Friday, November 10, 2006
Hollywood and Africa (and why you should care)
Raise your hand if you know where Timbuktu is. Quick, point to Guinea on a map -- even a map that has the names of the countries on it. Uganda -- go give it a try. Chad is in the news a lot, right? Can you point directly to it?

If there is a "Society for the Ameri-Centric and Woefully Ignorant in World Geography," I'm naming myself Chief Operating Officer. I'm pathetic -- and I learned in editorial discussions and interviews that I am not alone.

Generally, when we think of Africa, it’s in our consciousness as sort of one giant generic place -- as though it’s one country instead of a diverse continent with dozens of nations, ethnicities and interests. Thinking of it as a giant generic place makes it easier to ignore, too. So, when George Clooney told CNN, "When you come back [from parts of the continent] you have a determination not to let that go away without talking about it," I kind of understood what he meant. And I hadn't even been there myself. (Watch Clooney’s video from his trip.)

The seen-it-all journalist in me -- who immediately casts a cynical eye every time I watch stars discuss how much they "care" about Africa, as they get on their private planes with big sunglasses, dusty but well-tailored fatigues, and nannies close behind -- is suddenly giving their motives much more credit. The beautiful people are beginning to dabble in Africa – its many parts and issues -- and they're finding themselves ashamed of their personal cultural illiteracy.

They also want to share what they've learned. In an interview, "Catch a Fire's" Tim Robbins told me, "You tell people they're going to see a lesson, they go, 'Oh no, I don't want to go to a lesson. I don't want to go to a classroom. Please don't make me go to a classroom.' "

You know what? Turns out I do want to go to a classroom. Maybe it took Madonna, Leo, Brad, or George galloping all across the world to make me actually seriously look at an almanac, which tells me (just for starters) that Africa is the second-biggest continent by area -– and by population.

Not sure why that should be news to me.
People give celebrities so much credit for traveling around to other countries, trying to help, as well as adopting children in need. Well if I had two million dollars I would do the same. But what normal, everyday person can just hop on a private plane to Africa, bring their kids oh and don't forget the nanny, to try to save the world? If only we were paid millions of dollars to be teachers or law enforcement. The jobs that really matter...
I would like to see celebrities spend more time and money helping people in thi coountry where they made all their money!
My husband and I are far from wealthy--we are a librarian and a carpenter--but we "managed" to adopt a little boy from Ethiopia last year, and we are now the luckiest parents in the world. You don't have to be wealthy or own a private plane to do good things in the world, if doing those things are high enough on your priority list.
Interest in geography, statistics, history about a nation or country is only as interesting as your own interest. Whether or not some Hollywood Star has been there or not shouldn't matter. You should be learning about something for you own bennifit otherwise, it is a tedious task you will ignore as soon as it was learned. Besides, I don't care a whit what Madonna, Brad, or George do.
I've actualy found some interesting short-term volunteer opportunities on the internet that could be great for those of us who would like to help but who don't have the time/financial resources for long term projects.

A few that you might want to check out are as follows:

These are just a few resources among many others that might be of interest.
Its sad really. The ignorance of most people is astounding.
I am a working standup comic who was the same as every cynic who hears about people going to Africa. Until I went to Djibouti to perform for the troops. I visited a boys orphange and could not believe what I saw. It showed me that whatever a person's lifestyle, it doesn't take seeing much of what these people in Africa have to go through everyday to want to educate people hear in America.
Sorry, it still looks and feels like neo-Colonalism. The fact is that much of the history of poverty and destablization on the African continent is the result of Western hegemony. One wonders if a group of African American artists and entertainers were the driving force behind this latest paternalistic call to save Africa, would the national and international media even notice. I dare say the answer is, no.
To the person who posted "that here in the USA is where rich celebreties make all there money"-that is true. However much of our, Americans, prosperity and lifestyle can be attributed to the cheap labor and destitute lifestyle of third world countries, many of which are in Africa.
The Diamonds are from Africa but the Africans don't have control of the trade.
There are plenty of children in poverty who are orphans, starving and without a home in THIS country that can certainly benefit from being taken away from an horrific life. Why are they being ignored?
I struggle on a weekly basis to remember the hardships the less unfortunate go through. I help out, but not near to the extent as I should. Its nice to have reminders of what's going on in Africa no matter who/where theycome from. I would hope celebrities like Angelina do this in a selfless manner and not just for public relations, but either way its a good thing. There are plenty of people out there with lots of money that don't help out so lets support the ones that do.
Well if you want to learn more about Africa and the World, check out
the National Geographic Society is celebrating Geography Awareness Week next week, from Nov. 13 - 17 with events all over the country, and advanced screenings of the film GOD GREW TIRED OF US, about the journey of 3 "lost boys" from the Sudan to the US. Teachers in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC can get invitations to the free event at
What does it matter who anyone helps or where they do it as long as something--even if it's small--is being done?
What the 54 nation continent of Africa needs to end all the economic woe is capitalism - pure capitalism. The Capitalist construct respects individual rights, the rule of law, and contract law. All of this limits the power of the monster that has kept Africa impoverished: tyrannical dictatorship. Not imperialism (oh, that old chestnut)nor Neo-Colonialism (Marxist ideas, commonly repeated, even more commonly wrong). Governments, quasi-governments, supra-national agencies and charities have - and continue - to pump billions upon billions into various African countries for various causes,yet Africa remains in a chronic crisis. All because dictators squander aid dollars on silly self-aggrandizing projects or use them to fund their lavish lifestyle. Dictators seize profitable businesses and productive farmland and give it to their preferred clients. Dictators decide which groups of people can live where and drive the rest off into a wasteland. Capitalism is the antidote to tryanny. Only capitalism truly respects individual ownership. Bono can hock red T-shirts on the Oprah show all day long and it won't end anyone's misery. Only capitalism can do that.
Mark, I think capitalism had a lot to do with what has gotten the "54 nations" in this crisis to begin with. The African continent is evidence of the "externalities" of Western business going about their loss-shifting capitalist ways.
No matter who they are or where they got their money, it is good to see people doing good. Two cheers for celebs bringing attention and good deeds to Africa. I'm glad to see CNN picking up on the trend and encouraging me to use a very dusty globe.

As for the need to bring capitalism to Africa, we should be cautious -- probably the last thing Africa needs is a more of a market driven health care system, for instance.
Im deeply troubled by the manner in which hollywood continues to destroy the institution of family. If it were up to Clooney and Madonna, america would just be one huge melting pot of white gay couples with little african children ,leaving little room for those of us who still choose to have a family based on traditional christian values.
I beleive celeberties like George Clooney and Madonna serve as great ambassadores to Africa and its beautiful children. Where can I learn more about adopting in Africa?
Ok, fine - Hollywood can do as much adopting as they want. Peace Corp. can send as many volunteers over there too. It's a great love-in - peace, love and understanding all around. I am not arguing the benefits Hollyweed might offer the Dark Continent.
I am talking about a permanent fix. Capitalism. Imagine free markets. It isn't hard to do. No duties, quotas or tarriffs. If it wasn't for US or EU trade restrictions in its various forms, African farmers could compete in those markets.
I don't know what "loss-shifting" is exactly - it probably means the World Bank or IMF dumping billions of dollars in loans and forcing under-developed countries to hire big shot Harvard or MIT economists. That is a loser policy for sure. However, that is a function of impotent world organizations not an indictment of capitalism.
You know it really is not about money. I went to Nigeria with my church on a mission and it made a difference in my life. I wanted to go and see what I have been missing and was indeed a treat. No, I don't have money I too work hard for a living, but I give through donations to Africa Aids Watch and we send boxes every 3 months through the church and our group is called "Still On A Mission". These we experiences that I will continue and hope that God will bless us to provide more, because more is diffinitely needed. West Africa as well as South Africa.
Some posters have wondered where to find more information. Rachel Wells, who wrote the original entry, responds: "One agency, Americans for African Adoptions, has been doing great work and is a great resource. The Web site is ."
Really, who cares. Everytime i turn on the television and the radio and in the paper all they are talking about are Britney, Pamela & kid Rock, TomKat, Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie. I think that some celebrities get married for the attention. Why don't we focus on homelessness, poverty, violence?
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