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As you probably know by now – though maybe I haven’t mentioned this before – as much as I love producing TV programming, I actually hate being on set – it all takes so long, setting up, testing sound, sorting out lights, re-takes blah blah blah. And shooting with 5Ds means you can only shoot for 12 minutes before you reset … none of this is good for a person like me who needs to be constantly doing something (i only sit still when watching tv). So I’ve been less than thrilled that because of the two major projects we’re working on, I had to step in for Freddy, my brother and creative director, on the Brothers for Life Zambia shoot.
We’re shooting the mid-campaign review documentary that tells the story of the issues the campaign addresses from the perspective of every day Zambians living these issues. So I’ve sat through an interview with Owas Mwape – a local celebrity who gained notoriety for his domestic violence saga with his wife, that the BBC made public soon after the Chris Brown-RiRi bust up. I went with the crew when Cactus interviewed Chibamba Kanyama, now DG of ZNBC and author and motivational speaker, who is passionate about the abuse of alcohol and raising young people, especially men, as productive being ins society. Then I sat in on the breakfast with the brothers – Cactus Agony, Paul Da Prince, Kangwa Chileshe and Chibamba Kanyama as they met as a group about 11 months after they were brought together as the inaugural ambassadors. It was all well and good, and somewhat interesting, but I would have preferred to be at my desk responding to emails, looking at the scripts for the drama series were working, looking at the style profiles for the cast and even editing the blogs for the Safe Love site.
Today when I was asked if I’d go to the Slim interview, I said no. I had a thousand other things to do. But I had to approve the questions before they could go. Reading the questions and seeing that Slim was going to talk about prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, I realised it could get a bit hairy and it was such a sensitive topic that I reluctantly said I’d go.
By far this was the most powerful and emotionally charged interview I’d done or seen. To be honest, I’ve been doing this HIV work for so long, it wouldn’t be untrue to say that I’m a little jaded. It all seemed the same type of story was told, and there were only two: the poor person living with HIV in the third world (sorry developing country), who has overcome so much – by being HIV+, or the person living with hiv who has no story to their name other than they live with HIV. Ok I’m being cynical, I do think that a lot of the stuff you see about people living with HIV has no depth to it, it’s almost like their whole life revolves around being HIV+, we de-humanise them in a way. But Slim, Slim was different.
If you don’t know Slim, you might have seen him on MTV’s Me, Myself and HIV – a programme I conceived with my colleague at the Staying Alive campaign, though it didn’t turn out the way I’d envisioned, it did introduce Slim to the world. And was the first time Slim came out as being HIV+, six years after he’d found out he was positive. As much as I appreciate the work that documentary did, it didn’t do justice to Slim as a person – which sometimes the visual product can do, when you can’t interact or engage with the subject. But I digress, the show told the story of a young man who was born HIV+, that would be Slim. It also told the story of Slim, the music producer and singer. The one correction I’d add to that story was Slim was not an upcoming producer, but actually was the producer behind Slap Dee’s first big hit – Gold digger. I thought that was important to mention, but then again, I’m Zambian, so I know the value of that.
Anyway, I digress! The reason we did the interview was to go more in-depth into the story of Slim being a child living with HIV, I obviously can’t give too much detail on the interview – so you can watch the show! – but Slim did bring across the pain of being so young – 15 to be exact – and diagnosed with HIV. And knowing the kind of stigma that was still around then, the loneliness of a secret of that magnitude. It touched me so deep, yes me, the jaded one. I guess because he made all of us in the room feel that emotion – I swear you could hear a pin drop in that moment (and I was with a bunch of guys too!).
Again because of my years of doing this, and realising how easy it is to exploit a person living with HIV, to get that story that you want, the ‘human angle’ etc, how we can make the virus be more than the person, I asked him if it bothered him that this is the story people keep asking him about, about his HIV status and how it is to live with the virus. ’No’, he said. ’I believe this happened to me for a reason, and I know that by sharing my story I’m giving hope and encouragement to someone, someone who might be in that dark, lonely place that I once was in.’ Ok, it might not have been quite as profound as I re-phrased it, but it was his ability to think about the good he could be doing by sharing his story that touched me.
I don’t always think that people know the power their life stories – and we all have them – can do for other people, and when someone as young (he’s 23) could be so honest and so visionary about the impact they could have on someone else, well that’s just admirable. For a lot of people it’s scary to open up and talk about something so life-changing like that, scary, embarrassing, humiliating, you name it – because most people put themselves first, instead of looking at the value in their story and it’s impact on others. Slim comes from a humble background, he’s still pushing his music career, but he’s taking his role as an HIV+ activist seriously to help other people, and simply by using his voice. That’s powerful too. You’re not going to see Slim starting an NGO, or giving up his music career to focus on telling his story, but you ask him about his life and he’ll tell you. And that’s the other thing that I admire about him. He’s doing what he loves the most – music – but he’s also willing to do his part in building our community by spreading the word about HIV.
My words can’t do justice to how I felt today, and what Slim sparked in me – which I can’t talk about yet – and I hope that we captured it on tape for you to see in the interview, but one thing is for sure, Paul Slim Banda is one of those people God sent to earth to inspire us. (Now you know how moved I was because I’m not usually that corny or sappy!)
When the show is out, I’ll let you know!
I absolutely love the theme song for Shuga: Love, Sex, Money by some of Africa’s biggest talent – Banky W, Wiz Kid, L-Tido and Bon-eye – a great collaboration from West, South, and East Africa (sweet! – and i never say that!). And directed by supremo music video director of the moment, Clarence Peters.
I was on the set for the last few scenes so I’m so excited to see the end product that finally premiered on MTV – super excited! Watch it and let me know what you think!
The last couple of weeks have been in crazy. First I took more or less a 24 hour journey to Seattle to attend a one and a half day meeting and now I’m wide awake at 5am in a Nairobi hotel (though I’ve been awake since 2am willing myself to go to asleep, alas at 4.30am I gave up on that).
In between I’ve been working like crazy at my own company, about to launch a new TV show that I’m really excited about, while also managing new aspects of the Shuga project in Kenya. Crazy, stressed and hectic is how my life has been recently. Needless to say I’m exhausted. But my brain won’t quit, probably the reason I’m wide awake now, as I think about the multitude of things that need to be done – rolling out the media buy for the Brothers for Life campaign in Zambia, developing the new timeline for Shuga’s new components, writing reports to clients, casting for our show, oh and did I mention we’re about to sign on two new clients in Zambia – one to be the biggest that we’ve ever had. Not to mention when I find time in my spare time, I co-manage (marketing only) one of Zambia’s hottest artists. It’s exciting stuff but not for the lazy that’s for sure.
Last weekend we were doing our first open auditions for presenters we were looking for, for a new young and hip show we’re doing. I was less than happy with the results. It made me question what is going on with ‘our youth’ of today. I remember when I was 17 I had already launched an organisation with my sister and we were planning our first edition of Trendsetters. I researched everything I needed to do before going down that path – knowing that print journalism wasn’t something I knew about, but I read magazines to find a style that worked for me and for what we were looking for for the magazine. This seemed to be a foreign concept to the people that came to the auditions.
But I don’t entirely blame them, as my friend wrote in his blog, mediocrity has long been accepted as a way of life in Zambia. While I agreed with his post, I also thought it was a cop out. As an individual you can choice not to fall into that category and certainly not to accept it – which is what I strive to do in my life. These kids that came to audition should not have looked at our national broadcasting channel and thought that was all there was to presenting. Knowing that this is a show for young people, and that we were looking for young, dynamic, full of energy type of people, they should have looked for references to imitate. At one point in the interviews, the judges, including myself, got fed up and literally told people to leave if they were going to come in with low energy and no confidence. Yeah I know that’s mean considering I can be low energy, but hey, I wasn’t auditioning!
The truth that a lot of them spoke about was the lack of opportunities for them, opportunities to nurture their talent, and while presenting might not have been their strong point, some of them could kill it with their singing! But we weren’t doing Zambia’s Got Talent. Though some did have access to DSTV to see international shows like Oprah and Tyra (not really the style we were looking for), the majority of them watch local shows, which frankly, are still in the 80s. This was their only reference point. This was a clear indication that the media in Zambia needs to switch it up, provide new ideas and inspiration to young people. Not to toot our own horns, but nothing is around to do this the way Trendsetters did.
In Kenya, I met a group of young people taking part in our Shuga Rising Stars mentorship programme. They basically get the opportunity to work with the some of the core people across the Shuga initiative from the award-winning director, to the marketing people, through to the public health partners. As I’m a strong believer in mentorships, myself being mentored by Aaqil Ahmed and having my own mentee, I thought this was an amazing opportunity for anyone on this project to be a part of. In a hard to break into industry like the media/creative field, this was an opportunity these young people couldn’t pay to be a part of it.
But after sitting with them, and I did think they were lovely, I just didn’t get the sense they understood the magnitude of what they were a part of. Sure, they recognized they got some great contacts and learnt some new skills, but I wasn’t sure if they could see how it could fit into the big picture of where they were trying to go. OK, me and my I’ll give you my advice even if you didn’t ask for it self did share my thoughts on how they could really own this opportunity and make it work for them. Though, after our one hour talk and I asked them if they had any questions – again, not to be more than who I am, but I’ve also been in the game awhile, not everyone has access to my knowledge (did that really come out as conceited as I think? Insert smiley face) – I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have any questions. I’m not one to give up on young people who are determined to make it in their careers, so shared my contacts for them to reach out to me whenever they wanted to. I don’t see why everyone has to go through the hard work unnecessarily, if someone can help you out, that’s why I believe in giving back, each generation has to do better than the one before right? I do believe that, but I’m not getting much hope of that with the young people I’ve met in my six odd months in Africa so far.
I won’t give up on them, without seeing what role I can play – like everyone else – to continue to develop Africa and nurture great talent coming out of the continent. I hope the work I do in Kenya and Zambia will impact them and see new directors, writers, marketers and more coming out of the continent, along with our more traditional career options of educators, doctors, lawyers etc.
I’ve been up for more hours than I’d like to think of and my alarm just went off, so I may as well get up, hit the gym and watch the sun rise over the city of Nairobi.
Until next time.
I don’t think that anyone can ever doubt that I was ever a PF supporter, Michael Sata as a president didn’t really speak to me, and less so when I found out that he wanted to build underground trains (in a country with a questionable road network). It’s not personal, in fact Joel Sata, his son, is someone I’ve known for a long time and who I thought of as a friend.
The last two days have been really tense, marked with some violence, as the election results had been trickling through. Sata was in the lead from the start, but people remembered all too well this same lead from 2008, when things drastically changed to give MMD a win. But not this time. Sata remained in the lead until the early hours of yesterday morning when he was declared the winner by more than 200,000 lead over incumbent MMD president Rupiah Banda.
Today, well actually since about 1am, there has been celebrations on the street, with people hooting and honking their car horns, waving flags, dancing in the streets and joyous shouts. It really looked like a country that had just been liberated.
I’m still not sure about PF as a party or President Sata to really take this country forward and develop the nation in a way that benefits all the people, but I’m willing to give him a chance – though the next 90 days will be crucial for him as he did campaign that change would happen in 90 days.
Change. That was what this election boiled down to. People wanted change. However, despite there being 10 presidential candidates, the fight for the presidential crown was fought between two candidates – PF’s Michael Sata and MMD’s Rupiah Banda. But what exactly was the change that people wanted? I asked a few PF supporters and all they could say to answer my question was change.
Turns out that they (and I’m being specific about the ones I spoke to, not all PF supporters) were more concerned with getting MMD out at all costs, and that was change. Not necessarily better education, better healthcare, increase employment opportunities, decreased tax and other issues that elections should be concerned with. In fact when further pressed it turned out that they hadn’t even read PF’s manifesto, so not even sure they know what they’re getting themselves into.
To be fair, I haven’t read PF’s manifesto, so it could be really great. I did hear – and I must verify it – that they want to build underground trains, I know I keep going on about this, but it really does bother me that that should be in a party’s manifesto with only one five-year term to prove themselves!
But three things in this election have really stood out for me that I’m really proud of:
1) The amazing amount of people that turned out to vote. We had 80% of all eligible voters registered to vote, making it around 5 million people that were registered to vote (there are about a total of 6.5million eligible voters in Zambia). Unfortunately, it ended up being only about 35 or 40% of those that actually voted. But still a huge number compared to previous years – let’s not forget RB came in to power with over 800,000 votes. Sata received over 1.5million votes! And that only represents 43% of the votes cast, counted and verified. (later found out that actually more people came out to vote in 2006 then in this year, despite increased registration of eligible voters)
2) The new comer, Elias Chipimo and his NAREP party, first time in the race came in 5th among all the 10 contenders. Huge feat for someone so young and relatively unknown.
3) RB conceded defeat and even showed up for President Sata’s inauguration. This is a marked change from many other leaders in Africa, look at our neighbours in Zimbabwe, and more recently what happened in Cote D’voire. It really showed RB’s leadership qualities – despite the many faults he’s had in office, as well as how democracy can work in Africa (ok I have my reservations on that one, maybe I should qualify a type of democracy!)
So I might not be on the streets dancing with jubilation, and I still stand by the fact that President Sata is yet again in power with the minority vote (not sure why people can’t see that actually more people voted against him than for him, so we should not be saying the masses have spoken – maybe the organised masses!), but he is in power and we want our country to develop so it’s for all of us to step up and hold him accountable. And he too shall be judged in five years, so he needs to make these next five years count!
But since peace in the country is back (not that it was really gone, but it was on the edge), that’s really the most important thing.
I was so excited to be asked to come and volunteer my time at a TeenSpirit event tonight. TeenSpirit is the youth service of Boyd and Soul, which is a charity that works with people and families living with or affected by HIV. TeenSpirit is specifically for 13-19 year olds and tonight is a career skills evening, which allows these teenages to get career advice, explore career interests and engage with professional in a networking format. The idea is to inspire these kids to explore different professions and motivate them to reach their full potential.
I was absolutely thrilled to participate in this for many reasons: 1) it’s for young people affected by HIV, 2) it’s about mentoring/motivating young people in their careers, 3) it’s an opportunity to give young people of colour professional and positive role models. Three things I care about.
Last night I started thinking about what I should wear. I thought about wearing a nice power-suit type outfit, but then I’d feel too corporate and stuffy and maybe not in line with the MTV image, same thing if it was my high waisted pants, or shift dress, or pencil skirt. Then I thought about my leggings and over-the knee boots with a cute top, but then that might be too hoochie-fied and everyone who knows me knows I’m very big on how your appearance conveys a message, and dressing for the job you want etc.
It reminded me of a time, when I was younger and bought way too much into the MTV image and met one of T-Pain’s management team poolside in a swanky Miami hotel, in a bikini and sarong. At the time, I thouhgt it made sense, it was a saturday, it was freakin hot and it was an informal meet and greet. Now that I’m older and wiser, I shudder to think what impression I made on him. He is on my facebook friend’s list but we don’t really talk…
So I decided to do somewhere in between, fitted jeans, nice top and heels. It’s important to put across a good image of yourself and be respectful of the people you’re meeting with. They might be kids but doesn’t mean I need to disrespect them by not bothering with my appearance. I mean if they speak to me, that’s one of the things I’ll stress.
I’m definitely looking forward to tonight. Maybe it will be something I can take back to Zambia to implement as well. Kids need role models, period.
I’m taking a moment out to plug a Zambian collective whose music is really coming up. I’ve know of these guys for a while now and have been impressed with their growth. I am one of those people who has an opinion on everything so was amused when the director of the video asked me my opinion of the video. He’s another one to watch.
I’m just happy that Zambian music is finally getting the recognition it deserves, but do think we still need to find our ‘own’ place on the map, so you know it’s a Zed track instantly. In the meantime, I’m happy for Zone Fam and will continue sitting on the sidelines watching them blow up.