Bright Idea: Get to know Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, the Producer

Oscar winner Lupita Amondi Nyong’o won the hearts of people the world over when she emerged on the scene. From her very gripping and raw portrayal of the young slave Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, to her genuinely expressive way with words in her acceptance speeches throughout award season, Lupita has demonstrated such poise, grace, and intelligence, and is a bright light not only in the entertainment world, but in the world at large.

It was her breakout role in the film 12 Years a Slave that turned heads, but Lupita has been a quiet storm for some time. In 2009, she released her first documentary film, In My Genes, on the topic of albinism. Born in Mexico City, Lupita was raised in Kenya and was able to document the lives of several albinos living there. Addressing the common misconceptions people have about albinos, including the idea that they cannot be of the same black family as their siblings, maternal infidelity, and anything else that promotes exclusion, Lupita wanted to give a voice to the voiceless on the topic. In an interview (below) from the 2009 African Film Festival, she points out that she did not want to “Lord over” the documentary film with voice-overs but instead chose to make the stories originate from the subjects’ mouths. Never was it about treating albinism as a negative; Lupita’s documentary is about bringing awareness where there may be ignorance.

Saharatv YouTube

Interestingly, towards the end of the interview Lupita emphasizes the importance of telling stories from one’s perspective, and staying true to that. “We need to find our own voice,” she says.:

Here is the trailer for Lupita’s documentary film, “In My Genes”:

Lupita Nyong’o’s YouTube

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Bright Idea: Battle stereotypes with hope

Take a moment to sit still and think about your immediate thoughts when you read the following word:

African

What images comes to mind? There is an organization, founded by Nyla Rodgers, which poses this question. So many times we have the same images of Africa and its people drilled into our psyche; a land of impoverished, violent, sick, helpless people. And while we are well aware of the problems that exist in the continent, the same awareness should be as, if not more, popular for the vibrant, intellectual, driven, optimistic people who also populate the countries!

Mama Hope is on a mission and their mission is to continue to work “in close partnership with local African organizations to connect them with the resources required to transform their own communities. All [their] projects are managed for and by partner communities themselves to ensure sustainability. So far, [they] have achieved [their] mission by funding the completion of schools, health clinics, children’s centers, clean water systems and food security projects.”

(Source: Mama Hope YouTube Channel)

One of their projects that caught my eye, was “Stop the Pity”. On a whole, the movement is Mama Hope’s effort to “re-humanize Africa and look to the positive change that is happening. Through a series of videos Mama Hope wants to show the light of the people we serve in Africa.” What they refer to is “unlocking the potential”. One of the their videos has been quite viral and highlights the stereotypes of African men in Hollywood films.

(Source: Mama Hope YouTube Channel)

What a brilliant way to illustrate their positive message – by contrasting the stereotypes with the realities. If you believe in their cause and would like to know more about it, you can visit their website.

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Charlize Theron: The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP)

While many of you think of her latest film, Young Adult, when you hear the name Charlize Theron, or wonder about her love life, Charlize is obsessing over something way more important and way less trivial – victims of HIV/AIDS in her homeland. A native of Africa’s country of South Africa, it was in 2007 that she founded The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP), in affiliation with the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF). The CTAOP is “committed to reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and sexual violence among African youth by supporting and collaborating with organizations that provide preventive education.”

The organization cares about the several million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and the millions more living with the disease, in the total population, regardless of their ages. The outreach programs are so important to the education of the citizens, they even use mobile health clinics.

(Source: CTAOP/CharlizeAfrica YouTube page)

For more information about the outreach project or to see what you can do in her country, you can go to the CTAOP website at:

www.charlizeafricaoutreach.org

You may even be inspired to see what you can do in your own country, in order to help stomp out HIV/AIDS. We hope you are!

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Featured Optimist: Garz Chan gives back through her handbag creations

I had the pleasure of meeting Garz Chan about a week ago and aside from having great conversations about life and creativity, it was the way she carried herself that intrigued me. She’s ambitious, kind and has a certain edge to her that complements her warm nature. As friends and I chatted with her, there was something else about her we all noticed, almost at the same moment – her handbag! It was a cute bag, a denim bag that was just the right size to hold without causing a dent in your shoulder (we ladies know we pack as much as possible into our bags!)! I chimed in with all of the compliments, but then also asked if she made them for others. Much to my delight, she said yes, and I was an instant customer! A few examples of her bags are below.

When we met up again and I told her about this blog, she mentioned that part of the proceeds for her handbags went to two charities! 25% of the cost goes to nokidhungry.org to end child hunger across America.

25% of the cost goes to shineonsierraleone.org to help build schools and hospitals in Sierra Leone/North West Africa.

And so, this Featured Optimist is one to watch as she continues to not only give back through her handbag creations, but as a human being. Imagine, she also offers a service for busy mothers where she cooks them a nice meal when they otherwise may not have time to. Cheers to you, Garz!

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Bright Idea: Donating your car to charity

In 2008, it was time for me to finally say goodbye to my car and get a new one. It was time to move on from my little point A to point B, cherry red, two door 1985 BMW 325. It was a sturdy vehicle and served me well, but once I was ready to get a new car, I almost immediately knew that I wanted to pass it on to charity.

When I first heard about the possibility, I did some research, and while there are plenty of sites and organizations to choose from, I ended up using http://www.donatecarusa.com. They have an easy to search list of charities to choose from. The charity site actually takes the car to a public auction, uses that money gained from the auction sale and donates that money to the organization you choose. It’s a great way to discard of your old car, with little to no fuss, and more importantly, a great way to help others who are in need.

My old car being hauled off to ultimately help someone in need...

The charity I chose was the African Aid Organization, formerly the African Child Care Association. It is “a non-profit organization devoted to providing first-class assistance, support, and education to the Most Vulnerable children in Sub-Saharan Africa. We help these children who are affected by HIV/AIDS or who deal with the hardships of poverty by investing in them and in their future.”

They can be found at http://www.afaid.org/.

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Ben Affleck: Eastern Congo Initiative

We all know what an arguably amazing job Ben Affleck did in “The Town”, the film he both directed and starred in last year. We’ve recently heard he’s rolling his sleeves up to dive into another film project (called “Tell No One”) as Director. We also know he is half of a Hollywood couple (with A-Lister Jennifer Garner) with serious star power. But, behind the flashing lightbulbs of the red carpet madness and the intrusive images of the paparazzi lies a deeper side of Ben Affleck’s attachment to the human experience that starkly contrasts the superficiality that can come with fame. It’s no secret that countries in Africa have faced colonialism, war, pain, poverty, rape, and often times, neglect. The general health of the continent is unstable.

Ben Affleck’s attention to charity hits close to home for me. He is the founder of an organization called the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI).

(http://www.easterncongo.org)

The ECI was born in 2010 and is the “first U.S. based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo.”

(Source: original video source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwJ7snTLoqU&feature=channel_video_title)

Their initiatives include the following (from website):

  • Increase the quantity and quality of public and private funding that supports the communities and citizens of eastern Congo, providing local organizations and leaders with the necessary resources to heal and sustain their communities
  • Raise public awareness about the tremendous need in the region through highly targeted media and advocacy activities
  • Drive policy change that increases United States government engagement in Congo

Ben Affleck and the ECI work with Congolese organizations with the mission to make positive changes in the areas of support for victims of rape and sexual violence, support for vulnerable children involved in war-related activities, community, health care and economic opportunity.

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