Black children are ‘visible’


altMore than 75 million viewers over the last several days have already watched the “Invisible Children’s Kony 2012” film that exposes the violent wrath and utter misery perpetrated on Africans as a consequence of the rampage of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony in northern Uganda.  Although this brutal conflict in Uganda has been going on for almost three decades, it has now captured the momentary attention of the world community as the result of the “Invisible Children” 30-minute film.

For some it took the sheer boldness of film director Jason Russell to wake up the rest of the world to the atrocities that have been inflicted on thousands of people in Africa at the cold ruthless hands of Kony and his band.   But for me and many others who study how African people are courageously continuing to challenge and end this type of suffering and fratricide in Africa, while at the same time striving to build a better sustainable African economy and democracy to improve the quality of life for all across the African continent, this “Kony 2012” film is just the latest example of possible good intentions that end up seeding counterproductive and turbulent clouds of misunderstanding and disgust about Africa and Black people in general.

Come a long way

Author Ralph Ellison, in his award-winning novel “Invisible Man” published in 1952, often challenged the stereotypical popular view at that time that Black youth in particular were misunderstood not just by the circumstances of Black life but also undervalued and under-recognized by the systemic, yet dialectical forces of racism, discrimination and inequality. Black youth and people were perceived as being “invisible” in a society that discerned race and ethnicity as fundamentally determinative of the character and worth of a human being.

We have come a long way since the early 1950s.  Yet, to our collective dismay the so-called invisibility of Black children, women and men is still too prevalent in too many places and even in the spectrum of the post-modern film industry as evidenced in “Invisible Children.”

According to an account reported in the Christian Science Monitor, “Invisible Children, and Kony2012’s director Jason Russell, have been criticized for over-simplifying the conflict’s causes and for spending more money on management, media, and movies than on grass-roots projects.”

Rather than a “rush to judgment” about a deranged man name Kony, there is an unfolding repetition about the rush to opinion and judgment about the humanity of African people versus the misperception of hopelessness in the socio-historical context of Africa today.

Must be responsible

While I am a strong defender of artistic freedom and freedom of expression, with freedom comes responsibility.  We all have to be responsible for what we produce, distribute and attempt to codify as approaching the truth.

Finally, it should be noted that Joseph Kony is no longer in Uganda.  This is an important and relevant point overlooked in the film.  Many native Ugandans feel that the film should have emphasized that the LRA has been driven out of Uganda.

Maybe after all this worldwide “Kony 2012” controversy, more people will begin to search for more facts about the steady development and progress that is being accomplished in Africa every day.  Let’s reaffirm the beauty and worth of all children by working harder to ensure that every child gets the best education, opportunity to excel in life, and most of all that every child receives the love, care and nurture of parents, community and a world the “sees” the visible blessings of all children.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis is senior advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options and president of Education Online Services Corporation.



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