Monday, March 30, 2009

Madonna Deserves Cheers Not Jeers for Casting Light on Africa’s Orphan Misery

Earl Ofari Hutchinson
First an outfit called Save the Children UK butted in and denounced Madonna for adopting Malawi orphan David Banda in 2006. Now another bunch has jumped into the adoption fray and branded her a”bully” for her plans to adopt another Malawi orphan. The Human Rights Consultative Committee pretty much rehashed the same tired complaint as Save the Children UK did three years back and that’s that Madonna is using her wealth and star power to end around Malawi’s adoption procedures.

Madonna ignored Save the Children UK in 2006 with their silly bellyache and she’ll likely do the same with the Consultative Committee. The figures tell the grim tale of why she should. According to UN estimates half of the 1 million Malwaian children with one or no parents are orphaned by AIDS. More than 13 percent of Malawi’s 13 million are poor, dirt poor, and not surprisingly the majority of them are women.

Malawi is hardly an aberration. More than 12 million children have lost one parent or are orphans in African nations. And given the still rampant disease, warfare and poverty that plague many of these countries, the number of orphans or near-orphans will soar to nearly 20 million next year. Apart from a string of cramped, desperately under-funded and in many cases unsafe orphanages in sub-Saharan Africa, many of these children are doomed to live out their childhood years in a caretaker existence.

That’s only the start of Africa’s orphan misery. Africa's orphans are still mostly unwanted anywhere else in the world, and that includes the United States. In 2005, more than 20,000 immigrant visas were issued to orphan children whom Americans adopted from other nations. Ethiopia, with a paltry 441 orphans taken in by Americans, was the only African country that cracked the top-10 list. Liberia and Nigeria were the only other African nations among the top-20 nations, with 182 and 82orphans taken in by Americans.

Madonna has raised millions through her Raise Malawi Organization to fight poverty and disease in the country. She’s made plans to build a school for young women there, and done more than any other celebrity too raise attention to the plight of Malawian orphans and women. Madonna could easily have been like the legion of air head stars whose idea of helping the poor is an annual photo-op mug shoot at a high profile, star studded, red carpet gala. Instead she put her money and name behind tackling one of the world’s toughest problems and that’s providing a better life for Africa’s dispossessed children. For that she’s piteously ragged on, sniped at, and backbitten, by every media chasing hound, and a handful of sanctimonious orphan relief groups. Why?

One reason for that is loudly and publicly stated. The other is unstated, and more contemptible.

Human rights and child protection groups claim that Madonna tossed her money and celebrity weight around to bend Malawi's adoption laws and fast-track the adoption, and that the adoption is another celebrity publicity stunt. Both are falsehoods. She observed the rules in 2006 with the adoption of Banda, and Malawi's courts have granted her an interim adoption order. She also kicked in a lot of dollars to boost orphanage services in the country. As one of the world's best-known superstars, with legions of paparazzi jumping at the chance to record her every cough, Madonna hardly needs to snatch an African child to grab some camera action.

The unstated, and more contemptible, reason that certain groups and individuals are upset about the adoption is the archaic notion that a white person, especially a wealthy white celebrity, is culturally clueless when it comes to raising a black child. Or worse, that they'll whitewash the child's black identity and tout white values (whatever they are).

What makes this notion even more dumb is that the crisis is not just one in which African babies are shunned in America -- African-American orphans are too. There are more than a half-million children in foster care homes in America. Nearly 40 percent of them are African-Americans. They stay in foster care homes on average a year longer than white children.

There is absolutely no hard evidence that the race of the adopting parent has much to do with whether an adopted child matures into a healthy, emotionally secure adult. The key is that the home must be loving, nurturing and financially stable. There is also little evidence that black children raised by white parents suffer permanent racial or cultural identity amnesia. Race and racism are still alive enough and in enough places in American society to insure that black children can't and won't forget that they're black. We need look no further than the man who sits behind the desk in the Oval office for proof of that.

Madonna did a huge service by using her star power not to exploit but to cast light on Malawi and Africa's orphan misery. You go Madonna.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard in Los Angeles on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and streamed nationally on


Anonymous said...

What Malawi needs are micro loans, given directly to it's people, who apply to start small businesses to bolster employment and self sufficiency. So much foreign aid in Africa and elsewhere is funneled directly into the pockets of Swiss bank account socialist, and fascistic government officials. The much hyped UN MDG's is funding the genocide in Darfur, and luxuries, including those junkets to China by Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

I don't agree with Mr. Hutchinson about Madonna, or in the case of Angelina Jolie either. These obscenely wealthy women, could provide real help, by creating and funding programs to provide micro loans, housing and food. That would do so much more to lift people out of the misery that leads to lives of exploitation, and misery.

In Nigeria, there has been success by promoting strong families, and monogomy, instead of reliance on the UN/EU promotion of using condoms and believing that protects people from HIV/AIDS. It's cut what was an extremely high AIDS rate, down to 8%.

The entire, solve the problem by adoption doesn't solve the problem, it only ensures a continuation of it, it justifies the status quo. Mr. Hutchinson should consider abandoning the rock star, Hollywood game of exploiting such suffering. Neither Madonna, Jolie, Bono or Geldof have provided any real help, they have only played a game, and lined their pockets via pr. Of course, what Hutchinson does is dependent on what he is truly interested in achieving.

Anonymous said...

The charity 'Raising Malawi' (PR firm) founded by Madonna AND TWO OTHERS in '06' held fund raisers for over two years before finally getting registered as a non-profit. In other words, Madonna and the others were free to squander that funding any way they saw fit for those first two years. In fact, they still havn't accounted for the 3.7 million raised from a single event in the fall of '07' (The grand opening of a Gucci flagship store in Manhattan.). She also pleaded with her fans worldwide for donations along the way. In the meantime, she toured the world to promote her latest CD and raked in another $280,000,000 gross in just over 12 months. To date, the basic financial info for 'Raising Malawi' still hasn't been posted on the website or anywhere else. The 'progress' page only tells of the collective works by over 20 seperate charities. Each of which have their own sources of funding and may have recieved some sort of promotion or support from 'Raising Malawi' in order to be considered 'partners'. But no indication is made how much of their funding came from 'Raising Malawi' or how much of their progress if any could be directly attributed to 'Raising Malawi'. The fans/donors have no clue how many millions of dollars were raised in that first two years, no clue how much Madonna herself chipped in, and no clue how the money was spent before they finally registered as a non-profit. No clue what fraction of funding or works listed on that 'progress' page could be directly attributed to 'Raising Malawi'. Nothing to go on but the vague and misleading word of Madonna. For example: She states in her latest promotional video that she will match any contributions made to her charity (PR firm) "dollar for dollar". However, there is a disclaimer posted on the website for 'Raising Malawi' that Madonna's total contribution will not exceed $100,000. Thats not per donation. Thats a maximum of $100,000 TOTAL. Less than a single days pay for Madonna. Also much less then she will surely rake in by promoting her own CDs, DVDs, and 'for profit' merchandise through this massive worldwide publicity stunt. So I called the office of 'Raising Malawi' in an attempt to verify some sort of efficient financial operation (310) 867-2881 or (888) 72-DONOR). These details are ALWAYS made available by legitimate charities. But not in this case. I got nothing but recorded messages and hangups. So I did some research on my own. 'Raising Malawi' still hasn't been given any kind of rating by ANY independent charity watchdog like The vast overwhelming majority of 'celebrity' foundations never are. In general, they are inneficient and riddled with corruption. Like the promotion of CDs, world tours, commercial websites, entire lines of jewelry (not just the single piece from which proceeds are donated), and high end retail flagship stores. Its far less expensive to promote your image and product with a contribution to your own charity (PR firm) than it is to buy commercial airtime worldwide. This is why its become such a trend. Celebrity foundations are also notorious for squandering much of their funding on private jet rides and super high end accomodations for their managers, PR crews, and celebrity figure heads. Its legal even for a nonprofit but not noble or efficient by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, non-profits are not actually required by law to be efficient. This is why the independent rating is so important. In general, 'celebrity' foundations never even get one. They are a twisted inefficient mutant of charity, self-promotion, exotic travel, and PR crap. Still, they compete for funding with more efficient legitimate charities. The celebrity figure heads often disregard the primary donors, co-founders, and managers, take personal credit for any collective work done, and seek maximum publicity shortly before or after the release of their own commercial projects. Its a sham. So if its not rated, then don't support it. Instead, support a top rated charity like any of those given high ratings at