Saturday, March 19, 2005

Nelson Mandela and Will Smith Team up to Fight AIDS

I wrote an (slightly altered version of the following) article for an assignment, from the point of view of Artists Against AIDS Worldwide Canada, a fictional offshoot of the real AAAW but I also greatly admire Nelson Mandela, and the concert sounds good, so perhaps it's suitable to post for general interest.

Nelson Mandela will be hosting an AIDS benefit concert today (March 19, 2005) in George, South Africa. It will boost the effort to treat the ever growing global epidemic which is intense in the ex-president’s home. So that it’s not all doom and gloom, Will Smith, the hilarious actor and star of Hitch, will host the show. Both celebrities have been on Oprah, and they will be working together to bring together this diverse collaboration of musicians. They include Annie Lennox and Queen, as well as local musicians and teen stars.

Nelson Mandela may have retired but at the age of 86 his public presence just won’t quit. He is a world-renowned activist who has seen many changes in his lifetime. He spent years in prison and helped put an end to Apartheid. However, he obviously feels a continuing need to lead us to find solutions to problems like poverty, which contribute to AIDS. While in London for a rally against poverty he said: “I recently formally announced my retirement from public life and should really not be here[.] However, as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest." (1)

The world would be a different place if Nelson Mandela weren’t here. His son died of an AIDS-related illness this past year. One might think that faced with that situation one would just give up. Instead, he spoke of the need to talk openly about AIDS and not let it fester silently without raising a hand to stop it. What with about 25 of the world’s 40 million HIV-positive people living in Africa , and there being 70,000 babies born with AIDS in South Africa (2) every year, Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund was set up to help create a better future for us all. The program provides education, health care and support programs. He said that “without children the world ceases to exist” and this is certainly true not only when we think of what reproduction means, but also in the sense that without children and hope for the future the world would no longer be a meaningful place.

Poverty and disease are ultimately issues of democracy, since it is our duty as a civil society to ensure that every child has the chance to grow up with education and a choice to make a difference. If we can extend democracy, then “our children should be prepared to build an even better society than we ourselves were.” (3)

So there is no reason why this concert shouldn’t be a huge success. Nelson Mandela’s last “46664” (his prison number) concert was attended by 40,000 people and viewed by two billion people worldwide. Nestled in between the coast and the Outeniqua mountains, the village of George is full of history and offers good accommodations for visitors from abroad. (4) This is a rare opportunity to see new and old musicians, and with a host like Will Smith, it should draw together people from all over the globe.(5)

2/ Associated Press, Feb 14, 2005.

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