Through this whole KONY2012 episode, I cannot help but think of my mother. She was quiet, almost to a fault. She spent 30 years working in Nigeria at a leprosy settlement, with people who were cast out by their families, working with the community and the Nigerian church to heal them. The spinal cord injury association she founded in Benue State, Nigeria, is still going strong, more than 17 years after she started it. Their headquarters is named after her, something that holds deep significance for us. It survived her death, and will likely survive all of ours.
After their marriage, she and my father got their first mission posting to Apir, a small village in the middle of nowhere. This were the chaotic years after independence, and most Nigerians were still desperately poor. The small bush clinic they started in Apir is now a full-fledged hospital, my father tells me. It will also survive all of us. She never asked people to buy bracelets and posters to support her causes. Perhaps she should have, if it meant more money for the leprosy settlement and the hospital.
Perhaps my mother was an example of the white man's burden. Perhaps the era she grew up in was tinted by colonialism. Perhaps. I think it more likely that she chose Nigeria, and Nigeria chose her. The Tiv people chose her. Her publicity was in the lives she helped heal, not in how many Americans she could get to mention her. She fought in Nigeria for a stronger civil society, better access to healthcare and education, and that powerful self-respect that comes with knowledge.
Africa, my complicated womb, you need better than campaigns like this. When I think of all this, I think of my mother, and then I forget the campaign, and remember my mother.