Just a few days ago, Annie Lennox sung at the Hope Rising! "benefit concert" in Toronto, put on by the Stephen Lewis Foundation. This would sound like a noble thing to do, as, at least ostensibly, it benefits AIDS programs in Africa. Why would it be a bad thing to want to help end HIV/AIDS? You'd be a heartless, soulless wretch to be against helping those poor people in Africa.
The problem here is, what is defined as "help?"
And do Africans need or want it?
Annie Lennox is to be commended for putting her celebrity towards a good cause that seeks to end suffering in an unfortunate corner of the globe. Actually, there are a few songs I like for when she sung with the Eurhythmics. But does she know exactly what charities she is supporting? What they stand for?
Who is Stephen Lewis?
Wanting to end HIV/AIDS is a noble cause, but the Stephen Lewis Foundation is founded by none other than Stephen Lewis, whom we intactivists know to be absolutely coo-coo for male circumcision and getting every male in Africa circumcised under guise of HIV transmission.
Here are some things that Lewis has been quoted saying:
An "Orgy of Male Bonding"
There was some titter of laughter and gentile applause which resonated throughout the room. So I felt it was the appropriate moment to tell the crowd that I was circumcised. Which I did. There followed what can only be described as an Orgy of Male Bonding. I have never been so embraced and hugged so extravagantly by numbers of people simultaneously as they conveyed to me that they understood the importance of circumcision and recognized that it's withstood the transmission of the virus.
(Fora, TV. (2008). Stephen Lewis: Disease and climate change in Africa.)
In Praise of Paula Donovan of UNICEF
She [ Paula Donovan] realized that male circumcision was a good preventative way to slow the spread of AIDS. So she took that analysis further. She suggested to the male leadership in Nairobi, that UNICEF propose that circumcision accompany the regular process of immunization of infants... Paula was easily 10 years ahead of her time, because that's exactly what's being discussed in several countries now... and what did the UNICEF hierarchy do at the time? They grabbed their genitals in protective embrace and laughed it off like only male sexists can laugh things off. ...the UN took more than a decade to see male circumcision for the inspired preventative technology that it is.
Circumcising Infants to Protect Them from HIVUSAID, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization conducted a fascinating analysis to estimate the value of scaling up circumcision to reach 80% of the adult and newborn male population in 14 African countries by 2015. ...It's really incredible when you think about it, and it's already happening.--Lewis, S. (2010, January 07). Male circumcision, part 2. Retrieved
Ancient Blood Ritual is a new Technology
The most unexpected and successful preventative technology, which has been chronicled in the last couple of years, is male circumcision.
--Stephen Lewis. Fora, TV. (2008). Stephen Lewis: disease and climate change in Africa.
Note: Thus far, no "researcher" has been able to demonstrably prove that the foreskin facilitates HIV transmission, and that circumcision reduces it.
Does Annie Know?
Does Annie know that this is the person she has chosen to help? Do the other singers who have participated? Other singers who have contributed to Lewis via his concert is Alicia Keys, K'naan, Angelique Kidjo, Sarah McLachlan, Rufus Wainright and Holly Cole.
Do they know?
Not The First Time
Annie might be forgiven for ignorance, if it weren't for the fact that this is the second time she seems to be tacitly lending her support and endorsement for male circumcision as HIV prevention.
Now that I remember, the tone of the entire Vienna conference was one where spokesmen were making donors and potential donors guilty for not giving more. AIDS movement organizers were entitled to more funds, and donors were guilty for not giving enough. Annie Lennox, if I remember correctly, was barking at the audience.
Not in these exact words, but something along these lines, I could remember her saying something like "Take out your wallet. Take out your checkbooks. What did you come here to do? If you're not here to donate, what are you even doing here?" The poor people of Africa are entitled to HIV/AIDS relief (even if it means genital mutilation), and the only thing standing in the way were penny-pinching donors. Maybe she thinks it made her sound sheik, determined and resolute, but to me it just made her look like a bad televangelist trying to guilt people out of their money.
Open Letter to Annie Lennox
Back then, I decided to write an open letter to Annie Lennox, which I posted on her forum, and I sent to a number of e-mail addresses for her. I even posted it in various locations on Facebook. One could still Google my blog handle (Joseph4GI) and "Open Letter to Annie Lennox" read what I wrote, which is basically what I've been writing about in this blog. (Her forum can be accessed here. I've re-posted it on my blog as a separate entry just for good measure.)
Do Celebrities Actually Care?
At this point, I must ask, are celebrities actually interested in the human rights of the people they are supposedly trying to help?
Or is it all just empty PR and don't care anything further than that being involved in charity, at least superficially, boosts their image?
Is Annie Lennox actually interested in HIV/AIDS prevention? Or is she merely trying to use the HIV/AIDS cause to boost her image and keep from becoming a has-been?
If it were female circumcision the UN was pushing as HIV prevention, would she still be singing at these "benefit concerts?"
The time will come when Annie Lennox, and all who gave their tacit endorsement of male genital mutilation, will be embarrassed to ever admit they did.
Having sung for Stephen Lewis will leave an indelible stain in their careers.
Celebrities, investigate the charities you contribute to.
You may be helping to perpetuate human rights violations on the very people you say you are trying to help, and sooner or later you will be held responsible.