As part of the World Leaders Lecture Forum, the Tanner Humanities Center welcomed human-rights activist and best selling author, John Predergast to the University of Utah to discuss his optimistic outlook of Africa. Mr. Predergast’s speech centered around two themes — stories of transformation and the people’s movement to impact change.
In discussing stories of transformation, despite what western media and Hollywood portray, Africa is not a “hopeless continent.” For instance, the movie, Blood Diamond showed the mining of diamonds that were sold to finance conflicts and warlords. However, the movie did not offer a “postscript” stating that today, Sierra Leone is at peace, has had democratic elections, and that war criminals are facing justice.
In discussing how ordinary people can influence change, Mr. Predergast discussed how South Africa’s apartheid ended because, for example, ordinary citizens, college students, and faith-based groups organized and demanded an end to racial segregation.
Referring to a more recent issue, concerned citizens created the Kony 2012 campaign which brought worldwide attention about the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader, Joseph Kony, and his atrocities of enlisting child soldiers, raping women, and destroying villages. As a result of the attention Kony 2012 received, the United States government deployed U.S. troops to Africa to train African soldiers to capture Joseph Kony.
Many people in our communities have likely only learned about events in Africa from the news media, television, and movies. Through this type of event, the University and the community are afforded the opportunity to hear a first-hand account of events that are occurring in parts of the world that can seem to be remote and unknown. To hear that the reality on the ground is more hopeful than hopeless can inspire us to become more involved. Mr. Prendergast ended his speech by encouraging the audience to “get in the game” when it comes to injustices. This can be done through voting, writing letters to Congress, raising funds for causes, blogging and sharing with others what you care about.