Part of our (Red Sociology) blog’s purpose is to highlight struggles for liberation and freedom going on around the world and do what we can to let everyone know about them. On that note I had the pleasure some time ago to talk with Satori Ananda, an activist and organizer working with an organization called Friends of the Congo. Their organization’s goal is to highlight the abuses, outside influences, and internal conflicts that is tearing the Congolese people apart. Their main organizing effort in this capacity is an event called Congo Week which was October 14-20th last year. They also have a speaker tour which also spreads their message across different communities. Below is an email interview done with Satori about conditions in the Congo, her organization’s involvement, and what you can do to support their efforts.
William: Could you just give me your name, a bit about your background, and how you go involved with Congo Week/Friends of the Congo?
Satori: Satori Ananda. I am a social justice organizer with Guerilla Mainframe living in the Dallas,TX area. I got involved with Congo Week and Friends of the Congo through the community work I do in the national community with some hip hop artists I work with. Pihon, SamUiLL and 7Knuckles are musicians I work with that are also activists and they happen to be from Africa. We worked on famine issues over the years and anti Africom campaigns, eventually the work lead me to meeting our a local Friends of the Congo coordinator and eventually becoming friends with Kambale- the national student coordinator for Friends of the Congo.
William: What is Congo Week exactly and what major issues are you trying to bring to the fore?
Satori: Congo Week is the 5th annual international effort created to raise global consciousness about the situation in the Congo and advocate for peace, justice and human dignity in partnership with the Congolese people. For me, the first thing I want to do is help start the conversation and recognize that there is an agenda of keeping this out of the mainstream media. Most of the world is not talking about this . Ignored. So I like to bring out anytime I have the opportunity that even here in the United Sates we are being censored from information. Purposely being kept in the dark about MILLIONS of lives being lost and that our tax money is involved. Our purchases are involved. And once we become aware it’s important for people to realize they become involved directly. There is violence in silence. Issues I often bring to the forefront are sexual violence, environmental concerns, the potential that Congo has which is being lost and the effects of outside influence in the region.
William: Which of these major issues or topics do you personally connect the most with?
Satori: I remember first hearing about Congo in the early 2000′s . I heard about women and girls being brutally raped and suffering fistulas. Fistulas are rips in the vaginal wall where rape has torn out chunks of flesh separating the bladder and rectum from the vagina. In most cases this is permanent damage. Life long pain and often the women’s communities have little to do with them because of the odor from not being able to contain their urine and feces. This has been seen in girls as young as 12 months and as old as 71. Rape alone does not generally cause traumatic fistula, it happens because of objects like guns, branches, hot coals and many other items used after the rape occurs. Rape being used as a weapon of war is historical, it separates families, creates terror and can destroy a people. As a woman, how could I not be affected.
William: I saw that you also have something called the Breaking the Silence Speaker Tour. What is that all about?
Satori: The Breaking the Silence Speaking tour is designed to continue the momentum following Congo Week. Colleges, churches, community organizations etc often want to have a speaker come and provide information to their members based on hearing about the Congo crisis. Anyone interested in having a speaker come to their city can contact Friends of the Congo and make a request on friendsofthecongo.org website.
William: Is Friends of the Congo mostly an awareness organization or do you do active work within the Congo to deal with the issues you mentioned above?
Satori: Friends of the Congo is directly involved with making change on the ground by investing in the Congolese youth. FOTC has partnered with several youth groups to advance the cause of social justice through creative and innovative means using art, music, and technology to promote social justice. One such effort is the establishment of Technology Networking Centers (TNC) to serve primarily the youth but also other sectors of the Congolese society. TNCs are social spaces equipped with computers, internet access and other digital tools that allow the youth to connect and communicate with other young people inside and outside of the Congo. The TNC is a product of Congo Week and the efforts made by Congolese youth each October to highlight the challenges of the Congo and mobilize youth throughout the country to explore Congo’s challenges and produce prescriptions that will improve the living conditions of the sons and daughters of the Congo.
William: At the end of the day what does your organization want to see for the Congo and its people?
Satori: Peace for the Congolese people. A life free of fear. An opportunity to determine their future for themselves without the influence and agenda of outside politics.
William: Is there anything else I missed that you would like to mention about Congo Week, your organization, or your work?
Satori: I would like people to understand that Congolese people have been struggling for 125 years because of outside greed. Tribal wars are being held to blame but these conflicts are militarized by western countries that use proxy African armies to continue the conflict, to fuel the conflict and to provide the arms needed for conflict. The Congo has the potential to feed the world through its agricultural abundance yet many starve there. There is the second largest fresh water reserve in the Congo yet the people die from lack of access to clean water. The average income is around 300 dollars a year yet the country is priceless with minerals. Some have attempted to value Congo in the trillions. All modern electronic technology has traces of Congo blood on it. Yet, the Congolese people do not benefit from the sale of their minerals. Corporations and outside countries help fund the rebel and national military groups so they can loot and steal the minerals to sell outside of the region making western puppet regimes like Rwanda and Uganda wealthy.
Our response must be to hold our elected officials responsible. We must let them know we are aware of the illicit relationships with Rwanda, Uganda and Congo leadership and the people demand our dollars not be used to continue to arm and exploit the Congolese people. There is a petition people can read about that highlights a law Obama wrote that he is not following up on that protects Congo:http://www.change.org/petitions/fully-implement-public-law-109-456.
As mentioned above Friends of the Congo need political, community, and economic support to do their work. If you have anything to give, please do. Anyone fighting for the freedom of oppressed people and especially those fighting for the liberation of my African people is a friend of mines.