices occurring. Those are my brothers and sisters over there who have been affected by this conflict. I have met and been inspired by the individuals who I have talked to who are directly affected by this conflict.

History is made by those who show up.

And on that Saturday, 10,000 individuals showed up to do just that.

When my grandchildren ask me where I was when atrocities were being committed in Central Africa, I’ll tell them that I was there to help bring them to an end.

I can tell them I showed up.

Opinions expressed in this column are solely the beliefs of the writer. 

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