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Africans Fight Media Stereotypes

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We’ve all seen the pictures: a little African boy wearing nothing but an dirty, over-sized t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a U.S. sports team, or a little African girl, dressed in rags and pitifully surrounded by flies.

As you might imagine, Africans don’t particularly appreciate the rest of the world viewing them this way.

Frustrated by the constant images of poverty and disaster, a new Twitter movement started by young Africans shows that the continent is much more diverse and complicated than the mainstream media’s portrayal. The hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou has been tweeted by more than 45,000 in the past month.

Diana Salah (@lunarnomad), a 22-year-old Somali-American student living in Seattle, helped to start the social media campaign, she told Fusion: “I got involved because growing up I was made to feel ashamed of my homeland, with negative images that paint Africa as a desolate continent.


Those participating in this social media campaign are actively tweeting about African fashion, posting pictures of beautiful homes (one such picture included a joke about living in “huts”), and large, lush university campuses.

The PovertyCure initiative has featured many African entrepreneurs, from small business owners to those running international corporations. Janet Nkubana, co-founder of Gahaya Links, knows how important image is in the international marketplace. The products of Gahaya Links are sold in places such as Macy’s and the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. The decor and jewelry products that Nkubana’s company produces must appeal to a global market.

More importantly, the people of Africa deserve to be seen as dignified, intelligent, diverse people made in God’s image and likeness. Stereotypes may be appealing for many reasons, but they usually show only partial truths or are out-right lies. Africans are working to change that, and so should we.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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