Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months, then you know who Joseph Kony is. Well, I guess you could say “Kony”. The first name doesn’t matter in this case. Actually, the date would be a great add on. So let’s start over. Kony 2012 swept the internet like a virus. Infecting friends and foes. Sparking controversy and debate, the video hit the tube like a freight truck. The film summarized the involvement of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the Ugandan region which is led by Joseph Kony. A leader who kidnaps children, and makes them fight his war; sometimes even killing their own family.
I’ve been involved with Invisible Children for around five years. In 2008, I toured on the Vans Warped Tour, living with The Color Fred, Invisible Children, and To Write Love On Her Arms (also an amazing organization). We lived in a tour bus, so when you weren’t working through the day, you were hanging out on the bus. Andrew and Alex (brothers) were representing the organization that summer and I got to know them pretty well. After tour, I kept in touch with them and tried to help out any way I could in the coming years.
In Spring of 2009, they were putting on the international event, The Rescue, I was asked by local organizers of the event in Washington, DC to help with preparations. While I was in California shortly before that, I spoke at their headquarters to give a crash course on the best way to reach each Member of Congress in a short amount of time. In my earlier days, I worked for the House of Representatives and The White House, so I knew the best ways to get a letter to the right person. With all the brainstorming that occurred, we decided over 500 personally addressed and delivered letters would be the best way. Since I was living only blocks away from the Congressional offices, two of my friends and I hand delivered each letter to each Member in Congress. If you’ve ever been in those buildings then you know what a maze it is just to find one office. We did it all in one day and celebrated with McDonald’s in Union Station.
At the event, I was in charge of the photography and documentation for that day. From Celebrities, Senators, to Fall Out Boy, the guest list was pretty stacked. Not to mention, the thousands of kids who showed up to march from the White House to the Capitol building to raise awareness for the rescue of the child soldiers in Uganda. I organized around six photographers and we didn’t stop photographing. When the rain came, we threw our cameras in bags and waited for it to stop.
Later, in the summer, Invisible Children organized yet another huge event, Lobby Days. An effort to get Congress to support The LRA Disarmament Act. When the event day came, thousands of people gathered for this event and went to their local representative’s office in DC and did their best to ask for their support. Ultimately, the bill received the signatures it needed which resulted in President Obama signing it into law. My friends from all over the United States, came to DC, and stayed in my small town house on Capitol Hill. I think we had over ten people jammed into one room. It was surreal.
While traveling on Warped Tour 2010, working for the Dear Jack Foundation and 11:11 A.M. We weren’t living with Invisible Children but still hung out and kept in touch. Following that summer, in 2011, working for the same organizations, I once again traveled on Warped Tour. This time, Invisible Children, To Write Love On Her Arms, and us, lived on the same bus. It was like the band was back together (no pun intended, well, maybe a little). The living situation was a bit iffy due to other issues on the bus but it was great we were all together again. I’ve only ever toured on Warped Tour, so really I have nothing to compare it to but I believe it is a tour unlike any other. You develop a family. A tour family (as cheesy as that sounds). And you’re there for each other. So, when I think of Invisible Children, I think of friends, families, and the memories the organization has brought me over the years.
So when Kony 2012 was released and everyone became a critic & scholar overnight, it was sort of hard to witness. An organization filled with people, friends, who want nothing but to end a war and help those affected by the LRA, were getting attacked by mainstream media and those who just learned about the cause. There is a lesson to be learned from all of this, with great success comes great scrutiny. I’m not saying Invisible Children shouldn’t be asked tough questions because questions are good. Questions spread awareness and get people interested. But in the few days it was out, people were making accusations and spreading rumors based on zero facts. I’m not here to points fingers. I’m here to tell my story and how I got involved with Invisible Children.
Which brings the idea of the shoot and the shirt. The shirt stands for everything going on in the political realm right now. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. What matters is that a tyrant like Joseph Kony is still out there committing atrocities. Putting party politics aside and agreeing on that is the first step to capturing him, bringing him to justice, and ending the LRA. Our government is united in this front. Party lines were crossed and agreements were made. This shirt represents that. It’s not everyday where two political parties during election season agree on issues but they have on this. Kony must go.
Kony 2012 was short, simple, basic, and to the point. That is why the film was so successful. It leaves the viewer to do their own research. You are suppose to have questions. You are suppose to not get it. That’s the point. Get involved. Learn about the war. Learn about those children who go missing. Find out who is kidnapping them. Learn who is committing these atrocities.
After that, find out who is building the radio towers to help warn villages on LRA atrocities that are occurring in the region. Learn about who is setting up scholarships & schools, lobbying in Washington, DC to get a bill passed that was signed by President Obama, and finally, do the research on who is leading efforts on rehabilitating child soldiers and those affected by the LRA.
Anyone can post a tweet, blog, or spread a rumor with one click. It’s what you do next that matters. Get involved.
Adam DeAngelis is a New York City based fashion and music photographer. We gave Adam the stage in form of our column to write and take photos of what he was passionate about.