After years of waiting and hearing about this television channel devoted strictly to Afrika, it was such a relief to see it finally arrive in Los Angeles. After a week of watching, taking in all of the new views and perspectives of the continent, it became abundantly clear that western media has no intention of showing modern Afrika, consistently programmed on the Africa Channel. It would contradict the impoverished image the West wants the world to think of Afrika.
The channel has shown sides of Afrika we never knew existed. There are modern cities that almost rival any city in the United States, particularly in South Afrika. Many refer to Beverly Hills, Palm Springs and Europe when talking about luxurious and resort living. They pale in comparison with the Afrikan counterparts, not to mention a far greater lush environment, and the greatest benefit of all, being around other black people. For people of Afrikan descent, there is no greater travel experience than being at one’s ancestral home.
The channel has an assortment of perspectives related to the cultural, political and business aspects of the continent. Seeing Afrikan people host the various programs is such a delight, not having to depend on a Eurocentric view. This is not to say there are not people of European descent present. They are present in the programming, but not overwhelmingly. It is almost like the American integration approach of the 1950s, where one or two black folks would be included in some venture, just so some could say they were integrated.
If there is any negatives to observe, it is obvious the channel has a lack of new and original programming. If one watches during the early part of the day, the same programming will likely be broadcast in the latter part of the day. Like BET, it depends a lot on music videos. The good thing, it does not show negative, gangster, anti-black women videos found on BET. However, the weekend programming leaves a lot to be desired. It relies heavily on music videos and reruns of programs during the week.
One thing that seems to be glaringly missing, are Afrikan feature films. Within a week, only one was seen, which replayed several times. There should be at least two on a daily basis. There are so many great Afrikan films, as witnessed at the Pan African Film Festival, which The Africa Channel is a sponsor. The channel would be the obvious outlet for such films.
What would really be a treat is to see videos of various Afrikan world scholars teaching us about Afrikan world history and culture the western media would never broadcast. There were programs that talked about modern society, but not one that even mentioned Afrika’s ancient contributions to world development, and noting on the Nile Valley. This is essential for such a channel, unless restricted by conservative investors. The continent is in need of such programming, as is the US.
As can be predicted, there was programming on the slave castles; that was the extent of early history. It is understood this is part of Afrikan history, but there is much more than that. The affect colonialism had on the continent is enormous, as well as the changes that occurred during the independence movements. It is not requested that it become an educational channel, but some history would seem to be a natural part of the overall programming.
The Africa Channel will be the first time many viewers see Afrika, from Afrikan perspectives. It is almost like a contemporary imitation of the Marcus Garvey philosophy, “Afrika for Afrikans, at home and abroad.” In spite of the channel’s shortcomings, overall, it is still a pleasure to see those programs that focus on countries never talked about in the West, unless there was some tragedy, animal safaris, AIDS or poverty. Seeing Lesotho, Mozambique, Madagascar, Angola, Namibia, Seychelles, and several other Afrikan countries was a real treat. Observing that they have cities as modern as many in the West, with comparable infrastructures, has to be a real surprise, considering mostly traditional cultures are shown in the western media.
We can only hope that as the channel becomes more popular, and its resources and profits expand, the programming will become more expansive and inclusive. For now, it is a great and welcomed start.
– Dr. Kwaku’s next history class begins September 19th. For details go to: www.drkwaku.com.
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