Why we need a geography lesson

The media is a powerful source of information. I read a story yesterday about how amazingly effective social media became after the explosion in Boston to warn, offer support, and fact check the event. In the article, Annalee Newitz says, “Our social media networks may be maturing into trusted new sources.”

The reality is that millions of thoughts, stories, and experiences pour into the news and internet every day. Through Facebook, Twitter, and personal blogs, someone has the opportunity to state their opinion, share their heartache, and give an image of who they are.

This is empowering, and also terrifying.

When I began college, Facebook was just starting out. It was only used by university students because you had to have a college email. In the fall of 2012, according to InternetWorldStats.com, there were 937,000,000 users. The majority of these users are in Europe and Asia, although North America is close behind. Africa has about a quarter of that usage.

This means Africans have a voice and are using it. But, there are also many voices from others that are speaking, and sometimes on Africa’s behalf. And, sometimes those of us who write about Africa can mislead others. The largest misconception is that Africa is a country, rather than its right as a continent. It is an incredibly diverse place! Leslie Dodson, a world reporter for CNN and NBC, among others asked us think about the kind of message we’re sharing, particularly the way we talk about Africa, in a TED Talk she gave in 2011.

In the work we do in Kenya through the ministry of CARE for AIDS, we are able to meet a very specific group of people who need a listening ear and encouraging direction. These are strong women and men who are willing to fight for their families and their communities. That is why we love to have you hear firsthand from our Kenyan staff and clients. Our goal is to portray dignifying pictures about the families in our program. We’re exploring how to do that even better.

We hope you join us in the stories that you tell everyday about yourself, your community, and the world around you. Your words have power.