*A new controversial ad from Alicia Keys’ HIV/AIDS org, Keep a Child Alive, has stirred up some disturbances among the masses. The campaign features high profile celebrities in traditional African dress with the tagline, “I Am African.”
Oh and by the way, most of those celebs are White.
The ads feature Sarah Jessica Parker, Richard Gere, Liv Tyler, Heidi Klum and Seal, Gwyneth Paltrow, Elijah Wood, Iman, Tyson Beckford, Lucy Liu, and Lenny Kravitz, among others. The celebs are shown adorned with tribal face paint and traditional “African” headdresses, and stare longingly into the camera.
To some, it looks like white folks are just playing dress up and mocking African culture. But the organization’s website has an explanation.
“Each and every one of us contains DNA that can be traced back to our African ancestors.”
True, but the African motif on on the white celebs still bothers some folks.
Content manager of Clutch magazine, Geneva S. Thomas, touched on the awkwardness of the campaign in her piece for Black Voices:
Seems we could use that message to help bring attention to a number of issues, like, say, racism, but oh well. The campaign is meant to spread awareness about the AIDS epidemic in Africa. It’s a noble campaign, an epidemic is an epidemic — the more awareness around it, the better. Still, the photographs raise some questions. For starters, why is it necessary to pose a formulaic African aesthetic in order to be compassionate? While I commend these celebs for stepping up to fight HIV/AIDS, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how off-putting this ad campaign is. As The Root mentioned why couldn’t the ads emphasize the need to support the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic simply on the basis of being human? Moreover, I wonder if the ad’s creators even considered how this depiction — of celebs looking vaguely “African” — would play out with our brothers and sisters on the continent and in the Diaspora.
There is no denying that any assistance to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa (and around the world) is definitely needed. However, these ads seem to serve as more of a distraction rather than catalyst for change.