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Collect Positive Stories from Africa

Published: Feb. 3, 2023


Dear Friends: I thought of this quote from Carlos Fuentes after reading two recent op-eds by Nicholas Kristof:

“The United States amplifies the violence in Mexico to be comfortable with their even more violent society at home.”

This is a very bad adaption of something I heard Fuentes say (at least I think I did) during a speech I attended years ago.

Here are the two Kristof op-eds in the New York Times that brought the Fuentes quote to mind for me:

Where Moms Hover Over Starving Children (Jan. 18, 2023)

This Kenyan Slum Has Something to Teach the World (Jan. 11, 2023)

I believe Kristoff’s heart is in the right place, but . . . With such few mentions of Africa in the media, are these pieces really helping, or playing into the notion that Africa is “the repository of our greatest fears”?

So here is my note to Nicholas Kristof:

Dear Mr. Kristof,

I hope you are doing well.

I am glad to see that you are writing about Africa. It is rare that Africa is even mentioned nowadays. However, I am concerned that your writings play into the negative, stereotypical version of Africa that many Americans hold.

Can I ask a favor from you?

Can you begin collecting positive stories from Africa? They do not even need to be grand. There are hundreds of millions of positive stories being created in Africa every day. 

A simple story of a mechanic refusing payment for fixing a car because the sole breadwinner in a household is in between jobs. Or a hastily put together neighborhood party because someone just got promoted fills the streets with joyous laughter.

Collect these stories.

You have a huge following. Select maybe twenty of them and let people vote. After a month, write about the winner.

I look forward to seeing which one you will write about.

Tommy Zarembka


from Tommy Zarembka, Healing and Rebuilding our Communities, Rawanda (2/1/2023)