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Monday, December 22, 2014

NM youths join effort opposing child soldiering

Tonight, Albuquerque activists participate in an international effort to stop the use of child soldiers in Africa.

People all over the world will plaster their cities with posters to raise awareness about the violence and brutality in Uganda. But Andrea Quijada, executive director of Media Literacy Project in Albuquerque, said it will take more than posters to stop leaders like Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.

KONY 2012, a video produced by Invisible Children and filmmaker Jason Russell, calls for the capture and prosecution of Kony, who kidnaps children to serve in an anti-government militia group. The video urges political leaders and celebrities to help raise awareness about the issue.

Russell became the subject of controversy when he was arrested in San Diego for allegedly yelling and disrupting traffic while naked, according to the Huffington Post. Critics have also accused Invisible Children of oversimplifying the situation in Uganda.
Quijada said the video presents what she calls “the white-savior complex.”

“It’s a way for white communities in particular to have a sense that somehow communities of color don’t know how to take care of themselves, haven’t created a system by which to be self-sustaining and that they need the help of the white man,” she said. “Often if we look at who created the situations that many communities of color are in, it has been a result of racism, it has been a result of colonization.”

The organization also failed to mention in its first video that Kony is no longer in Uganda. He fled to Sudan in 2005 and has not been back to the country since, according to CNN. The organization has also come under fire because only 32 percent of the group’s proceeds are used on the ground in Africa, according to Invisible Children’s financial reports.

Among the millions who saw the video were two Albuquerque high school students, Taylor Schum, 15, and Madeleine Barr, 17. They said despite controversy surrounding the organization, they still decided to participate in tonight’s event “Cover the Night.”

Schum started a Facebook group for the event and soon found many others, including one Barr started. The two decided to combine their groups and now more than 1,800 people have RSVP-ed to participate in the “Cover the Night” festivities in Albuquerque.

Participants will do volunteer projects in their own communities during the day, including a UNM campus cleanup. Those interested in participating can meet the group in front of the SUB at 4 p.m.
Schum said she felt she had to do something to stop Joseph Kony after she viewed the video the first time.

“It changed my life,” she said. “I just sat there and thought, ‘I can’t just not do something about this.’ I have to try to get people to care. I have to try to get people to watch the video.”

CNM student Kaitlin Elizabeth Elias said she is an activist for the cause, and that it’s not about one race “saving” another race, it’s about humans standing up for the rights of one another.

“It’s not because I myself am a white blonde girl,” she said. “It is because this is a human issue. Just because I live in a powerful and relatively safe country I believe that I have the human right … to advocate on behalf for the people who don’t have that right, no matter the color of their skin, no matter the color of my skin — it’s a human rights issue.”

For more information on “Cover the Night,” visit facebook.com/AlbuquerqueKony