Archive for November, 2011
Against the historical backdrop of Idi Amin and amidst the present-day evil of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s child soldiers wandering Uganda and the Congo causing untold devastation, Abrahmz Tekya, a b-boy devotee whose parents died when he was seven, established Break-dance Project Uganda to teach hundreds of Ugandan kids to connect to themselves and escape their predicaments through dance.
Tekya’s teachings reference the pioneers of breaking, and Red Bull Media House brought the most significant name in the b-boy world, the Rock Steady Crew (with original member Crazy Legs), to Uganda for eight days. The locals’ understanding that music and dance can form peace seems simple-minded, but the power of their form in this context appears truly effective. In this world, bringing together boys and girls at a community center to dance also gives them access to computers, and enables different tribes from different regions to share their traditions , to inspire rather than intimidate each other by borrowing moves from their own tribal dances.
First-time feature helmer Nabil Elderkin is a skilled storyteller, and “Bouncing Cats” balances the tension of abductions, rapes, murders and kidnappings with the history of the struggles of the region, an overview of the current situation and superb photography of the unadulterated joy inherent in children whose laughter might well have left them long ago in this arid turf.
Elderkin’s usual work shooting portraits and music videos for the urban landscape’s key players Kanye West, Will.I.Am, Wyclef Jean and Common often showcases the personal successes and desires inherent in promoting a hip-hop lifestyle. However, in “Bouncing Cats,” as in Matt Ruskin’s lauded doc “The Hip Hop Project,” the street-bred culture is being used to empower youth instead of leading it astray; it is utilized as a “weapon to speak truth.”
Why the title? Well, without sound systems at easy reach, Tekya has audiences perform human beat box skills by repeating the rhythmic phrase “Bouncing cats, baboons and cats. Bouncing cats, baboons and cats. Bouncing cats, baboons and cats. Bouncing cats, baboons and cats.”
With the support of Crazy Legs, the Rock Steady Crew and Red Bull Media House, and with Elderkin’s connections in the world of hip-hop, “Bouncing Cats” has strong chances of finding a presenting producer to bring it the wider recognition it deserves.
You can donate to support BPU’s amazing work through The Voice Project here
Download the new strategy report from International Crisis Group on the opportunity to finally end the LRA threat. It stresses the importance of coordinated action, the UN DDR/RR’s role, and reinforces the importance of “expanding the communication campaign that encourages LRA fighters to surrender so it covers the whole tri-border region and continue it until LRA groups no longer pose a threat to civilians.”
Peter Gabriel, Didi Wagner, The Voice Project & crowd of 50,000 send a message to LRA child soldiersWednesday, November 16th, 2011
On Sunday, November 13, 2011 at the SWU Music and Arts Festival in Paulínia, Brazil, Peter Gabriel brought up Didi Wagner and The Voice Project to record a message with 50,000 voices in attendance at the festival held outside of São Paulo, Brazil. The message is directed to the child soldiers of the LRA and is being sent to Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic and South Sudan to be broadcast out to the abductees, combatants and affected communities on the radio. Many thanks to Peter, Didi, Dave T, Eduardo Fischer, Theo van der Loo, Joana Stefanutto, Matthew Brubacher, Kenny Laubbacher, Julia Carvalho, everyone at SWU and Mulitshow, Bridgeway Foundation, and our partners at the UN, Invisible Children and Resolve. Chris Holmes, Jason Young, Ryan Gall, Brian Pappalardo, Michelle Meyers, Danielle Porras, Sadie Stafford, Missy Berkowitz, Vaughn Massey, Ariana Delawari, Nada Alic, Bob Ferguson, Claire Lewis, Adam Fink, James de le Vingne, Lisa Dougan, Micheal Poffenberger, Paul Ronan, Kari Keohane, James Heaney, CC Lagator, Kristen Daly, Kelleigh Faldi, Mayega Godwin, Andy Walter, Tom, Betty and Hadas, you were there with us.
Peter: This is song about hope, about not giving up. I’d like to ask for some help from Didi.
Didi: Hello, hello, hello. Hi, Peter. Hello, everyone!
Well, it’s an honor for me to be on this stage, looking at all of you. I’m here because Peter Gabriel asked me to share with you all a message in Portuguese about an organization that is very important to him, that he supports, and that we’re all going to try to help tonight. Here’s the deal, in the long conflict in some countries of Africa, mainly Uganda and Congo, there is an army called the LRA, the Lord’s Resistance Army, that recruits children, and forces these children to fight and commit atrocities. And even when those children manage to escape, they are afraid to come home, mainly for fear of retaliation.
But there is an organization, called The Voice Project, created by Anna Gabriel, Peter’s daughter, and by Hunter Heaney, that uses the radio to send messages to these children, that they are loved, that they are expected back home. The Voice Project is getting results, many children are returning home, but we want more and more children to find their way back.
So Peter Gabriel, is going to teach us tonight how to say “come home” in the local language. We’re going to record this, we’re going to send it to the radio stations in Congo to broadcast this message, so that the children there will know that the whole world is watching, that these children are loved, and that they are still wanted by their families back home.
Peter Gabriel, I would like to thank you for the honor of being part of this moment, in Multishow’s name, together will all of you. Thank you so much.
They start speaking English.
Peter: Please say with me: Dwog Paco [pronounced Doog Patcho]. One, two, three..
Didi & Crowd: Dwog Paco!
Peter: Ok. Once more. One, two, three…
Thank you very much.
UPDATE!!: “A group of 17 dependents who came out wanting to surrender to the UN in Duru having listened to radio. They knew where to find the UN because they followed the sound of the generator. They left 8 combatants in the bush which we are broadcasting to seriously to get out. [The new mobile FM unit] got out of customs and up to Dungu. We are getting alot of LRA dependents out lately so are moving the radio around trying to follow the groups that are left.” — Field Report to The Voice Project from MONUSCO, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, November 2011
Through your donations we were recently able to purchase a new mobile FM broadcast unit to support the UN’s DDR/RR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement) efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. FM radio broadcasts encouraging safe surrender and community sensitization about the crisis are one of the key factors in potentially bringing an end to Africa’s longest running conflict. Many abductees are kept from trying to escape or surrender by commanders telling them they would be killed by peacekeepers or local forces; information about how and where to surrender safely as well as information to local communities are critical in the remote areas the LRA are currently active.
In this interview from Foreign Policy, LRA survivor Evelyn Apoko on taking on Joseph Kony and standing up to Rush Limbaugh and the importance of rehabilitation and mentoring.
Sometimes it takes a phenomenally dumb statement to bring much-needed attention to an important issue. When talk radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves last week to describe the mass-murdering Lord’s Resistance Army as “Christians…fighting the Muslims in Sudan” that the Obama administration was intent of wiping out, it brought widespread condemnation, including from Limbaugh’s political allies, and created an opportunity to discuss the crimes of the LRA.
In particular, a video appeal to Limbaugh made by 22-year-old Evelyn Apoko, who was abducted by the LRA when she was 12 and escaped after years in captivity, was widely circulated online.
You can read more about her frankly incredible story here. Apoko now lives in the United States, where she has had several rounds of reconstructive surgery to repair the damage done to her face by shrapnel and is a fellow at the Strongheart Group, an international rehabilitation and education program for young people affected by war.
Yesterday she testified before Congress at a hearing on the Obama administration’s decision to send 100 troops to assist local efforts to capture LRA leader Joseph Kony. After her testimony, she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Foreign Policy: The video you made recently got a lot of attention. Can you tell me why you thought it was so important to respond to what Rush Limbaugh said?
Evelyn Apoko: When I read about what he said — I don’t know where he got the information, I don’t know where he got it from — and it really hit me hard. How can you say the LRA are Christians? I’m not trying to judge, but it’s which I experienced and I witnessed it and it’s totally different.
I heard that a lot of people here like to listen to him, you know, and I said well I am going to do something about it. I cannot keep quiet about it because I know that, there’s many children still in Congo, still being abducting right now by Joseph Kony. A Christian would no want to do such things to people: try to kill people try, to take children away from their families to become something horrible, you know, brainwash those kids. So that’s why I made that video to let you know that the LRA was not Christians and aren’t what he thinks they are.
FP: So now the United States is becoming at least somewhat more committed to this fight against the LRA. Do you think that if Joseph Kony is either killed or captured, that’s the end of the LRA or are there people who will continue fighting even if he’s taken out?
EA: I think it will make a huge difference if they take Joseph Kony away from the field because all the foundation is built on him. He is like the root of it, and all the other commanders, they follow whatever he says, whatever he offer to the commander they have to do it.
FP: What do you think is the most important first thing that a former child soldier needs in those early days and weeks after they’re taken out of the battlefield?
EA: You know, those kids are, they are real, they are all like us, you know? I never knew that I was the person that I always wanted to be, you know? It wasn’t until I escaped and came back home, I found people who were willing to be my mentor to show me what the right thing to do.
Those kids will need a lot of therapy and a mentor guiding them. I think, in few months they completely can change. Most of them say, “I never knew I was going to turn into this person. I never knew I was going to be the wonderful person who I always want to be. Because all that I’ve been doing in the bush they forced me to do. I didn’t mean to do it.” So I think in most cases, they are very young, they can still change.