Binghamton University Students Engage with "Kony 2012"

On Thursday, April 12th, the Center for Civic Engagement, along with co-sponsors UNICEF @ BU, Sigma Alpha Lambda, B.L.A.C.K. Unity, the Indian International Student Union, and the Office of International Programs, hosted a forum to discuss Invisible Children's recent viral video, Kony 2012. About 50 students, faculty, and staff joined the hour-long discussion in Lecture Hall 10, asking questions and discovering ways to make a difference.

Professor Michael West, of the Sociology and Africana Studies Departments, moderated the panel and engaged the audience in a vibrant discussion around the Kony 2012 campaign and U.S. intervention in Africa. Professor William Martin, Sociology department chair, spoke first, highlighting the complexities of the humanitarian-industrial complex, the portrayal of Africans in the film, and the reactions of Ugandans to the campaign. Professor Virginia Brown, a member of the Political Science department specializing in International Law, discussed the ethicality of Invisible Children's marketing campaign, the recent discovery of oil in Uganda as a motivation for the creation of the film, and issues with the methods of the International Criminal Court and the refusal of the United States to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, making it the only country, other than Somalia and South Sudan, not to have ratified it.

Audience members asked the panelists questions regarding the Kony 2012 campaign and the many issues surrounding the conflicts in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Topics covered included the costs and benefits of possible U.S. military intervention in Uganda, arguments for and against hunting down Kony, and the International Criminal Court's heavy and unfortunate focus on African criminals.

"It was enlightening because the professors showed that things are not always what they seem," said Binghamton alum Christopher Prashad. "When I first saw the video, it played on my emotions and I felt that we should try to capture Kony. However, the discussion made it obvious that there was more to the issue than simply one person."

Professor Martin also handed out an information sheet created by the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars titled, "What Can We Do About Uganda and the LRA?" The sheet contains information and resources for high school and college students (the main audience of the Kony 2012 video), and encourages students to continue to seek out information and ways to make a difference.

While much of the event was critical of the Kony 2012 campaign and Invisible Children's proposed methods, Professor West concluded by asking students not to feel discouraged or helpless. "This is not a disabling event," he said. "It is an enabling event."

For more information about the Kony 2012 video and the issues surrounding it, check out the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars page, Resources on Uganda, the LRA, and Central Africa. The Center for Civic Engagement also created a brochure that was given to students attending the event, which can be picked up in our office (UU-145).

Join the CCE on Monday, April 16th for our final Community Issues Forum of the semester. The CCE and REACT to FILM will be holding a free screening of the film Living for 32 at 8pm in Old Union Hall. Living for 32 is the inspirational story of Colin Goddard, a survivor of the tragic gun shooting massacre which occurred on the Virginia Tech campus on April 16th, 2007.

The screening will be followed by an interactive livestream Q&A with Colin Goddard and film producer Maria Cuomo Cole, as well as a nationwide candlelight vigil in which Binghamton will be participating. Faculty, staff, students, and community members are welcome to participate in this free event. The screening is co-sponsored by Sigma Alpha Lambda, the Secular Students Alliance, and Peace OUTside Campus.

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