The Concoction

An Ethiopian woman's musings on Africa, the world and everything in between

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        Wednesday, April 25, 2007
        We are the world II coming to Africa and the USA
        Back in 1985, Quincy Jones conducted and produced We are the World to raise funds for Ethiopian famine victims. Tonight's American Idol fund raiser for the poor in Africa and the US can easily be part two of that song.

        I'm glad that American Idol has focused on both Africa and the US. I'm also glad that the program didn't gloss over poverty in the US and just pretended that it is the problem of Katrina victims.

        I still get fascinated by how people here in the US are so conditioned to seeing poverty in Africa on telie, and how the fact that the fund raiser is also for poor kids in the US completely escape them. I wonder how people (in the US) would perceive the dignified images that the program portraid - despite tears, sick people dying on their bed and crowded health centers, there were also images of kids in neat uniforms singing and smiling, a woman with HIV infection laughing...

        During the day, my neighbour, inspired by the clips she saw of tonight's program, was encouraging me to adopt a child from Africa because she was "sick to her stomach of seeing the poor African kids on television". I asked her what she thought of poor kids in the US, and I don't even remember what she answered me. In any case, I suggested that she should also adopt a child from down town (considering that she is terrified of flying and it will be only a half hour drive to zip down to the most impoverished part of our city.)

        Even my dentist was lecturing me about poverty in Africa. It was difficult to lecture her back about poverty in the US - which I believe is totally unexplainable - because she had stretched my mouth in all directions and stuck those nasty poking/sucking/splashing/air puffing tools in my mouth. I still managed to sneak in the info about 1 in 3 kids in the US go hungry in between the poking and the splashing. Look at the variety of food that even pets have in grocery stores, and 1 in 3 kids go hungry??? In comparison to poor African kids, poor American kids have a lot more. But compare them to kids in other affluent countries, and the picture becomes grimmer.

        I truly wonder if this is an ego problem or Americans are conditioned to associate poor kids on television with only Africans. I wonder how many people realize that Katrina merely exposed the fine line between mere survival and extereme poverty in the US. It's getting frustrating to be asked "how come Africa is still poor after 'We are the word'?" Well, in a similar twisted way that more and more people in the US are getting poorer.

        Idol Gives Back

        This season, I was getting very frustrated with American idol because it's the fifth season, the excitment (even for my kids) is wearing off and there was Sanjaya or whoever was behind him spoiling it. The "Idol gives back" idea - especially the Elvis Presely-Celine Dion duet (which was so cleaverly done that it was almost spooky) was a nice & meaningful change.

        Waiting for the world to change for the better is proving to be slightly silly. So, if several lives can be saved with a mosquito nets for less than $10, go for it. If you can send 80 kids to school with the school-in-a-box for $183, just do it. I don't think it really matters who's poor where. Quincy Jones' 1985 advise (to the participating artists of We are the world) still holds true to all of us - "check your egos at the door".

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