Challenging the Stereotypes…

In 2012, ‘Mama Hope’ launched “African Men. Hollywood Stereotypes” aiming to start a movement that would shift the perception about Africa.  They were tired of seeing the stereotypes: helpless children with distended bellies and flies in their eyes or bloodthirsty warlords toting AK-47s.

These stereotypes hurt. They hurt the African people whose lives were misrepresented and vastly different cultures oversimplified. They hurt the organizations who used these stereotypes in commercials and campaigns to raise money, then invested those funds into projects that failed because they didn’t listen to the communities they were trying to help. They hurt the westerners who consumed this content, and believed that Africans were simultaneously too poor and sick to help themselves and too violent and destructive to help each other.

Those who work in development see how diverse, complex and capable the communities they partner with truly are. They know women, men and children who have grown stronger despite immense challenges and emerged from the other side with increased dedication to changing the world around them – and they make up just a tiny portion of the entire continent.

Now, people from all over the world, especially Africa, are on social media. There are more voices adding their thoughts and opinions to the online conversation about development and poverty – and these voices are increasingly those of the “poor” themselves. It is easier than ever to communicate across geographical distance, culture or income level. The audience is more diverse than ever, and the voices who demand fairer and more accurate representation are only getting louder.

The video shines a light on the stereotypes that dominate the media, and lets the personalities take the stage. It doesn’t matter where you are from – everyone can identify with these young men. No matter your culture, language or religion, you can see in them a brother, son, nephew or student. The fact that this video has once more gone viral 3 years after it’s creation is telling – people are hungry for this change. They no longer want to be fed negative stereotypes. They want to be shown how we are the same. How we all laugh, love and play jokes. How we are all connected, and the good in ourselves is reflected in one other.

Mama Hope’s goal is to strengthen connection through their Stop the Pity campaign. They strive to build connection and truth between the people at home with people across Africa and around the world.

We know that extreme poverty is very real, and Mama Hope and many other organisations work with their partners to address the most pressing needs every day — but the conversation should not end there. This work is not a one-way street in which aid is funneled to the poor. It’s a conversation between equals who know that we are, and always will be, better together.

{With credit to Huffington Post and Mama Hope – piece adapted from original publication:}

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