About 20 young people walk along Walnut Grove Saturday night, braving rain clouds and intense wind and carrying sleeping bags and pillows. They're heading to Crichton College on Highland where they'll spend the night outside in the parking lot.
Each night, thousands of rural children in Uganda make a similar journey, traveling to the cities to avoid being kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army. Founded by Joseph Kony and presented as a way to free Ugandans from their oppressive government, the militia routinely kidnaps young boys to fight as soldiers.
On April 29th, people in over 130 cities joined in the Global Night Commute. Participants walked several miles to raise awareness of the issue in hopes that the U.S. government will intervene in Africa.
"The kids have to walk from the homes every night to sleep in a place where there's more security," said Amanda Lewis, local organizer for Memphis' Global Night Commute event. "They range from 5 to 12 years old. [The militia likes] to get them when they're young because they're easier to brainwash."
Like many nationwide, Lewis first learned about the situation after seeing Invisible Children, a documentary that has been shown at local churches and punk shows.
Three college-aged filmmakers from Southern California stumbled upon the kidnapping situation while on a trip to Africa. When they brought the documentary back to the United States, they began screening it wherever they could. A national movement arose, and Invisible Children, Inc., created the Global Night Commute event.
"We're just trying to raise awareness and show the [American] government just how many people care what's going on over there," said Lewis. "No one's doing anything at all. We just want someone who knows what they're doing to sit down and have an organized peace talk."
Over 300 people signed up to join the Memphis demonstration, but most did not show due to stormy weather. Once at the school, participants wrote letters to senators and created art. The art will be displayed, along with projects from other participating cities, in a book on the "invisible children" later this year.