Sir Lenny Henry has confirmed that his Comic Relief charity will no longer send white celebrities to Africa after it was accused of perpetuating the ‘white saviour’ stereotype.
The charity has come under fire previously with Stacey Dooley at the centre of controversy last year when she posted a photo of herself carrying a Black child from Uganda with the caption ‘obsessed’.
In 2017, Ed Sheeran’s campaign video was branded ‘poverty porn’ after he was filmed paying for a young boy’s housing in Liberia.
Comic Relief videos are typically filmed on the ground in disadvantaged African countries with celebrities, who are often white, usually seen meeting local children to highlight poverty.
Welcoming the move to stop the campaign films, Sir Lenny said: ‘A lot has changed over Comic Relief’s 35 years, and so the way we raise money and talk about the issues we are here to tackle, and the people we are here to support, must change as well.
‘I think on certain issues right now, like representation, amplifying black voices and diversity, there’s a real sense of reflection and looking inwards, and asking ourselves what can we do to learn and grow too.’
The comedian, who co-founded Comic Relief in 1985 with filmmaker Richard Curtis, added that he was ‘proud’ the charity are making the changes and he is ‘looking forward to seeing the films next year’.
Sir Lenny continued: ‘Investing in local talent across Africa to tell stories from their communities is great and a much-needed step forward but as always there is more that can be done. The energy and passion for change and new perspectives is there in bucket loads.’
African people don’t want us to tell their stories for them, what they need is more agency, a platform and partnership.’
Strictly Come Dancing star Stacey defended herself last year after posting the ‘obsessed’ photo with the Ugandan child, with many accusing her of using the boy as an ‘accessory’.
Labour MP David Lammy hit out at the star and tweeted: ‘The world does not need any more white saviours.
‘As I’ve said before, this just perpetuates tired and unhelpful stereotypes. Let’s instead promote voices from across the continent of Africa and have serious debate.’
Challenging the Labour MP’s view, Stacey hit back: ‘David, is the issue with me being white? (Genuine question) …because if that’s the case, you could always go over there and try raise awareness?
‘Comic relief have raised over 1 billion pounds since they started. I saw projects that were saving lives with the money. Kids lives [sic].’
Comic Relief responded to the backlash and supported Stacey, telling Metro.co.uk at the time: ‘We are really grateful that Stacey Dooley, an award winning and internationally acclaimed documentary maker, agreed to go to Uganda to discover more about projects the British people have funded there and make no apologies for this.
‘She has filmed and reported on challenging issues all over the world, helping to put a much-needed spotlight on issues that affect people’s lives daily. In her film, people working with or supported by Comic Relief projects tell their own stories in their own words.’
Credit: Original article published here.