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About Suffering: A Glimpse of the 'Invisible'

Global Night Commute marches for international children's rights

 by Ben Horowitz
 published on Thursday, April 27, 2006

The film
The film "Invisible Children" has inspired local activists.
Michael Plunkett, Yari Bundy, Helen Fowler and Carrie Kargel make an introduction to the film
Michael Plunkett, Yari Bundy, Helen Fowler and Carrie Kargel make an introduction to the film "Invisible Children", a documentary about the thousands of children who have been abducted and abused during the 20-year-long war in Northern Uganda.


This Saturday, an estimated 30,000 citizens across America won't be sleeping at home in their usual beds -- not because they went home with someone from the bar, but because they are showing solidarity with the child victims of a war in Africa.

The evening is a response to a situation local activists were made aware of by the film "Invisible Children," says Helen Fowler, one of the people behind the event.

"[Seeing the movie] made me incredibly angry," she says. "The fact that it's been going on for so long and no one has done anything about it is just ridiculous."

The film Fowler refers to was made by three men -- Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole --- who are all in their 20s and from California. The group bought a video camera from eBay and went to Africa looking for a story, according to their testimony in the film.

They ended up in Northern Uganda, -- a region ravaged for the past 20 years by a civil war between the Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army. According to the filmmakers, the LRA arose around their enigmatic leader, Joseph Kony, who claims to have been inspired by God to lead a rebellion.

Because the LRA has a hard time recruiting adult soldiers, it has taken to abducting children and forcing them into military ranks. It often forces young girls into arranged marriages, subjecting them to extreme sexual abuse.

According to the United Nations, the number of children abducted over the course of the conflict was more than 30,000 in 2004, with that number spiking severely in recent years.

According to the film, to escape the raids of the LRA on smaller villages, children walk to the nearest big city and fill up bus stations, basements and other havens where they are safer than in the more rural areas.

In Phoenix, the number of activists is expected to total to about 1,000 people, say event organizers Fowler, 25, an interdisciplinary studies junior, and Michael Plunkett, 20, a music therapy junior.

The Global Night Commute that is taking place is intended to be an act of solidarity with the children, according to Fowler and Plunkett. The two say that the event will also hopefully draw attention to the situation, which neither of them had heard about before seeing the film, says Fowler.

Fowler and Plunkett both say they saw the film at a screening in February at Tempe's Three Roots Cafe. By sheer coincidence, an owner of a parking garage in downtown Phoenix was also present, and Plunkett says the idea of hosting the night walk there came about during a post-film discussion.

Though Fowler and Plunkett say they were never involved in community organizing before this, they both say they felt compelled to do something to try and help the children of Uganda.

The film had a similar impact on campus, where a showing in Ocotillo Hall led a group of about 10 students to commit to making the walk, says Carmen Ronan, Ocotillo and Mariposa halls' council president.

She says two students even began making necklaces and hats with self-designed logos shaped like Africa, with a heart in the middle. The students sold several of each, and donated the money to the nonprofit organization Invisible Children, which has grown out of the film.

Organizing Saturday's event has taken place through the Internet and by word-of-mouth, says Plunkett. He says being part of the organization process has been an eye-opening experience.

"The world is a smaller place," he says. "We have the power to make a change despite the fact that we're in a completely foreign land."

Although Fowler says she has been incredibly stressed by the process, she says it has also been rewarding.

"The concept that a lot of people doing small things can make a big difference is very new to me," she says.

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