Featured // Philanthropist Spotlight
From SUPER Model to ROLE Model
By: Maryam Mimi Makabi
Like the phoenix she is, the enigmatic Iman reemerges in the public eye donning a hat distinctly different from those worn before. The Somali supermodel, social activist and wife of Rock Music Icon, David Bowie, is turning her efforts to the vision of Keep A Child Alive, serving as a Global Ambassador with an intimately vested interest in the work of this organization. Keep A Child Alive (KCA) strives to provide medical care and support to children and families dealing with HIV/AIDS in Africa. Through media campaigns, social awareness of the AIDS pandemic in Africa is given a platform for recognition and growth.

Iman’s interest in the mission of KCA is far from arbitrary. In 1972, Iman and her family were forced to flee a Somalia ravaged by war. With nothing more than the clothes they wearing, Iman and her family faced an uncertain future. Nairobi, Kenya became home to the former family of an African diplomat, turned family of struggling refugees. While she has developed a prominent international persona, her hometown has always held a special place in her heart - a heart that weighs heavy with the pain and suffering of her people. Keenly aware of the worsening situation of AIDS in Africa, coupled with waning international attention, Iman embraces her role as Global Ambassador. In an effort to spark attention and turn the eyes of the global community to the situation plaguing Africa, Iman has initiated the “I Am Africa” Campaign. 

Never lacking strength of conviction, Iman asserts that, “As an African who somehow felt that the plight of Africans dying of AIDS have sometimes fallen on deaf ears and worst that some of our governments have betrayed and let us down with corruption...I wanted accountability.”

Drawing on the often forgotten fact that our DNA has common roots in African ancestry, thereby forming a large family, the “I Am Africa” campaign features prominent celebrities photographed sporting modern versions of tribal African makeup. Just as her exotic presence challenged and changed the idea of beauty, Iman looks to challenge and change the world yet again - challenging the citizens of the world to remember their African origins, listen to their moral conscience and take action to change the devastation AIDS reeks on Africa.

Iman recognizes that with her international stardom has come the power to command international attention. This mother of two & business officianado couples a mother’s caring touch with a firm corporate hand to raise attention for her struggling homeland. She is dedicated to using this agency for beneficent purposes, “making a personal appeal to men, women, and children everywhere to declare their African ‘roots’ and do their part in assisting a country in need.”

This humanistic appeal is furthered by KCA’s “Mother Africa” campaign. This campaign again uses photography, featuring prominent celebrities among their loved ones. Intended to emphasize the emotional, rather than statistical toll of the AIDS pandemic, the“Mother Africa” campaign forces people to move past the heart wrenching figure of 28 million deaths. Instead, the campaign confronts viewers with the reality that each AIDS fatality leaves a gaping hole in a devastated family or community. “The ‘Mother Africa’campaign reminds us how we’re all connected as members of families and as part of the human family,” said KCA Co-Founder and President Leigh Blake.  “The devastation of the AIDS pandemic in Africa highlights so many inequities: food politics, water politics, medical politics, labor politics and on and on.  But none of these injustices compare to losing a loved one to a preventable and treatable illness.” 

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