Hello Threadsence Readers!
Today I have brought you a young gentleman named Kenny Laubbacher. “Why would I want to hear about dear Kenny?” you may ask. Maybe it’s his previous history with VH1/MTV…? Or maybe it’s the fact that he works with bands like Mumford and Sons and Death Cab for a Cutie for the greater good of the world…? Or would it be because of his ability to make amazing films that have changed countless lives, as well as saved them?…Or perhaps it’s because he is a part of a non-profit organization called Invisible Children that works in efforts to rescue the “invisible children” in Uganda from an ongoing war that a lot of people don’t even really know about?
The point is… You want to read this interview because, basically, Mr. Laubbacher is amazing. Working for a non-profit organization while still being able to work with an art that he loves has to be a great accomplishment in life. In this interview he tells us what it is like working for Invisible Children, and also what it is that we can do to help. Keep reading!
JF-How did you first discover Invisible Children?
KB-A friend of mine in middle school and high school was a Party Pumper. This crazy human was hired by people when they needed someone with tons of energy, no external social insecurities and mad dance moves to get their party going. Years later this same guy traveled to Uganda and made a film. I had friends coming up to me saying “Man, have you seen Bobby’s movie…? It’s an absolute life changer!” I couldn’t believe that it was the same Bobby. I had just finished college, was working at VH1/MTV on some TV shows that were perpetuating a lot of things I had set out to change about our society and culture, and I finally got to see Bobby’s film, Invisible Children. It blew. my. mind. Bobby had discovered an unseen war and was set out to stop it.I quit my job that same week (with the blessing of my amazing co-workers at VH1/MTV), moved to Uganda with him 2 weeks later to continue filming and haven’t looked back since.
JF-What a bold way to start. Sounds like love at first sight! What kept you here at Invisible Children after finding it thanks to Bobby? Basically, why Invisible Children? What, to you, makes Invisible Children stand out as a charity from the rest?
KB-I never set out to work in the non-profit arena. I grew up punk rock and have always wanted to change the world, but wanted to be making movies. Invisible Children has such extremely high goals for empowering this generation to be one that puts others first, while at the same time redefining justice on a global level and ensuring that war criminals everywhere are shaking in their boots, knowing that the youth of the world won’t stand for their atrocities… regardless of borders. I love IC because these really intense goals (getting on Oprah’s show, passing laws and meeting with Obama, etc) are accomplished by dancing, singing and having a really good time!
JF- Wow. Sounds like IC has given you some great opportunities! So what exactly is your specific job title and what does it entail?
KB-I am the Director of Artist Relations at Invisible Children. Basically using the arts as a medium to raise awareness about this war. I’m really lucky because I pretty much get to make up my job. The dream, right?? Mostly we work with and tour with all sorts of different musicians, from Mumford and Sons to Fall Out Boy to Frightened Rabbit to All Time Low to Thrice to Circa Survive to Death Cab For Cutie and tons of artists in between.
JF- That sounds like a blast. We actually interviewed Brendan Ekstrom from Circa Survive a few months ago. He was such a gentleman. It’s awesome that you get to work with not only such talented artists, but just good people in general. What do you love most about your job? And what is the most difficult or most challenging aspect of your work?
KB: I absolutely love the people that I get to work with and the extremes of the job. I have family and best friends all throughout the world. I’m blessed to have such a wide spectrum of experiences that I don’t think most people get… from traveling throughout Uganda, sleeping in huts, hearing machine gun fire to living in tour buses, seeing arenas full of people or lobbying politicians in DC. The positives DEFINITELY outweigh the challenges… but to be perfectly honest… the most challenging part is that this kind of work becomes all-consuming of your life and there’s not a lot of time for much else. I have a lot of creative aspirations and lots of side art projects or even relationships sometimes take a backseat to the cause. Also, the highs are extremely high but the lows are extremely low. It really makes you appreciate community and relationships because those people around you are your hope for the future and the ones that pull you up when you’re down. Luckily Invisible Children is one of the greatest communities of people full of love, sacrifice, and talent that I have ever come across.
JF- Sounds like an inspiring group of people. I can imagine how hard it is having to decide what comes before what. I have to say though, I respect the dedication! Any words of advice for someone out there looking into working or just getting involved with Invisible Children or really any other non-profit charity that’s out there for the greater good?
KB-The advice that I could give is to just do it. If you want to get involved with IC put on a screening. We’ll come to you for free… call 619.562.2799 (now you don’t have any excuse!)…tell a friend.. do whatever you love to do and focus in on iit for a positive change. The world needs more doers and people who understand that “inspiration” isn’t just made up of poetry and dreams (although that’s a part of it) but it’s mostly about sweat and late nights of hard work.
JF- There is a lot going on with Invisible Children, from Schools for Schools to the Teacher Exchange. What has been your favorite project thus far that Invisible Children is involved in and why?
KB-Oh man.. that’s like choosing your favorite pug from that pug video. I’m fortunate enough to have seen all of our programs and meet people involved with all of them. Seeing such tangible life change and measuring it over the others is not possible.. ha. Currently, though, I’m in love with our LRA CRISIS TRACKERas it not only tracks the rebels’ movement, but delivers it to our iPhones so that we can see what’s happening in with the war when it happens. That is a HUGE feat.
JF- Geez. That’s intense. Puts a lot more significance into checking my phone for updates. We really liked the MEND project that IC has started up. Threadsence is always into fashion, and we love your MEND bags. Not only do these tote bags look awesome, but we love the story behind them. I think it’s great to be able to feel personally connected to the women in Uganda who are making the totes and adding their own personal touch to them. I understand that MEND has been going on for about a year now. How have customers/supporters/activists responded to the MEND movement?
KB-That’s so nice of you to say! And… Holy jeeze, YES. We’re currently racing to keep up with the demand. The model is so great and people really love that they can go to the website and see a video of the actual woman that made their actual bag that they’re holding. *Check it out here: www.mend.co
JF-I even heard that Bono stopped by and met some of the women who make the MEND totes…! How was that experience for the MEND women and Invisible Children?
KB-I hear it was amazing. He just popped in! I guess you can do that when you’re Bono. He even sang Amazing Grace to one of the seamstresses named Grace. That would’ve been amazing to see. *You can read about it here.
JF-What’s the next step for Invisible Children?
KB-KONY 2012. A campaign to make Kony’s name known throughout the world so that we can keep the pressure on the world’s leaders to actually capture him and turn him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC). That will be a world changing feat. There is so much momentum (Obama just sent 100 troops to Central Africa to advise on how to help capture him) and so we have to keep the pressure on. Don’t worry… it’ll all culminate in November when we throw the world’s largest dance marathon to celebrate. More on that soon. shhhhh.
JF- World’s largest dance marathon? I’m definitely getting in on that! (Everyone get ready for an awesome November)! For those who have just discovered Invisible Children and are eager to get involved…What can they do to help?
KB-That’s great… ! They should grab a film and watch it or book a screening at their school, church, college, parking lot, etc. Call 619.562.2799. They can also keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter @invisible. (The music lovers should also add this Facebook and Twitter @invisible_music). My twitter is @kennyjamez if anybody has any questions.
JF-Alright. With all of that new information, awesome links to check out, and inspirational people to follow on Facebook and Twitter, I will leave you at that so I can go jump on board and connect with Invisible Children. Again, thank you so much for your time!
KB- Thanks JADE!
Check out http://www.invisiblechildren.com/ for more information!