Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


February 20, 2014

Lines to be drawn in Africa

ASHLAND — Africa is not a country. It’s a continent. Seems simple enough to understand, right?

Yet for some people I know, there is no differentiation between citizens from different African countries.

Nigerian, Libyan, Algerian, they all look the same, so it’s acceptable to just call them African and move on, right?

And who cares if we use the wrong nationality or omit it completely because it’s a minute detail?

What language do Africans speak? Isn’t it all the same? I wonder where I can get African Rosetta Stone?

All of these sterotypes are absolutely unjust and wrong to assume, yet many use those thought patterns every day in the United States.

Ithaca College in New York has launched a campaign to reveal diversity between African nations and is actively working to bust stereotypes.

The campaign was jump started by a group of U.S.-based African students who claim they have been asked things like, “Do you speak African?” and “What is Africa’s flag?”

More than 50 countries make up the African continent and this social media campaign aims to bring awareness to what makes each nation uniquely beautiful.

The photo set featured on CNN’s iReport features members of Ithaca’s African Students Association proudly wrapped in different African nation flags with different tag lines.

Each quote was personally written by the models, ages 18 to 21, where CNN said they were disproving “ignorant and offensive remarks” they would often fear.

A few of those quotes include “Africa is not defined by poverty,” “I do not speak ‘African,’ because ‘African’ is not a language,” and “Africans do not all look alike.”

There are 10 photos in all, but each picture is strikingly thought-provoking.

This topic is important for all, but especially those who do not have the chance to interact with people from different cultures.

In Northeast Kentucky, we are undoubtedly a predominantly Caucasian population.

I admit to sometimes struggling with telling the difference between nationalities in certain races (even my own. which is German-French-Swiss), but it is important to be just as educated about other cultures as we are about our own.

February is Black History Month, after all, so take time to look at this campaign and reevaluate how you may picture African nations and the people living within them.

How would you want to be seen if Africa was your home?

To view Ithaca’s campaign photos, go to cnn.com.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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