Whether it is in the southern United States of America or in northern Uganda in Africa, Black children are not “invisible.” Black children throughout the world should be given the same respect and sense of dignity that all children should be given no matter what might be the contemporary circumstances of poverty, injustice, war or inequality. The simple truth is Black children are the “visible” gift and manifestation of God’s creative love and grace bestowed on all children everywhere.
Of course here in the Black Press of America and in Africa and across the Pan African world, we have a responsibility to give voice to the sentiments of the vast majority of Black people who are justifiably very alarmed once again at the misguided so-called good intentions of filmmakers who overly portray the pathological stereotype that African children and people are hopeless victims of self-destructive homegrown, evil villains who will continue to engender a living hell for African people until the “saintly” intervention of Western military might and power are mercifully poured out to save Black people from Black people.
More than 75 million viewers over the last several days have already watched “Invisible Children’s Kony 2012” film that exposes the violent wrath and utter misery perpetrated on Black children, women and men 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 of LRA victimizers. 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 Uganda and in other troubled places 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.
I recall that noted 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. In other words, 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 1950’s. 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.” This is more than a question of where the money raised has gone. Beyond the money, this film will have a lasting impact on the consciousness of young people all over the world about Africa and about Black people. 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. While I am a strong defender of artistic freedom and freedom of expression, I also maintain that with freedom comes responsibility. We all have to be responsible for what we produce, distribute and attempt to codify as approaching the truth whether it be in art, music, film, culture, politics, economics, media or literature.
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 that “sees” the visible blessings of all children. Yes, Black children are very visible and vital!
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, Occupy the Dream, and Education Online Services Corporation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.