May 1, 2007

Liberty students take part in "Displace Me" in D.C.

by Joanne Tang, News Editor
In an effort to raise awareness at the large numbers of families in Uganda forced from their homes, 67,800 people across the country committed to attend “Displace Me” on Saturday, April 28.
The event, started by Invisible Children, a foundation that aims to spread awareness about the poverty and plight of Ugandans, was held in 15 cities.

Invisible Children had previously organized the Global Night Commute on April 29, 2006, in which Lynchburg was a participant. 

Many Liberty students participated in Displace Me, driving to Washington, D.C. to sleep on the corner of Constitution Avenue and 15th Street on the National Mall. With the tag line “Every War Has an End,” Displace Me also gave those in attendance time to write letters to their local politicians and to news outlets such as the Washington Post.

Attendees were asked to bring a sleeping bag, cardboard to make a tent, a photo showing themselves wearing a white T-shirt with a red “x” on it, a box of saltine crackers and an unopened 1.5 liter bottle of water. These items were collected upon entry and rationed among all the people.  
This year, Displace Me challenged attendees to be outdoors for a night to understand what it is like for families in Uganda who have been forced to flee the Lord’s Resistance Army by leaving their homes and belongings.

Many of these families are forced to in camps established by the Ugandan government with hopes of defense from the LRA, but these camps are poorly defended and riddled with disease. According to an ABC News article, as many as 1,000 people die every week in the camps.
 
Tati Cunningham, a youth ministry major from Ohio, attended Displace Me.

Before April 28’s event, Cunningham said she wanted “to leave behind (her) luxuries, to make that connection.”

She said that Displace Me was a “sacrifice of time” because she has so much to do in school, and that she wanted to “spend that time on something bigger,” she said.

“(It) shows the government that we want to see an end to this, a push to continue talks and progress,” she said.

On Saturday, April 28, Cunningham rode up to Washington with other students and when they arrived, most of the city’s estimated 6,000 participants were already set up. Each person was required to bring enough cardboard to make a tent.

“(They were) little cardboard cities,” Cunningham said.

The crowd listened to a speaker from northern Uganda and was documented by a camera crew from Invisible Children.

When it came time for food to be rationed, Cunningham said that only women from 18 to 22 could receive water and only men could receive food.

She said this was reflective of one of the problems within the displacement camps where men cannot afford to farm and provide for their families.

Because Cunningham is 23, she was automatically placed in the group of those who had to go without. She said that those who did not apply to either rule had to enlist the help of others in their group to get any water or food.

It began to rain during the night, and the temperature dropped.

She said that she woke up on Sunday morning with a headache and felt very uncomfortable.
Even so, she knew that she was enduring a real-life situation. She said, “There are even homeless people here (in America) — how they must feel when they wake up?”

People had decorated their cardboard tents and had also brought with them posters and signs.
“All of the messages had a positive meaning,” Cunningham said.

“It was an action of love rather than hate or anger towards our government.”

Cunningham said she would want to be part of another Invisible Children event, and she also said she would be more active in getting other Liberty students to go to one in the future.

Contact Joanne Tang at jtang@liberty.edu.
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