To Stop A Warlord Author Shannon Sedgwick Davis Taught Kristen Bell To Use Her Celeb Status For Good
The desire to create significant change in the world can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. Take it from lawyer and human rights activist Shannon Sedgwick Davis. She’s a Texas native, mom, and lawyer, who, nearly 10 years ago, set out on a mission to stop violent rebel leader Joseph Kony, who commanded a child army in Central Africa, on her own. Along the way, she had actress Kristen Bell, someone who was greatly impacted by her story, as a friend and emotional support system. One may assume that Bell’s involvement in Sedgwick Davis’ journey would make Hollywood feel, well, pretty insignificant. But surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. At the official launch of Sedgwick Davis’ moving memoir To Stop a Warlord, Bell explained how this experience helped her find purpose and recognize the baby steps it takes to ultimately make actual change in the world.
The first step? Bell was actually the one who encouraged Sedgwick Davis to put her story into book form.
“A woman from Texas who decided to take on the longest-running war in Africa by herself,” she recalls to Refinery29. “As a storyteller, I said, ‘You’ve got to share this. This is not a story you can keep to yourself.’”
You can live a fun, wonderful, good life and also see suffering and be there for people and create positive change and be active in your community. It is not one or the other.
In 2010, Sedgwick Davis set out to stop warlord Kony after he’d terrorized numerous countries across Africa, killing over a hundred thousand people, displacing millions, and abducting thousands of kids for war. Sedgwick Davis inserted herself into warzones by meeting with local heroes and helping create an alliance between the US government, UN, NGOs, and non-profits to stop the war.
It was a setting quite the opposite of glamorous Hollywood. When I ask Bell if being involved made show business culture seem smaller in the big picture, she replies in the negative. "It makes me reminded I’m on the right path,” she says. As Bell sees it, one doesn’t have to suffer to help those suffering. “I would not have the opportunity to [bring attention to it] if I didn’t keep up the fun parts of my job. They’re not binary,” she explains. “You can live a fun, wonderful, good life and also see suffering and be there for people and create positive change and be active in your community. It is not one or the other.”
While Bell says one of her life’s “greatest joys” is having such huge reach (Bell has 10 million Instagram followers alone), she also realized having impact can take many forms. “I thought this would be a genuinely inspiring roadmap for people who don’t think they could do anything to do something extraordinary,” she explains. “Humans only learn by example. It’s why you have catharsis when you’re watching a play or listening to a song. You experience something.”
So, when Sedgwick Davis was out there making it happen, Bell was there for her throughout her failures and suffering. “I can help her help the world,” she says. “It made me realize, I don’t need to be on the frontlines of this conflict. I can be an emotional support beam for my friend and that means I’m an important part of this mission.”
But let's not forget the incredible woman who was out there, doing the work on the ground. Sedgwick Davis, while acknowledging Bell’s constant support, says she's also been incredibly changed by the experience she chronicles in To Stop A Warlord. “I’m a better person, a better mom, a better human being,” the author says. “I’ve lost these rose-colored glasses I was born and raised with. It sucks and it doesn’t suck. Now I’m actually living life at a deeper level that’s more real.”
And while having the support of someone like Bell is certainly a help, Sedgwick Davis has advice for anyone (with or without celeb pals) to create real change: “Pay attention to when your heart flutters for a cause,” she says. And remember, it takes time. “I didn’t go from zero to army. Listen, learn. There are a lot of steps in between.”