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Bono Meets Injustice in Africa Head On

Bono at CelebrityValues.comLeave it to Bono to tackle four major issues under one organization. DATA stands for Debt, AIDS, Trade, and Africa. Bono, U2's lead singer, founded the organization in 2002 along with activists from the Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt campaign. At the core of DATA's mission is a view that these issues are not about charity, but about equality and justice.

Bono has been highly active in campaigning for Africa. He visited Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in May 2002 and has continued his work through DATA with the support of several world leaders and financial backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bono was born Paul David Hewson in Ballymun, Ireland, on May 10, 1960. With a Protestant mother and Catholic father, Bono grew up with a strong religious faith but avoided becoming attached to one particular denomination. His mother died in 1974 when Bono was just 14 years old, an event that later had a strong influence on his songwriting.

As a teenager, he joined a group of kids who called themselves Lypton Village, and it was with them that he acquired the name Bono -- orignally Bono Vox. The members of the group gave each other names that they felt reflected who they were better than their given names. The origin of Bono's name is commonly attributed to a brand name of hearing aid, "Bonavox."


In 1976, the legendary rock band U2 formed in Dublin, with members Bono, the Edge (nee Dave Evans), Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton. Through a combination of zealous righteousness and post-punk experimentalism, U2 became one of the most popular rock and roll bands of the '80s. Known for their sweeping sound as well as their grandiose statements about politics and religion, U2 were rock & roll crusaders during an era of synthesized pop and heavy metal.

Early on, Bono demonstrated great stage presence. Even at school, where he was the first person to embrace punk rock, he had a flair for grabbing people's attention. From the beginning, he was a natural at working an audience and getting the best from them. This has been a constant feature of U2's live shows right up to the present day. 

Bono was a frontman with a knack for grand gestures that played better in arenas than small clubs. The Edge provided the group with its signature sound by creating sweeping sonic landscapes with his heavily processed, echoed guitars. Though the Edge's style wasn't conventional, the rhythm section of Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. played the songs as driving hard rock, giving the band a forceful, powerful edge that was designed for arena rock. It's no accident that footage of Bono parading with a white flag with "Sunday Bloody Sunday" blaring in the background became the defining moment of U2's early career –- there rarely was a band that believed so deeply in rock's potential for revolution.

During the course of the early '80s, the group quickly built up a dedicated following through constant touring and a string of acclaimed records. By 1987, the band's following had grown large enough to propel them to the level of international superstars with the release of The Joshua Tree. Unlike many of their contemporaries, U2 was able to sustain their popularity in the '90s by reinventing themselves as a post-modern, self-consciously ironic dance-inflected, pop-rock act, owing equally to the experimentalism of late '70s Bowie and '90s electronic dance and techno. By performing such a successful reinvention, the band confirmed its status as one of the most popular bands in rock history, in addition to earning critical respect. In 2004 they released their latest album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.

Bono Sings - CelebrityValues.comU2 is well known for its strong political commitments, especially in the areas of human rights, economic justice, and environmental protection. War (1983) is arguably the album with the group's strongest message, which helped it receive airplay in the United Kingdom and on college radio. The band also entered the MTV generation with the album's popular hits "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Year's Day." Once U2 had become one of the most popular bands in the world, other bands soon began to replicate U2's determined political stances, providing the impetus for the Band Aid and Live Aid projects in 1984 and 1985, respectively. Over the years the band has highlighted the work of key campaigning groups, including Amnesty International, Jubilee 2000, Chernobyl Children's Project, Greenpeace and Netaid. In benefit concerts, songwriting, public campaigns, special visits and fund-raising projects, U2 has spotlighted a range of charities and activist communities worldwide.

About DATA


DATA aims to raise awareness and spark response to the crises swamping Africa: unpayable debts, the uncontrolled spread of AIDS and unfair trade rules that keep Africans poor. DATA works to raise awareness of crises facing Africa and to increase support in the United States and abroad on these issues. It lobbies the governments of wealthy nations to increase funding and promote policies that will benefit Africa. DATA also work to inform citizens of wealthier countries and to increase grassroots support for more compassionate policies towards Africa.

DATA advocates a comprehensive and sustainable solution to poverty and disease that plague the African continent. For humanitarian, economic and security reasons, DATA is asking for a real commitment from wealthy countries to:

Relieve unpayable debts: Many African countries are paying more in old debts to developed countries than they pay for health care or education for their own people. These countries have developed clear and budgeted plans for how they could fight poverty if only the resources were available, and debt relief is one way to provide those resources. The rich countries that have already committed to forgiving African debt need to follow through and work with the World Bank and the IMF to forgive the debts owed to these international organizations.

Fight the AIDS crisis: Africa is home to 30 million living with HIV/AIDS; 6,500 die every day, and there are already 11 million orphans. AIDS is a global emergency, and the whole world needs to work together to fight it. It will cost more than $10 billion per year to fight this killer. So far, the United States is spending less than half that amount. Every year the United States waits to fully fight the epidemic, more people die, and the overall cost of stopping AIDS grows. Wealthy countries need to work with Africans to raise the money needed, to fight the stigma attached to living with AIDS, and to make sure the drugs needed to fight AIDS and other diseases are available.

Provide more development assistance: Development assistance is critical to helping countries pay for education, health care, clean water, roads and other development priorities. Our world has set a global goal of dedicating 0.7 percent of our nations' wealth on the poor people of the world —- but most rich countries aren't even close to that goal. While increasing the quantity of development assistance, we also need to improve the quality of development to make sure that every dollar, euro and yen we send is as effective as possible.

Make trade fair so that Africa can work to boost its own economic growth —- Africa is currently limited in its ability to earn resources through trade because international trade rules limit Africans' ability to sell their products abroad and allow for U.S. and European goods to be "dumped" into African markets at disproportionately low prices. The United States should open its market quota and duty-free status to all African exports and remove agricultural subsidies, which hurt African farmers.

What You Can Do

Again and again, politicians say they want to do more for Africa. Then they don't. Why? Because they don't hear from YOU —- their citizens, voters, and taxpayers —- that you care and want to see something done. DATA is here to get the word out that you do care —- and to give you the best ways to get the word out for yourself. Find out how you can help, or select an area of interest for a direct link.

TRADE. The way the rules of trade are set makes it impossible for poor countries to earn their way out of poverty. A level playing field would mean that in the long run the poorest countries wouldn't have to rely on handouts from the rich countries. Sign a petition for fairer trade rules.

LEADERS. Let your senators and congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., know that you don’t want them to cut the foreign aid budget. This link will provide you with a toll-free number, what to say, and more. Tell your leaders.

FAITH. Find out how to get your faith group involved.

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Bono And RED Custard Pies

Bono served as Guest Editor for London's The Independent newspaper

May I say without guile, I am as sick of messianic rock stars as the next man, woman and child. I am also tired of average work being given extra weight because it's attached to something with real gravitas, like the Aids emergency. So I truly try to tread carefully as I walk over the dreams of dignity under my feet in our work for the terrible beauty that is the continent of Africa. I'm used to the custard pies. I've even learnt to like the taste of them. But before you are tempted to let fly with your understandable invective, allow me to contextualise. Not for the sake of my vanity, but for the sake of people who are depending on you - the reader - to respond to the precariousness of their lives.

Picture this: a village where the disappearance of a whole generation has left children to bring up children (the Lord of the Flies syndrome).

I'm a witness to this. What can I do?

Or this: my new friend Prudence, who even if she had access to anti-retroviral therapies would not have shared them with her now dead sister or best friend Janny, because her fellow activists were more important to keep alive.

Why? Because picture this: most activists and trained nurses cannot afford the drugs available to us in any corner chemist.

I am a witness to this. I have watched these brave and beautiful souls who are fighting a forest fire of a pandemic with watering cans, knowing they will not see the light of a day when their work will be honoured. I have been a witness to their conversations around canteen tables, deciding who will live or die, because they do not have enough pills to go round. I've seen Zackie Achmat refuse his medications until he won his action against the South African government, forcing their hand on universal access. What a witness he was. And so I testify.

These firefighters deserve fire engines with sirens and low-flying aircraft with bellies full of of rain. At the very least, they deserve their situation to merit the classification of an emergency. Code Red, like Hurricane Katrina or the tsunami in south Asia, which swept away a hundred and fifty thousand lives. These were natural catastrophes. Africa loses a hundred and fifty thousand men, women, and children every month to Aids, a wholly avoidable disaster, a preventable, treatable disease.

Colin Powell describes the tiny little virus HIV as the most lethal weapon of mass destruction on the planet. So forgive us if we expand our strategy to reach the high street, where so many of you live and work.

We need to meet you where you are as you shop, as you phone, as you lead your busy, businessy lives. Those of us who campaign on these issues feel we have made a dent on the pop consciousness with Live Aid and 8, Red Nose Day, Comic Relief and Make Poverty History. But we are still losing the battle: 9,000 new infections every day across the developing world.

There will be those that think that RED is the worst idea they've ever heard.

On the far right, we will hear the usual carping about it being Africa's own fault (the same warped logic that would pass by a drunk driver's car accident). This despite the fact that the largest increasing group of HIV-positive people are monogamous married women. We'll hear the "Africans can't take pills because they don't have watches to tell the time" line. Even though Africans have the best record of us all at sticking to their drug regimens.

On the far left, we will meet "better dead than RED", a reaction to big business that is not wholly unjustified. But given the emergency that is Aids, I don't see this as selling out. I see this as ganging up on the problem. This emergency demands a radical centre, as well as a radical edge. Creeping up on the everyday. Making the difficult easy.

Product RED cannot replace activism. For anyone who thinks this means I'm going to retire to the boardroom and stop banging my fist on the door of No. 10, I'm sorry to disappoint you. We have to keep our marching boots on and hold our leaders to account for the promises they have made to Africa - and get them to promise more. The incredible movement we saw gathering around last year's G8 is what will, in the end, win the day. But for too many people, that day will be too late. Right now, people you will never meet, who will never be able to thank you, are depending on you for the life-saving drugs which buying this paper will buy. For those people, my motivation or our (RED) motivation is irrelevant.