Yes, Bob, many Africans know it’s christmas, now please stop!

photo credit: Anthony England

photo credit: Anthony England

I think I am going to scream if I hear that song one more time.

I am seriously going to f***** scream.

There I was, minding my own business last weekend when I heard that Bob Geldof wants to make more money and gain more fame off the backs of people who don’t have a clue he’s doing it, nor how the world is going to perceive them for another couple of years.

And it makes me so angry.

You know what? I’m not even going to get into how disrespectful it is to impose one religions views on a continent, or go into the politics of how wrong this whole thing is because there are people out there who’ve done it much better than me, like here and here,and here and here and here

Let me tell you something, I didn’t know anything about band aid or that stupid song until I came to Ireland. Absolutely nothing.

Zip. Zero about this oh-so-great venture in 1984 that  supposedly funneled tons of aid towards “Africa” to save lives. I’d never heard of Bob Geldof  or most of the singers and musicians who took part in that drive. And I had never heard of how millions of us “Africans” were barely clinging on to survival with people falling over themselves to buy a song in the hopes of feeding “us”

I was six years old when USA for Africa released their Quincy Jones led and Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie written song, “We are the world“. It was the US’s efforts to do exactly what Geldof was doing and I remember that song playing every Christmas in Zambia right up to the time I was ten. Over the years, we stayed up to watch, first the ‘making of’ documentary, and then the video of the song. We learnt the words, we sang along, we loved seeing all the big stars, we loved that it was so inspirational. Those of us with black and white TVs listened jealously as those with colour described all the colours and clothing and then joined in as we all moved to clour sets.

We were alive with music, we were inspired by the message.

We loved it.

I loved it.

Feeling sorry for those less fortunate than us, wondering what changes we could make to make the world a better place, and feeling awful for those poor Ethiopians who were suffering so badly – it was just inspiring. The big “USA for Africa sign in the background? meh. Didn’t even register as a charity song. I saw it more as a sign we were twinned somehow with that great state. USA and Africa, together, being called out to save the world.

Those were the feelings evoked in me. And I had another listen to the song today and hell, it still evokes those thoughts.

Never, ever, ever, did we see this Africa as something we were separate from or as lesser than anyone else.

Never did I see it as a world apart, we are the world was very clear.


All of us, every single one of us.

So here’s the thing with that band aid song.

It separates me.

To be completely honest with you, I didn’t know what it meant, in the eyes of the west and in Europe, to be “Black African” until I got here.

I walked around most of my life being a member of the Tonga tribe, being Zambian, being female, and finally being black and at the very last, being African. Disapperaing into crowds, unnoticed, blending in, just another person in the rainbow of people on the streets of Lusaka and Windhoek.

And when I came to Ireland, I was none of these things.

In the eyes of the Irish, I became a black African. Always first, rarely anything else.

And what does this mean?

It means poverty.

It means war.

It means helplessness.

All the things I was never brought up to believe about everyone  from a whole entire continent. Certainly not from my continent.

Look at the lyrics,

“Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow”

And this is describing the whole continent of Africa to a world of people who have never been there.

Like seriously, WTF?

A continent of 54 countries and teh second largest continent on this earth? Do these people even bother with Geography and weather patterns?

I understand that Geldof was in Ethiopia in 1984 and that was what motivated and inspired him to form the whole band aid thing, but why didn’t he stick to Ethiopia in his song without stigmatising every other African country? I would love for him to answer that, because this type of mentality is what continues to perpetuate the beliefs that

a) all of Africa is drought-ridden, poor, starving or riddled with disease

b) that Africa is one homogenous mass, a huge country made up entirely of black faces that you see on TV.

when nothing is further from the truth.

Eight minutes into the We are the world documentary, Geldof is introduced as the man who inspired them to create the song after he “just came back from Ethiopia”, and he says in his speech “…I think what is happening in Africa…”

Seriously? Dude, you were in Ethiopia. It wasn’t happening in the whole of Africa. In fact, it wasn’t even happening in the whole of Ethiopia.

If there was a war on in Germany, he wouldn’t describe it as “what’s happening in Europe”.

And yet, the perpetuation that Africa is one country without borders and regions is constant, and celebrities and charities see nothing wrong with continuing to portray the poor and vulnerable, and only the poor and vulnerable and war-torn sides, for their own reasons. Bombarding the west with images of black, always black, African people; naked children in their suffering, stripping them of the dignity they have already lost…how is that in any way charitable?

You see it especially at christmas. That song comes up on VHI, and is immediately followed by Concern and Trociare adverts showing starving black African children. Skeletal babies who have not been asked permission to be portrayed millions of miles from home as the face of a rainbow continent which is bigger and brighter than that.

Yes, yes, we all know the marketing gimmick: show people a human face and a story and make it memorable. The human mind is made to build associations. And that is exactly what it does over and over when these two things, the song and the ads, play on continuous loops.

The African as other; the African as black, the African as starving and helpless and hopeless.

“do they know it’s christmas time at all…..tonight thank god it’s them instead of you”

The African as them.

The African as other.

The pound given to the churches for the black babies. For them.

The shoe boxes sent with christmas presents for them.

All those white musicians showing how “other” the Africa they sing about, is.

I didn’t know this Africa until I got here. I am yet to see this Africa because that has never been my experience.

Don’t get me wrong. There are pockets of people dying from famine and war, but the whole continent isn’t.

And now that bloody song, thirty years old, is getting taken off the shelf, dusted off, given a good clean and getting sent out into the world to make another generation of English, Irish and other western children remember what we, as Africans, supposedly are.

Us and them.

And I sit in the office as this song plays and I want to hurl the radio across the room.

And all the black children in Irish schools? how will they be seen now and for the next thirty years?

One generation thought it was okay to push giving a pound “for the black babies” (vomit)

The next, called upon to “just give us your f**** money”, and but that stupid song and remind you they are other, that we are other.

And now, where a kiss of love can supposedly kill you.….seriously?

Never mind that Ebola is in four small countries on the western coast of the entire f***** continent and is being successfully contained by local governments as we speak.

There was absolutely no need to rerelease that stupid song.

There was absolutely no need to continue portraying a whole continent of people through this stupid song.

Never mind the disrespectful christmas thing on a continent where there are so many beliefs, non beliefs, cultures and traditions.

So, yes, Bob Geldof, many Africans know that its f***** christmas because they’re Christians, many of them don’t because they’re not, and noone needs to buy your stooopid f****** song change this world.

Its hard enough being black in this country without that stupid f*** song being played everywhere.

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9 Responses

  1. Christine says:

    Well said. That line “thank God it’s them instead of you” always made me very uncomfortable.

    • admin says:

      I couldn’t believe it the first time, glad they took it out but still a rubbish ignorant song that’s just cringeworthy.

  2. Yes, yes a million times. This does nothing to get rid of the perception of Africa as one famine-stricken country, and likely damages its reputation as a continent of many resources and growing economies. The geographical inaccuracies (according to the song theres no rivers. Or rain. Ever) and the line “thank God it’s them instead of you”… just make it stop.

    • admin says:

      The whole thing is just completely awful. It’s bad enough it was popular 30 years ago but in this day and age it’s just unnecessary. thet no rain no rivers line just burns me up!

  3. Excellent post!!!! I think the song has good intentions at heart BUT it was and still is extremely ignorant. I got a very bad taste in my mouth when Bob criticized a popular singer for “ignoring” him and having better things to do with her time. Thank you for educating me about your country.

  4. Emily says:

    What an inspired blogpost. Brilliant, just brilliant.

  5. Office Mum says:

    Just like Christine and Lisa said above, I remember even as a ten year old finding “Tonight thank god it’s them instead of you” difficult to swallow. You’ve just shown me a whole different side to all of it – great post.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Andrea. I have and always will hate that song. I haven’t heard it since last weekend, which I’m so grateful for.

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