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Dispatches from the Continent

Dispatches from the Continent

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A protester participates in a demonstration against the Guinean government, Feb. 16, 2007.

A protester participates in a demonstration against the Guinean government in front of the European Union Commission in Brussels, Feb. 16, 2007. Thierry Charlier/AP hide caption

toggle caption Thierry Charlier/AP

"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.



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"People are now prepared to pay with their lives for a proper democratic country." - Ofeibea Quist-Arcton concerning Guinea

I like idea behind the Dispatches segment as it sheds light on parts of the world that the American mainstream media has ignored. For instance, I haven't heard much about Africa this week from American news outlets, and why? The quote that I included at the top this comment reveals that African news is compelling.

I'd also like to hear dispatches from bloggers in the Global Voices Online network. Although may lack the expertise of a correspondent, they live in these areas and care deeply about what happens. Besides, who's more familiar with an area than its own natives?

Sent by Steve Petersen | 4:01 PM | 2-23-2007

Wow! I have a reason to listen to NPR again! I'm originally from Antigua. I look forward to the new show.

My tip: pls include some segments on the arts in Africa and the Caribbean. I also enjoy in-depth business news.

Sent by Joanne | 6:43 PM | 2-23-2007

I am grateful for your efforts in creating Dispatches as it is difficult to keep up with the current news in these areas with private media focused elsewhere. These are areas that deserve more attention from the wealthy West. Thank you for creating a forum for continual communication. This is the only way we can help eachother improve our lives.

Sent by Benjamin Swearingen | 11:11 AM | 2-24-2007

Africa means Lubambashi,democratic republic of congo, center of the copper industry. A metropolis of folk. Africa means a community that is rescuing children that have been thrown away from the society around it. my sister (on her own dime and time) has saved 14 children so far from prostitution,slavery and gruesome lonely deaths. They blossom into the gifts they are to the world. Recieve an education and prayfully become leaders of righteousness and justice in their world. Africa is a world of unsung heroes of all colors who need recognition for the lives and cultures being saved. check out and make a difference.

Sent by Edie Reno | 5:55 PM | 2-24-2007

I would like to nominate for your show- Dr. Caitlin O'Connell and her book published by FREEPRESS division of Simon&Schuster and due out this month. It is titled "The Elephant's Secret Sense"She is on staff of Stanford Med. School and the book describes her time (over 12 yrs) in Namibia working with people of the villages and studying elephant behaviour.She discovered that elelphants send a low level sound that
travels through the ground and is picked up by other elephants with their feet. Pre-publlication reviews by the Am. Library and scientists can be supplied as well as her other credentials.

Sent by Aline O'Connell | 11:43 AM | 2-26-2007

Africa to me is the inspiration for black identity. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton concerning Guinea is well spoken & really help give vivid word pictures about the topic of discussion. I was impressed with the questions and the answers given. The discuusion shed light on the oldest dichotomy of a population of humans that have some of the richest natural resources. A very sad reality of how man continues to dominate man to his injury. I liked this discussion & look forward to more from other parts of the globe.

Sent by Jimmy Lee | 4:11 PM | 2-26-2007

Greetings Michel Martin,
I highly value hearing segments of what other humans are dealing with. Segments like this help me to be aware of the lives of others; I hope to learn many things that would reduce my own prejudice and replace it with compassion. The episode on schools for girls in Africa still moves me, and shows people who are live as solutions. This one also about disappointments with government has been expanding, even if the solution is not yet clear. It's hard to sift through the coverage of the Iraq war to find other stories that are also as relevant to human life on the planet.

I was blown away recently by the stories of a friend who visited Burmese refugee camps in Thailand. I was amazed by the pictures and stories, and feel we need to become aware of the human plight in our world. But how do we become part of the solution if we are never made aware of such things because we are focused only on our own business? This episode on Guinea helped me to become more aware and I thank you.

Sent by Seth | 5:22 PM | 2-26-2007

Very informative. I listened twice, but still didn't understand what your correspondent meant when she said Guinea said "no" to France. Did France want to play a greater role in post-independence Guinea? Also, a quick geography lesson would have been helpful about exactly where in West Africa the countries are located: ("south of x country and north of y country") I'd love a weekly dispatch from Africa, Central, or South America. Those regions don't get nearly enough coverage. Great idea.

Sent by Stanley | 6:31 PM | 2-26-2007

I think weekly segments on Africa, the Carribean, and Latin America would be excellent. I also think they would help the one problem I have with this show--with the exception of a segment about the 'Hispanic Bill Cosby', every segment on race is approached through a lens of African-American identity or Black/White American identity. I like and appreciate black programming, but if the idea of the show is that it celebrates diversity, I expect to hear API, Latino, and Native voices as well as black ones.

I will commend you, though, when you approach topics of religion, you do seem to be reaching out beyond Christian/Jewish questions.

However, you are the least gay show about diversity I've ever heard. I would really welcome serious, discussion oriented programming on sexuality related issues, and I think NPR has the attitude to handle it without getting tittery. (And by sexuality, I mean, of course, anything beyond vanilla heterosexual serial monogamy, not just gayness.)

Sent by Adrienne | 3:21 PM | 2-28-2007

I sincerely hope this makes it on the radio. This segment serves a unique niche that's much needed. Keep up the great work.

Sent by corinne | 12:49 AM | 3-1-2007

Just some feedback on the Dispatches from the continent feature: I
liked hearing from countries who are otherwise underrepresented in
world reporting. However, I felt that the reporter's delivery was too
emotionally involved, and it detracted from the feeling of legitimacy of
the information being reported. Otherwise, great idea!

Sent by Jackie | 5:39 PM | 3-7-2007

Thanks for listening to the segments and for taking the time to write! I appreciate your reaction to the tone of the report. Just wanted to offer another reaction--we think one of the unique contributions we make is offering the reporters an opportunity to talk with greater intimacy and emotion than is usually possible their reportage. We think this personal element is enjoyable and allows our listeners a bit more connection with the people bringing them the news. FYI--I should also mention--Ofeibea's working conditions are sometimes quite rough--in this instance she was reporting from her hotel room with a towel over her head to muffle the noise from the gunfire outside ...we didn't mention it because she didn't think it was that important but maybe I should have...we didn't to freak people out...

Sent by Michel Martin and the Rough Cuts Team | 5:41 PM | 3-7-2007

It's an interesting question. On one hand, the greater intimacy of the report is unique. On the other hand, it breaks down the facade/convention of the unbiased reporter without warning the listener that it's coming. Perhaps, as you mentioned, prefacing the piece with some indication of your intent to allow the reporters on these pieces a more personal voice would ease the cognitive transition. Thanks again for your great work!

Sent by Jackie | 6:16 PM | 3-7-2007

I just happened across your program while surfing the net for some news. I would enjoy any news about Africa and its diaspora. It's not often that you can hear news about the world outside of the U.S., Europe, or China. Thanks and good luck in the future.

Sent by Debra | 6:16 PM | 3-7-2007

I came across your link while looking for archived audio reports on Booker International Prize winner, Nigerian author Chinua Achebe - and what a wonderful surprise it was to find and listen to your report! It is not easy to find reports like this on African or South American countries, both which interest me very much - keep up the great work!

Sent by Karen | 8:46 PM | 6-26-2007