If you did not know better, and if not for the work of Operation HOPE, the National Urban League, the National Council of La Raza, the NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women, and countless other organizations serving low-wealth communities in America and serving up the positive messages and images of success, from the common to the uncommon, happening every day in urban, inner-city and low-wealth communities here in America, you would think these communities wastelands. And even worse, you would reasonably assume that everything from drive-by shootings, to drug dealing, to much worse, was a common occurrence on every street corner, every hour of the day and night. This is the message one gets from most mainstream media outlets about "the hood," because, as I have learned, "if it doesn't bleed, it doesn't typically lead (the news). Now, this is not an outright indictment of the mainstream press, for they also do some amazing things for the public good, and often bring to light important and positive stories, but it is to say that the positive is not the focus, either here in America, nor the African continent. A continent where I recently visited with my hero Ambassador Andrew Young and the first lady of HOPE, Mrs. Sheila Kennedy Bryant. And, traveling through Ethiopia and Kenya, and spending quality time in Rwanda and South Africa, I could not have been more impressed.
What I have found is that, both here and abroad, the press tends to focus on the 5% that is bad, to define the 95% that is not. This was brought home to me by the many conversations I have had of late, including my well educated African-American clothier, Ryan Taylor, CEO of (HOPE funded and supported) DROBE, Inc., who came over to the house and after seeing the pictures seemed shocked, asking "is much of Africa beautiful like that (Rwanda)? Was there a safety issue?" Of course, the answer was yes, and no. And his question was more than fair, given the negative image that is brought to the world through the eye-lens of the media about places and regions still trying to find their way and place in the world.
Is Africa perfect and without problems? Of course not. If fact, there are regions I will not travel too, because civil war and worse is waging, right now. Sometimes, many times (unfortunately), black on black. But this is the exception of Africa, and not the rule. This is not the story of Nigeria, nor Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and countless other countries in Africa, which are doing quiet well on several fronts frankly. I could live in several of these countries, and have even authorized a developer in Rwanda to build a vacation home for my sweetie at the base of the mountain region home to the Silver Back Gorillas. Absolutely beautiful, and peaceful. But this story does not get told, and so Ambassador Young has taken it upon himself, through his Andrew Young Foundation and at mostly his own personal cost, to change this. And in my modest way, I am beginning to work to do the same. Telling the story of the "African Opportunity," because that is principally how I see it.
No different than right here in the United States, our urban, inner city and low wealth communities are defined in the public mind by the 5% that is not doing right, but Operation HOPE continues to focus, and grow, the portfolio of the 95% that is (doing right). Not a hard thing to get your hands around, when you think about it.
Every person can make a difference, and one person, with the power of an idea, and the will to see it through, can change the world. Friends, that one person is YOU!
Onward and with HOPE
John Hope Bryant