Update: The “I am African” campaign was first launched in 2006.
AOL Black Voices is taking a critical look at the AIDS nonprofit Keep a Child Alive‘s ad campaign featuring Hollywood stars in what is meant to be traditional tribal face paint. Each celeb’s image is accompanied by the text, “I am African.”
In addition to African-Americans stars (Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Tyson Beckford and Iman), the featured Hollywood heavyweights include white actors like Richard Gere, Sarah Jessica Parker, Liv Tyler and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Wait, you are what?
The website explains: “Each and every one of us contains DNA that can be traced back to our African ancestors.” OK, got it. It goes on to say, “These amazing people traveled far and wide. Now they need our help. Most Africans cannot afford the lifesaving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) that have transformed AIDS in the West to a treatable and manageable disease … “
The angle that the organization has chosen to bring attention to this important issue is nothing short of bizarre. The strongest critics will likely call it disrespectful of African culture. But our only issue is that it seems to require a lot of unnecessary mental gymnastics to connect “We all have African DNA. Even white people. Check out my facepaint!” to “So we have a good reason to care about AIDS in Africa” to “So, let’s help people there get the medication they need.”
How about skipping all that and giving people credit for caring about other human beings — no other genetic link required? “I am human” would have worked just fine.
But guess what? The campaign is getting attention (here at The Root and elsewhere). And if it takes blond Gwyneth Paltrow with a blue stripe down her cheek and a giant necklace to make us do a double take, pay attention and hopefully take action, then so be it.
Read more at AOL Black Voices.