Letter to the editor: Article on Bristol charity stereotyped Africans

I was again disappointed in the use of “poor African” stereotypes in the photos and captions of “Bristol church celebrates 20 years of support for children, families in Uganda,” where the children (and by extension, their families) are featured primarily as victims of poverty relying on charity. Media stereotypes of Africa/Africans as poor, corrupt, and/or helpless has been well researched and documented (just see what images come up when you Google “children in America” vs “children in Africa”).

Take the caption from the Bristol article: “A secondary student enrolled in the Village2Village Project smiles with a gift she received from her sponsor in Bristol. Members of the First Baptist Church of Bristol helped get the organization off the ground 20 years ago and continue to individually sponsor children through the project.” 

Contrast that with captions about youth here in Addison County who, while benefiting from some kind of program or help, still are portrayed as having their own agency:

“Paige Chamberlin, 9, snuggles up between two cows in the 4-H dairy barn at the 75th Addison County Field Days Fair on Tuesday. Like her father before her, Paige doesn’t live on a farm so she leases a cow from Blue Spruce Farm to raise and show at the fair.” 

“Fresh Air Fund participants Israel Dudley and Alejandro Garcia, both of greater New York City, are family with Matthew and Deborah Dickerson. Dudley was first with the family from 2003-06 and has maintained a close relationship ever since.”

The article relied on quotes and information from Village2Village charity founder Laurie Kroll, and another congregational member, but not from any Ugandan participants in their programs. If I’m not mistaken, this church’s new pastor is himself from the African continent (albeit the western side, in Ghana); I would have been interested in hearing his perspective on this particular ministry and what he hopes for in the future. 

There are many resources available when it comes to responsible reporting on poverty, and on Africans in particular. I hope the Independent can take these guidelines seriously in order to portray marginalized communities in a more nuanced way.

Thank you.

HaQuyen Pham


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