A protester participates in a demonstration against the Guinean government in front of the European Union Commission in Brussels, Feb. 16, 2007.
"He cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath. 'The horror! The horror!'"
Heart of Darkness — Joseph Conrad, 1899
"We have heard stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas, but no one thought the stories were true."
Things Fall Apart — Chinua Achebe, 1958
What is Africa to you? Is it Joseph Conrad's tale of colonial occupation, Achebe's angry rebuke? Is it the home of Angelina Jolie and Madonna's adopted babies? Nelson Mandela's triumphant walk to freedom? Is it AIDS, famine, coup d'etats? Boy soldiers? The Motherland? Inspiration for black identity? The origin of humankind? World Cup 2010?
Of course Africa is all that. It is also a new source of hip-hop, a place of emerging (and struggling) democracies. Some of the most totalitarian regimes and some of the world's most exciting female leaders can be found among Africa's 53 sovereign nations. All of that is Africa today; all of that is exciting to us. All of that is grist for our weekly feature Dispatches, where we plan to bring you the best and most interesting reporting from NPR's stellar correspondents plus up-to-the-minute information from a growing network of bloggers, broadcasters and commentators from the region.
We are also interested in Latin and Central America — and the Caribbean. At a time when news organizations around the country are cutting back on so called "foreign" news, NPR has made an amazing commitment to bringing you what you need and want to know about the world. I put "foreign" in quotes because — let's face it — one of 10 U.S. citizens is born elsewhere. To many, these countries are not "foreign" at all — just more distant suburbs!
You may want to know why we aren't talking about Asia and the Middle East. Asia, after all, is the largest and most populous continent. It's pretty simple: We think these regions are the priority of other shows and news outlets, whereas we feel Africa and the Caribbean are made less of a priority. We think Latin and Central America are somewhere in between, but we think our listeners are particularly interested in those regions.
In this week's feature, NPR's amazing Ofeibea Quist-Arcton gives us the latest from the West African nation Guinea, which is in the throes of a political crisis. How many kids do you know who are named Sekou or Toure in honor of that country's first post-independence leader? She'll tell you what's going on right now. And as always, let us know what you think.