The War On Oprah
The Oprah backlash started over the tax consequences of her car give-away, gained momentum with her Hermes flap, and now the Oprah haters like Fox's John Gibson are picking on her new $40 million Oprah Winfrey South African Leadership Academy for Girls.
I guess Gibson has some extra time on his hands now that the War on Christmas is over for another year. I wonder why Gibson isn't using his free time to carp about The Donald's apparent lack of charity? Why the double standard?
Why shouldn't Oprah spend her millions on African girls? It's her money AND she has already spent millions on educating and helping Americans.
Apparently, with Oprah, no good deed goes unpunished. How soon we forget she personally wrote a $10 million dollar check to help Katrina's victims. Just last year Oprah's foundation gave out close to $20 million dollars:
Oprah's Angel Network distributed more than $2.5 million to 33 organizations and projects making a difference in underserved communities. In addition, it distributed more than $16.5 million towards disaster recovery programs helping people rebuild and strengthen their lives and communities after the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
Too Lavish? Try Too Petty
Oprah has called the Leadership Academy "the fulfillment of my work on earth" and it's petty to begrudge her a pet project. Critics say the school is too lavish for such an impoverished country. How dare Oprah have the audacity to spoil these Black African girls?! Oprah personally chose the girl's uniforms and the 200-thread count sheets. She made sure the beds were comfy and the complex has theaters, a beauty salon AND, oh the horror, a yoga studio.
Oprah doesn't care what we think. When asked if the school is too lavish, Oprah responded:
"I understand that many ... feel that I'm going overboard, and that's fine," Winfrey told Newsweek magazine. "This is what I want to do. I wanted to take girls with that 'it' quality and give them an opportunity to make a difference in the world. ... I wanted this to be a place of honor for them because these girls have never been treated with kindness. They've never been told they are pretty or have wonderful dimples. I wanted to hear those things as a child."
Why are so many quick to question if these girls deserve the best education Oprah's money has to offer? Oprah is sending a message to the world that blacks and women are valuable by creating one of the most expensive schools in the world for Black African girls. Good for her!
Oprah will get a lot of bang for her buck by educating poor Black girls in Africa. She realizes that educating South African girls must be a priority to help turn the tide in sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa, where an education is quite rare, and birth rates for uneducated girls are so high, a little education could make a dramatic difference.
Africa's first female President Ellen Johnson is finally getting the lights turned on in Liberia after decades with no electricity. Who knows what great things Oprah's little leaders will do for Africa ?
Like Cosby, Oprah Gets Swiftboated For Venting Frustration With Urban Materialism
Oprah's critics think she should focus on American kids and that she's too critical of urban students. Oprah vents:
Like Bill Cosby, Oprah's criticism of urban values could easily extend to the suburbs. Rampant materialism isn't limited to black, inner city kids. Have you seen an episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen or Laguna Beach? It's clearly an American problem. Why Africa? What Bono, Gates and Oprah Understand
"I really became frustrated with the fact that all I did was write check after check," the media mogul, 52, tells Newsweek of her previous charitable giving. "At a certain point, you want to feel that connection."
Winfrey, who devoted five years to creating the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls outside Johannesburg, also said of the assistance she has given at home, "I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn't there."
In America, she says, "If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don't ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school."
My own love affair with South Africa began in Law School when I worked to get Harvard to divest. I went on to serve as the founding Executive Director of Artists for a New South Africa. I still get goose bumps when I think about meeting President Mandela. It was a transformative and magical moment I will treasure forever. Mandela's graciousness was intoxicating and his lack of bitterness, astonishing . I understand and share Oprah's passion for South Africa. Why Africa? Why now? Bono sums it up nicely here.
Oprah Is Good For America's Image Abroad
With our national image tarnished abroad, I'll take Oprah's $40 Million Dollar South African Leadership Academy over Pat Robertson's African Gold Mine any day.
If Oprah wants to give to anyone less fortunate, more power to her - even if they are just Black African Girls.
More info about how to get involved with Oprah's Leadership Academy here.
Follow Karen Russell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Karen_Russell