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African men would like you to stop pitying them

African men would like you to stop pitying them


I love this video. Hosted by Mama Hope as part of their “Stop the Pity” campaign, it features four guys from Kenya — Gabriel, Benard, Brian and Derrik — who are sick and tired of the way Africans are portrayed in movies, in the media — and even in social campaigns.

According to

“The Kenyan men in this video told us they wanted to make one that pokes fun at the way African men are portrayed in Hollywood films and the media. They said, “‘f people believed only what they saw in movies, they would think we are all warlords who love violence.’ They, like Mama Hope, are tired of the over-sensationalized, one-dimensional depictions of African men and the white savior messaging that permeates our media. They wanted to tell their own stories instead, so we handed them the mic and they made this video.

Here is Mama Hope’s manifesto (or “mamafesto”?)

Mama Hope challenges the conventional approach to development.  Our model, the Connected Development Model, is a consultative, bottom-up approach composed of three key phases: Listen, Connect and Enable.

Projects are identified by the community. Our partners are already well aware of what they need, so the first thing we do is listen. Together with the community we develop a project proposal that allows them to implement a custom solution for their individual needs.

We use all available tools to raise the funds needed to complete specific projects. Project sponsors range from foundations and corporations to individuals. We also leverage technology, social media and basic human connection to build momentum around each project.

Projects involve 100% use of locally supplied materials and labor. Our keep-it-local approach creates jobs and stimulates local economies while reducing environmental impact. Local designs and materials make operation, maintenance, and repair possible without outside assistance. The result is a sincere sense of community dedication that is essential for lasting success and true sustainability.

We recognize that each community has distinctive needs and requires a unique solution. Connected Development means striking a dynamic balance between support, sustainability and self-sufficiency.

It’s quite refreshing, after all the controversy of Kony 2012, to hear Africans telling their own stories.

It also reminds me of what the Burundi Film Center, the not-for-profit media training initiative my colleague Christopher helped start, is trying to do.

Thanks to Audra for sharing.

UPDATE: In the comments below, a blogger from “Africa is a Country” has a very different take on the video.

The whole post is worth reading, but here’s the meat (to me):

“People might want to see this video as a counterpoint to Kony2012, and it’s of course nothing like as egregious, but I’m not sure exactly how far we can move away from the Invisible Children with a video by Joe Sabia (who directs the Mama Hope stuff). Sabia is another Silicone Valley, TED-talking master of viral narrative, which seems to boil down to not much more than a heavily concentrated dose of American sentimentality, however that sentiment is directed. Mama Hope is another white-staffed NGO run out of California. They are doing something very different by attempting to engage very broad cultural currents (as opposed to, say, organising the world’s most self-congratulatory wild-goose chase in Central African Republic), but that’s not without its problems.”

Which is an important point — western hands are all over this effort, too.

I do still like the video, though. It seems too awkward, to me, to be contrived. It really seems like an authentic effort by these four guys to tell their story. But I could be wrong. I just blogged it because it hit me just the right way.

Mama Hope

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more