On December 1, we ran a story about “the best and worst charity of ads of 2017.”
Radi-Aid, a nonprofit group in Norway, was running its annual contest, asking folks to vote for the nominees. And the winner (or loser) for worst charity ad was a 5-minute spot for Comic Relief, in which pop star Ed Sheeran visits orphans in a slum in Liberia, talks to one homeless boy and asks viewers to help the children.
Radi-Aid didn’t like the fact that the spot focused more on Sheeran than the country’s street children — and made the singer seem like a savior.
But now there’s a backlash to all the haters — or more like a pro-Sheeran pushback.
Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to show a rich guy giving money to a kid on the streets, argues Tariro Mzezewa in an op-ed this week in The New York Times: “Ed Sheeran Raises Money For Liberia — And Is Promptly Shamed.” Mzezewa, a staff editor for The Times‘ opinion section, writes: “The reaction to this video is not only overblown but also harmful to the people who need help and those who may want to offer it.”
“A lot of my friends were saying, ugh, another white savior,” she told NPR. “Then I watched it and thought: Why are we being so harsh on someone who genuinely wants to help?”
To date, the video has been watched more than 6 million times on YouTube, earning more than 100,000 thumbs ups and 1,000 thumbs downs. According to Comic Relief, the film, part of their 2017 Red Nose Day campaign in March, helped raise $109 million in funds for programs that fight child poverty, including those in Liberia.
Others agree with Mzezewa, including Beyan Flomo Pewee, the Liberian founder and executive director of YOCEL, a nonprofit youth organization in Monsterrado, Liberia. “I personally think that the video was not really bad given he was raising funds and Liberia benefited,” he wrote in an email to NPR. “Especially the closing part of the video where he demonstrated commitment to help the boys.”
On the other hand, Jennifer Lentfer, is not a fan. “The video uses old tropes. Watch this and give us money,” says Lentfer, who teaches a class at the University of Vermont on how to communicate about social justice.
Perhaps the argument can be summed up in a tweet from a foreign correspondent from Nairobi:
“Poor Ed Sheeran, he only wanted to help.”
What’s your perspective on Comic Relief’s fundraising ad featuring Ed Sheeran? Share your thoughts on this thread on Twitter.