Wednesday, December 21, 2005

African bloggers find their voice | My reflections

As the end of the year 2005 rapidly approaches I want to write about something today that has been on my mind for months. It is an act of Thanksgiving, not exactly the kind of *Thanksgiving we celebrate as a holiday back in my home country the United States of America, but another kind of thanksgiving.

I was thinking overnight about my post from yesterday re: the BBC News article by Andrew Heavens titled “
African bloggers find their voice”. Andrew did a fair job of bringing attention via his article to African bloggers and international blog authors who write about Africa, but in reality it was just that, a fair job. It just skims the surface of an ocean like a seagull going after a small minnow, missing everything that is swimming down in the depths of the Africa Sector of the Blogosphere. Those waters are very deep (like an ocean), the currents (dynamics) are fast moving like a wild river, and the landscape is as breathtaking as that of the deep blue sea.

I personally cannot give enough praise to the skills, imagination, diversity, passion, information and entertainment value shown and shared by just the small fraction of Africa bloggers I have followed in 2005. As I told my friend Bill Ainashe some months ago at his
blog, I am humbled by these beautiful minds.

I think it may have been said best by The Zimbabwean Pundit in the August 15, 2005 post “
The State of the African Blogosphere”. Here is an excerpt from that great post from the very fine African blogger The Zimbabwean Pundit:

“The African blogosphere is a heterogeneous amalgam of blogs not only by Africans and people on the continent as much as it is comprised of blogs that write about the continent. There are many people around the world that write about Africa. This miracle of cyberspace—that it allows for cheap communication unfettered by geopolitical boundaries—has made it possible for the African odyssey to share center stage alongside the big issues in the west, thanks in part to Africa’s bloggers. The latest news from Africa is available to anyone in the world with access to the internet.

Like the continent itself, content from Africa’s bloggers is vast and varied; from personal to politics, sports to short stories, and poverty to development economics. This wealth of information in the African blogosphere is categorized in many different ways. Most blogs are grouped according to their country of concentration. Many times this is the blogger’s country of origin or residence, other times the writers are expatriates.

The hallmark of African bloggers is authenticity. African bloggers are retelling the African story from their authentic perspective with an avid passion for their countries and continent to boot. It is impossible to read the posts on any of the blogs in the African blogosphere and come away without a sense of the writer’s deep connection to the country and continent. “

Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online recently addressed misconceptions about Africa held by some journalists and other media professionals in his postings “And now, a rant from our listeners” and “Chris Tenove responds!”.

Therefore I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to not only the thousands of readers who have visited
Jewels in the Jungle this year, but I would also like to say a special Thank You to the hundreds and hundreds of excellent citizen journalists who write about Africa in the Blogosphere. You are the real Heroes of Africa 2005 in my mind. I have learned so much about the people, places, and natural wonders of Africa from your work online this year.

I have been especially entertained and informed by the work of some very special people listed below who write regularly about Africa and African affairs. Like Andrew Heaven’s article, my list just skims the surface of a vast ocean of interesting blog authors who have emerged to write about Africa today.

Congo Crew & Co. (Democratic Republic of Congo)
007 in Africa by J. Bond (Canada, D.R.C.)
Breaking Hearts in the Heart of Darkness by Sahara Sarah (U.S.A., D.R.C.)
Tangawazi and Mundele by Lulu on the Bridge (Argentina, D.R.C.)
The Salon of News and Thought by The Malau (D.R.C., U.S.A.)
Exiled Soul by Carine (D.R.C., U.K.) (new blog, original blog is offline)
Telegraphe Congolais by Louis Ableman (U.S.A.)

Ethiopundit by ethiopundit (Ethiopia, U.S.A.)
Meskel Square by Andrew Heavens (U.K., Ethiopia)

Kenyan Pundit by Ory Okolloh (Kenya, U.S.A.)
Mshairi (The Poet) by Mshairi (Kenya, U.K.)
Kenya Unlimited (Kenyan blog community)
African Bullets & Honey by MMK and Akinyi Arunga (Kenya, U.K.)

Chippla’s Weblog by Chippla Vandu (Nigeria, The Netherlands)
Grandiose Parlor by Imnakoya (Nigeria, U.S.A.)
Black Looks by Sokari Ekine (Nigeria, Spain)
Timbuktu Chronicles, Africa Unchained by Emeka Okafor (Nigeria, U.S.A.)

On Safari with El Jorgito by George Conrad (U.S.A., Rwanda, Uganda)

Somalia and Somaliland
Inside Somaliland by Yvette Lopez (Phillipines, Somaliland) by Bill Ainashe (Somalia, U.S.A.)

Sudan Watch by Ingrid Jones (England)

…My Hearts in Accra by Ethan Zuckerman (U.S.A.)
Black Star Journal by Brian (U.S.A.)
The Head Heeb by Jonathan Edelstein (U.S.A.)
Booker Rising by Shay (U.S.A.)

*An aside:
Owukori, my blogger buddy over at Black Looks, likes to tease Americans about how much we like to “EAT-EAT-EAT” during our traditional holiday festivities Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Well honey, let me tell you. My European friends here in Germany are no better. I made the mistake of roasting a fresh Tom Turkey with a side of candied sweet potatoes for a dinner party we threw for friends this past November and you should of seen ‘em. Not only did our guests rave about the turkey with stuffing and the baked candied sweet potatoes (recipes from my dear grandmothers and Mom), some guests attacked me afterwards as I was trying to discard the turkey carcass to the trash bin, snatching the poor bird out of my hands so that they could pick at the little bits of meat that was left hanging on the bones. Heathens. Worst than any behavior I’ve ever seen at a feast or banquet back home. Right out of the
Middle Ages these people. Professionals too, managers and lawyers!

Wishing a
Very Happy Holidays 2005 to all of my readers and friends. Worldwide.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

BBC NEWS | Africa | African bloggers find their voice

Congratulations to Africa's bloggers and to those of us who (attempt to) write about Africa in the Blogosphere. I just love it when the MSM (mainstream media) gives good blog authors credit where credit is due. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That is what it means to me...

Some of my favorite (favourite) blog authors are featured in this December 20th article by Andrew Heavens of BBC Focus Magazine including the formidable ethiopundit and Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online and ...My Heart's in Accra. And when did they dressup the design of the BlogAfrica site? Their new design looks real slick, much better than the original layout.
Does BlogAfrica accept ATOM feeds for blog post updates yet, Ethan?

The world's leading politicians, business leaders, and professional media companies are starting to listen up to the Blogosphere, and I would advise that they listen up good because "the little people" around the world are talking tough and from the heart.
Millions of 'em. Voters and consumers. Oh my!

Are you listening Sir? Are you listening Ma'am? Great. Fantastic!


Thursday, December 01, 2005

World AIDS Day 2005: Focus on Zambia and southern Africa

The 18th Annual World AIDS Day activities to raise awareness and action in the fight against HIV/AIDS around the world are in full swing today. According to the latest news and statistics on this global war against a devastating disease there is very little to be happy about. We are losing this war and we are losing badly. The theme of World AIDS Day 2005 is “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” and when I think about how many “promises” the world community has not kept or broken over the past few years alone one could just throw in the towel and raise the white flag on stopping AIDS in poorer countries.

I was a bit more upbeat when I posted on the World AIDS Day 2004 because I naively thought that we were making some progress last year in the fight against AIDS. The only significant progress this year outside of some medical advances and "promises of financial aid" is that the disease is steadily progressing on the African and Asian continents. China, India, and Russia are bracing for an explosion in new HIV/AIDS infections and deaths in 2006. Here are some sobering numbers for the year 2005 from Reuters AlertNet on HIV/AIDS in Africa and Asia.

CNNI (CNN International) aired a special yesterday by veteran award-winning documentary filmmaker Sorious Samura titled “Living with AIDS”. This powerful video documentary will be airing worldwide on CNN Presents again today and through the weekend to Sunday, December 4th. Check your local TV listings to see when it airs in your neighborhood or visit the CNN Presents website. If you are interested in learning more about the AIDS epidemic in southern Africa don’t miss this important documentary. People in the U.K. may remember the June 27, 2005 airing of Living with AIDS on Channel 4 or may have read the review in the Guardian Observer on June 19th.

I must say that I am a very big fan of Sorious Samura and the Insight News TV production team and try to watch every documentary they produce ever since seeing Samura’s Cry Freetown years ago. Living with AIDS is the third in a special series preceded by Living with Hunger and Living with Refugees. The video was shot in Zambia and in his characteristic style Sorious Samura immerses himself and the audience into the story as he works as an orderly in a rural Zambian hospital treating gravely ill AIDS and tuberculosis patients.

Owukori of the Black Looks blog 1st broke this story in the Blogosphere back in June 2005 but was unable to view the U.K. premiere so I hope that she can view it out down in Spain this weekend. Owukori writes about many of the issues on sexuality and sexual abuse in Africa that Samura raises in this documentary so check her blog for in-depth viewpoints.

As with some of the earlier works by the Sierra Leone native Sorious Samura I came away from Living with AIDS so deeply upset, furious, angry, and frustrated that I could have leaped right through the screen of my TV set to grab the perpetrators of violence and other unspeakable crimes against innocent people by the neck and choke the living crap out of them. I always come away better informed about the issues confronting the people characterized in Samura’s excellent documentaries about Africa, that is, after I cool down.

Case in Point:

In Living with AIDS there are interviews with some young (and some older) Zambian men who are either HIV+ and/or suffering from AIDS and tuberculosis. One scene in particular that burns into my memory is of a young boy (calling him a young man would be an insult to any real men) who brags about his being infected with AIDS and yet he refuses to practice safe sex by wearing a condom. There are other scenes where young and middle-aged men boast of their (perceived) sexual prowess by having multiple sexual partners (mostly young girls) and complain vehemently to Sorious Samura that they like to have “The Real Thing” and “Flesh-to-Flesh” when they are having sex and therefore don't use (free) condoms. Who do these guys think they are? Coca-Cola? This is not only irresponsible and dangerous sexual behavior it is murder. And don’t come to me with that age-old African traditions and cultural taboos BS because I don’t buy it. People are dying like flies from AIDS down in Africa and in the face of certain death you will drop all taboos to stay alive.

To make matters worse there was yet another interview with very young sex workers (prostitutes) who shyly admitted to the filmmaker that they sometimes have unprotected sex with their customers because they earn more (about 50 cents more). These young girls were aware of the dangers of unprotected sex in rural Zambia, had access to free condoms and counseling, and had lost friends and family members to AIDS and related diseases. Yet they were willing to put their lives and their customer's lives on the line for a few extra coins. That is not a result of the pressures of severe poverty, that is just plain stupidity!

The last straw for me came toward the end when a “traveling blind preacher” was giving one of his open-air fire-and-brimstone sermons to a group of orphans (all children, about 100 of them) that had been placed under his watchful care and guidance. As the reverend was preaching to these poor, uneducated, helpless little children about the Bible and Jesus (that part was O.K.) through his Zambian sidekick (a translator, the preacher didn’t speak the local language) he decided he would cover the subject of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and sex with a phrase that went something like this:

“I don’t believe in condoms, I believe in Jesus, and that is all you need.”

This is the point when I lost all control and went ballistic, (feeling like) pulling out my .45 caliber Smith & Wesson and filling that hoodlum priest (the preacher) and his baboon friend full of lead, hoping that I wouldn’t hit any of those poor kids in the process. God forgive me.

Just about everybody I describe above appearing in this riveting documentary needs to be locked up by the Zambian police ASAP and then throw away the key. Then they should find the orphans a new home Pronto. No more blind preachers giving out sex education and HIV/AIDS counseling to minors in Zambia or anywhere else in southern Africa. And somebody needs to talk about AIDS in Africa with the new German Pope Benedict too, bring him up to speed on reality.

So for a more in-depth and cool-headed review of Sorious Samura’s new documentary on the AIDS epidemic in Zambia, please follow the links below:

CNN Presents: Living with AIDS
November 30th – December 4th, 2005

Insight News TV: Living with AIDS

Guardian Observer (U.K.): Africa’s fatal sexual culture spreads AIDS

Moving right along:

I’ll write more about World AIDS Day 2005 tomorrow. I need to calm down right now after reflecting on some of the scenes in the documentary “Living with AIDS”.