Spielberg's Slick Darfur Move

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There is one way that Mr. Spielberg can redeem himself in all of this. I challenge Mr. Spielberg to commit 100% of the box-office sales from “Kung Fu Panda� to an accountable, established charity helping the innocent victims in Darfur! The only stipulation is that charity cannot be “Save Darfur�.

Celebrity Activism And Africa

[International: Africa Commentary]


Before I go on my rant, let me say that I am a middle aged white guy that was born and raised in America. I have lived a blessed life so far. Struggles and hardships are foreign to me.


However, my perspectives on life and my world view have been shaped by my experiences in Africa. The Africa that I know and love is very different from the Africa that I keep hearing about in the mainstream media.


Even good hearted missionaries and humanitarians tend to focus on disease, danger, destruction, and death. I believe that the Garden of Eden was on the African continent. Mankind was born “out of Africa”. I absolutely love the people of Africa. The incredible hospitality and sincerity that I experience keeps me coming back year after year.


My first exposure to celebrities and Africa was in 1998 after I made my first visit to Uganda. I wanted to share my excitement and passion with others. I recognized the great injustices that caused innocent people to needlessly struggle and suffer in some places that I traveled.


It was with great excitement that I contacted the Oprah Winfrey Show. I thought that as an African-American woman with a big heart and high visibility, she would be a great place to start. I received a reply from the producers of her show that they valued me as a viewer and that they appreciated my idea submission. Basically, I got the brush off. It was that experience that caused me to become highly cynical of celebrity activism in Africa.


Now Oprah Winfrey is synonymous with philanthropy and celebrity activism in Africa. I applaud her efforts to create the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls in South Africa.


The last several years have seen an explosion of celebrities shining the spotlight on Africa. Let me mention a few: Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Madonna, Bono, George Clooney, and Mia Farrow. Even Paris Hilton announced a planned trip to Rwanda. Recently the crisis in Darfur, Sudan has become the latest cause célèbre. The “Save Darfur” campaign has spread like wildfire. College campuses and the media are all abuzz with the talk of Darfur and genocide. These are extremely emotional subjects.


The clever connection has been made between China and Sudan. China is deeply involved in all parts of Africa to help feed its booming economy, especially in Sudan for oil. I refer to it as an economic “colonization” of Africa. The “China factor” has been extremely successful in a short period of time for one reason; lots of money with no strings attached. The “West” has tried for decades to “save Africa” from itself by placing terms and conditions on aid and relief money. China has found a more efficient method of interfacing with Africa. Condition-free money! It is working; much to the displeasure of the arrogant, superior-thinking “West”.


With the Summer Olympics being held in Beijing, China, the “moral majority” of celebrity activists has a great cause to fight for now. I am all for celebrities raising awareness about issues in Africa whether or not I agree with their strategies. I tell people that the soapbox they have in the public media just may inspire the next Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela. However, the way that celebrities sometimes manipulate the public with their 'good works' is pathetic. The latest is Steven Spielberg.


On Tuesday Spielberg announced, "I have decided to formally announce the end of my involvement as one of the overseas artistic advisors to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games." This was seen as a victory by people like Mia Farrow and George Clooney that have made the melodramatic connection between the Jewish director of “Schindler’s List” and atrocities in Darfur. On the same day that Spielberg made his announcement, commercials for a movie called 'Kung Fu Panda' started airing. Guess who is the studio that created this movie? DreamWorks SKG! And who is the 'S' in SKG? Spielberg!


This movie will open in theaters nationwide on June 6. June 6! It is only February and the movie is being promoted already. Does anyone else see the connection here? 'Kung Fu Panda' is an animated feature soaked in Chinese culture. The lead character is a panda. Guess what the mascot of the 2008 Beijing Olympics is? A panda! Spielberg's work is done. He has created a cutesy, animated 90 minute commercial for the Olympics. And now he has a conscience? Wake-up people! Spielberg is a hypocrite. He will rake in millions from this movie and help promote the Summer Games long after he has left his 'official' advisory role.


If the Hollywood elite want to put pressure on the Chinese government for their connection in Darfur, then they should also demand that this movie be shelved. But that won't happen. Spielberg is too powerful in Hollywood. The hypocrisy doesn't end there. One of the Hollywood stars that voices a main character in 'Kung Fu Panda' is none-other than the beautiful African activist Angelina Jolie. There's more. The marketing of toys associated with 'Kung Fu Panda' will no doubt flood television screens across America as the movie prepares for its June 6 release.


I'm sure there will be a Burger King marketing partnership. Kung-fu action figures of the characters in the movie. “Kung Fu Panda” video games will appear. The list can go on and on. Guess where these toys will be made? China! If celebrities want to link China with the atrocities in Darfur and boycott the corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics, let's at least be consistent.


Try starting in your own backyard. How about demonizing Mr. Spielberg the same way that you are demonizing everyone else connected with the 'organizers' and 'sponsors' of the upcoming Olympics? There is one way that Mr. Spielberg can redeem himself in all of this. I challenge Mr. Spielberg to commit 100% of the box-office sales from “Kung Fu Panda” to an accountable, established charity helping the innocent victims in Darfur! The only stipulation is that charity cannot be “Save Darfur”.


 

 

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