Rewriting the African stereotype

Flies on eyes. Starving children. Gun-toting children. Bare-breasted women. *insert white dominated charity riding in on horseback*

The stereotype of African societies, that is reinforced through mainstream media AND by NGOs and charities, is disheartening. I often wonder why charities and NGOs don’t use actual Africans…ones that aren’t starving or suffering..in their campaigns. From the planning stages to the execution. Let Africans determine how they can advance themselves maybe? Just a thought.

These videos communicate everything I mean to say. Please consider them.

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg -: ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ C. Adichie(TED Talks)
2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSElmEmEjb4 – ‘African Men. Hollywood Stereotypes’ (Mama Hope)
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbqA6o8_WC0 –  ‘Let’s Save Africa – Gone Wrong’ – SAIH Norway
4.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymcflrj_rRc – ‘Who Wants to be a Volunteer’ – SAIH Norway (my personal favourite!)

Responsibility

In an earlier post I (Ethical Ethics) I spoke about campaigners ensuring some level of social responsibility when executing their campaign tactics. I stumbled across this poster from Erica Garner today. Note the message to supporters – “No protesting to or on the ferry…”. I think this was a wise inclusion. It distances organizers,somewhat, from any unauthorized (illegal) protesting by supporters.

Social movement campaigners are sometimes negatively stereotyped as ‘troublemakers’; so that when event organizers make the effort to exercise discipline at their events it lends to some form of civic responsibility. Emotionally charged protesters, such as these, are the likely to lash out and cause a disturbance to the wider community if they feel violated in any way by the authorities; more so the police. Some may argue that non-violent direct action (NVDA) is necessary at times, yet, the message may be lost as reporters may choose to focus on what (negative things) you do as opposed to your message. You message then become distorted, maybe even lost. While the organizes of an event ultimately have no control over the behaviour of their supporters. They can however encourage and advise.

I think that social movements have a part to play in not only undertaking social change, they should as Gandhi says “be the change you wish see”.  Social movements should cause an upset yes, but I don’t think it is (always) necessary to be a disrespectful to the members of society.

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Cake Soap Culture

When I saw this http://bit.ly/1j0PyAN my mind immediately went to this http://bit.ly/1pswh0n. The cosmetics industry does far more than poison the bodies of their users, they poison their minds. The manufacturers of bleaching cream have found a ready and willing market, that’s psychologically dependent on their product. The people who use bleaching cream to be “brown” (a lighter complexion) may not yet have a physical problem, they need metal re-engineering. A problem such as this needs multiple targets. Legislation, individuals, companies, etc.

As a campaigner, I would not focus on the manufacturers nor would I lobby against these products. I would direct a campaign towards changing the behaviours of bleaching cream users. This insecurity and even hatred for their skin colour comes down from slavery and it’s time that changes.

My personal experience in Jamaica has led me to believe that the effects of slavery has influenced some Jamaicans to think that a darker pigment of skin symbolizes something bad. Something lesser than. Something to be ashamed of. As such, any campaign addressing skin bleaching would need to  address that mindset. As a campaigner, I would be keen to address it on a behaviour change level as opposed to targeting companies which ship in these poisons. Of course, the market would be segmented into demographics (females, makes, age, etc)

Some tactics of that campaign would include initiating an online (Twitter, FB) campaign where women, including Jamaican celebrities, are encouraged to post  ‘selfies’ of their natural skin (with a pre planned hashtag). The aim of this would be to get positively reinforce the idea that beauty is universal and not limited to any one skin tone. Another would be to have billboards (as these are commonplace in JA) with a message about ‘loving the skin you’re in’. Maybe the campaign could have a YouTube channel with interviews from real people (none actors) explaining why they don’t bleach. Some may disagree but I think that YouTube is a fantastic space to open up discussion in a public space (insert knowledge about Habermas & ‘The Public Sphere’ here lol). I’d approach some skincare companies as well to back the campaign, sharing tips about healthy ways to care for your skin without distorting your natural skin tone. Just a few ideas 🙂

I think that policy change is needed to out restrictions on the import and manufacture of these products. However, it would be great to see the society reject them on their own. Thankfully, in Antigua & Barbuda, doctors are lobbying for these products to be banned. Thankfully! http://bit.ly/1zfe4rx

Tweeting with purpose – no vikey vai

Twitter Inc. (London office ) hosted a fantastic session for charities and/or NGOs, sharing best practices for the platform. The jam-packed 1-hour session was bursting with useful information and examples of successful social media (Twitter) campaigns run by NGOs and charities. Besides their fancy smancy coffee machines, the wall of hashtags and the adorably branded Twitter mugs, this session proved quite helpful.

  1. Know the statistics – 96% Twitter users have donated to charities through the platform. 84% re tweet charity’s tweets. 68% visit the charity’s website, accessing it via Twitter.
  2. Plan – It is essential for NGOs to adequately plan whatever campaign they plan to launch in on the platform.
  3. Relevance – Plan content around specific moments which will be trending on the platform. E.g. World Cup, Ms. Universe, X-Factor, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. This will maximise the reach of your tweets. Many occasions are fixed and so planning ahead of time is key.
  4. Take advantage of unplanned, current events – It is completely fine to ride the wave of breaking news/ hot topics to push your message. It forced you to be creative but still be relevant. Don’t let trends pass you by.
  5. Use humour– funny tweets get more hits & re tweets
  6. Use the hashtag to promote your call to action or cause  – #ICantBreathe  #Ferguson #SayNoToDrugs #MillionsMarchNYC
  7. Advertise your @ & your # – promote your Twitter handle and the hashtag you are using for a particular campaign, ahead of time and on a variety of mediums. Include your NGOs handle in the company’s email address and on any business cards you may have.
  8. Pay attention to your account’s statistics – this will give you an idea of who you should follow, when are the most effective times to send tweets. Using the Tweetdeck app assists with this. Pay attention to the demographic of your followers and what they are interested in. This helps you to tailor your tweets accordingly.
  9. Many different ways to communicate beyond 140 characters – share links to your NGOs Vine, YouTube, website.
  10. Ensure that information shared is mobile friendly – The majority of Twitter users access it from their mobile phones so it’s wise to have forms, etc in mobile friendly formats.
  11. Follow back! – Ensure to follow charities, NGOs and other organizations with similar interests; locally, regionally and internationally.

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…with liberty and justice for some

Definitely not for these…

Eric Garner

Mike Brown

Trayvon Martin

Tamir Rice 

Meanwhile….

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Kanye West said it – “Racism’s still alive, they just been concealin’ it” – and I couldn’t have though of a more appropriate quote. Only now, they don’t seem to be concealing it much. They’re shooting us down in the streets like wild animals.

I don’t even know what to write because these deaths (4 of a SLEW of unwarranted murders of black men & boys in the US) rocked me to my core. It upsets me. This deep-rooted racial divide in the US needs much more than a protest. Mind you, I fully endorse any protest action which comes from these murders, I also think that because the racist culture is so firmly set, there needs to be an assortment of interventions. Education campaigns, racial tolerance campaigns, policy reform, training of police officers, etc.

African-Americans are frustrated. To apply Tyler and Smith’s theory (1998) there is no procedural justice for the black community. Nor is there distributive justice for them. The feeling that the system does not work in their favour. No fairness. So they protest. That’s the most many of the can do.

I’m particularly proud of the efforts in NYC on Saturday. The Millions March was a well-organized protest event, which garnered support of millions of Americans. Their social media activities helped to spread their perspective of the march and allowed them to counter any contrary media reports. I wish more campaigners would do this. Properly plan. Having a solid media team is so critical to social movements, especially those that are planning large street protests.

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10348440_10203991292235001_8316675625877627249_n Cross-section of crowd at Millions March in NYC

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Protester.

Ethical ethics

While most, if not all professions have codes of behaviour governing their practices, campaigning organizations do not. The argument raised by a few, suggests that campaigning often times goes against the grain of society. Social movements do not want to be bogged down my rules and guidelines. While I agree to some extent, I do think that social movements should be guided by a set of codes, aimed at keeping the art form professional and organized.

Tench & Yeomans (2013) and Baker and Martison (2012) outlined 5 main principles which I think campaigners can consider when taking up a cause.These concepts, once taken holistically, should guide campaigners towards ethically sound campaigns.

  1. Truthfulness
  2. Authenticity & Integrity
  3. Respect
  4. Social responsibility

Any social movement interested in positive social change should always aim to be truthful in their dealings with all stakeholders. Honesty to the target group, financiers, volunteers, etc. lends to the credibility to the organization. This is especially essential when dealing with donations, given to the social movement. Campaigners should also fully appraise their volunteers and staff who may put their health at risk, participating in campaigns. At the recent Anonymous march in London, I was given a card with guidelines of what I should do should I be arrested during the protest. By doing this, the movement not only informed the participants, it let us know that there was a chance that we could actually be arrested because of our participation.

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Further, authenticity refers to campaigners personal allegiance to the advocated is important. This too lends credibility to the campaign and in the public’s eyes, the organization has some form of legitimacy. This may be most evident among health based and environmental campaigners. Friends of the Earth is a good example of this. Their office seems to be such an environmentally friendly space.

While doing this research, I came across some campaign communication messages which left a sour taste in my mouth. I always find it appalling when victim of social injustices are framed to be responsible for their predicament and are disrespected by campaigners. This particular poster from the NHS conveys the message that the rape victim is responsible for her predicament. Completely disrespectful.

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Social responsibility refers to the effects the campaign has on the wider society. While some social movements may not be interested in this, as their aim is to break societal norms, the I do think that a vast number of NGOs want to work within the system. The effects of a campaign after it is completed should be considered during the campaign planning stages. But how do organizers control what demonstrators do? Half they time they really can’t. What I suggest is that campaigners publicize some guidelines to protesters what they should or should not do. Following the recent Millions March in NYC, the organizers re- tweeted “Protest is over. Permits are over. Anything happening now is illegal and not (a part) of #MillionsMarchNYC”. I though this was a nice way of distancing themselves from any irresponsible behaviour which may have started. Also, before the march, the organizers clearly outlined their expectations via their Facebook & Twitter accounts.

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