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Heroes

Solar module prices have hit a new low. So Akon's trying to bring power to all Africans.

The Senegalese-American hip-hop star wants to solar (em)power Africans.

Since Akon's rise to fame, he hasn't hesitated to use his celebrity for the greater good.

Akon performs at a Peace One Day concert for International Peace Day in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images.


In addition to participating in charitable events like the Peace One Day concert, he founded the Konfidence Foundation to help impoverished youth in West Africa and the U.S.

And he recently added another act of awesome to his repertoire:

Akon's working to bring electricity to 600 million sub-Saharan Africans in rural areas.

Yeah, that's no small feat, but he knows how important it is. Although Akon was born in Missouri, he spent many years growing up in Senegal, where his family lived without electricity. He told Gulf News:

"Not having electricity growing up and then going to the U.S. where I got used to having clean water and light and visiting my family in Africa only to see that not much has changed within a span of 20 years or so is really what inspired me to begin this initiative."

Through the Akon Lighting Africa initiative, Akon is bringing affordable solar power solutions to Africa. Solar module prices hit a record low last year, which means it's easier than ever to expand the use of solar energy in countries with limited funds. So with the help of a $1 billion credit line, the initiative pays for the upfront costs so that electicity providers in African countries can pay back the money over time to the initiative in affordable installments.

The initiative isn't just about power; it's about em-powering. (Yeah, I said it.)

I'm sorry! I couldn't resist. GIF via "The Office."

Access to electricity would obviously be a vast improvement on people's daily lives: Street lights would improve safety, home lights would allow children to do homework later, and the special skills needed for solar power equipment installation would create jobs.

But Akon doesn't just want to improve the day-to-day things; he wants to help Africans innovate with solar energy. That's why the initiative's work includes creating education opportunities for community members to understand the benefits of solar energy.

An example? They've partnered with Solektra International to create a solar academy for local entrepreneurs in Mali — the first of its kind on the African continent.

Akon believes that giving individual Africans access to power will help the continent as a whole.

Mali women make jars under a solar-powered mobile street light. Photo by Habibou Kouyate/AFP/Getty Images.

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Akon said electricity is the key to helping the continent catch up to developed nations. He believes that foreign aid can do more harm than good, so he wanted to use the initiative to invest directly in African individuals and businesses. While it's a for-profit venture, Akon shared in a live chat that proceeds go to African banks so the money can stay within the local economy.

So far, they're making great strides.

Photo by U.K. Department for International Development/Flickr.

In just a year, Akon's initiative is operating in 11 countries, including Senegal, Mali, and Sierra Leone.

According to The Wall Street Journal,Akon partially attributes the quick expansion to the fact that countries can see the benefits of solar power before committing to using it. Since the ALA initiative has the funds, they front the money to launch a free pilot program in rural areas. With a risk-free introduction to the benefits of solar energy, countries have been able to make a confident, informed decision to sign on.

And there's more to come: Just this week, the initiative presented in Parisduring the UN climate negotiations (COP21) to share the impact they're having.

As an American-born child with family in Africa, I know how big a deal this initiative is. While I'm fortunate enough to have family in Kenya who are among the 5% of Africans in sub-Saharan Africa with electricity (compared to 80% of the whole world), I've seen firsthand how many Kenyans living without it doesn't just limit their own lives; it affects the country as a whole.

I love that Akon is about spreading the power — literally and figuratively.

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The last thing children should have to worry about is where their next meal will come from. But the unfortunate reality is food insecurity is all too common in this country.

In an effort to help combat this pressing issue, KFC is teaming up with Blessings in a Backpack to provide nearly 70,000 meals to families in need and spread holiday cheer along the way.

The KFC Sharemobile, a holiday-edition charitable food truck, will be making stops at schools in Chicago, Orlando, and Houston in December to share KFC family meals and special gifts for a few select families to address specific needs identified by their respective schools.

These cities were chosen based on the high level of food insecurity present in their communities and hardships they’ve faced, such as a devastating hurricane season in Florida and an unprecedented winter storm in Houston. In 2021, five million children across the US lived in food-insecure households, according to the USDA.

“Sharing a meal with family or friends is a special part of the holidays,” said Nick Chavez, CMO of KFC U.S. “Alongside our franchisees, we wanted to make that possible for even more families this holiday season.”

KFC will also be making a donation to Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit that works to provide weekend meals to school-aged children across America who might otherwise go hungry.

“The generous donations from KFC could not have come at a better time, as these communities have been particularly hard-hit this year with rising food costs, inflation and various natural disasters,” Erin Kerr, the CEO of Blessings in a Backpack, told Upworthy. “Because of KFC’s support, we’re able to spread holiday cheer by donating meals for hunger-free weekends and meet each community’s needs,” Kerr said.

This isn’t the first time KFC has worked with Blessings in a Backpack. The fried chicken chain has partnered with the nonprofit for the last six years, donating nearly $1 million dollars. KFC employees also volunteer weekly to package and provide meals to students in Louisville, Kentucky who need food over the weekend.

KFC franchisees are also bringing the Sharemobile concept to life in markets across the country through local food donations and other holiday giveback moments. Ampex Brands, a KFC franchisee based in Dallas, recently held its annual Day of Giving event and donated 11,000 meals to school children in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

If you’d like to get involved, you can make a donation to help feed students in need at kfc.com/kfcsharemobile. Every bit helps, but a donation of $150 helps feed a student on the weekends for an entire 38-week school year, and a donation as low as $4 will feed a child for a whole weekend.

Celine Dion spoke directly to her fans on social media.

Celine Dion has shared the devastating news that she has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome.

In an emotional video to her fans, the 54-year-old French-Canadian singer apologized for taking so long to reach out and explained that her health struggles have been difficult to talk about.

"As you know, I have always been an open book, and I wasn't ready to say anything before. But I'm ready now."

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Trevor Noah says goodbye in his last episode of "The Daily Show."

Trevor Noah, who has spent the past seven years hosting "The Daily Show," has officially said goodbye to his late-night fans. While he could have chosen any note to leave on, he made his final words an emotional tribute to the Black women who have influenced him.

Since he took over the spot from Jon Stewart, Noah has made the show his own with a blend of quick-witted comedy and thoughtful commentary. Noah had big shoes to fill, but to his credit, he didn't try to cram his feet into them. He simply brought his own shoes and placed them right next to Stewart's, offering his own style of comedy and unique perspectives on the world night after night. Even in his "Between the Scenes" segments, where he chatted with the audience during commercial breaks, Noah frequently added insightful context to current issues.

In his final monologue, he credits those insights to his Black women mentors, from his own mother and grandmother to thought leaders he has had on his show to Black women in general. And it's quite telling that he managed to keep it together in his final show, right up until the point when he talked about these women.

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Tenacious D performs at the Rock in Pott festival.

The medley that closes out the second side of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album is one of the most impressive displays of musicianship in the band’s storied career. It also provided the perfect send-off before the band’s official breakup months later, ending with the lyrics, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

In 1969, “Abbey Road” was the last record the group made together, although “Let it Be,” recorded earlier that year, was released in 1970.

At first, the medley was just a clever way for the band to use a handful of half-finished tunes, but when it came together it was a rousing, grandiose affair.

Arranged by Paul McCartney and producer George Martin, the medley weaves together five songs written by McCartney, "You Never Give Me Your Money," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight” and "The End," and three by John Lennon, “Sun King," "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam."

Fifteen seconds after the medley and the album’s conclusion, there is a surprise treat, McCartney’s 22-second “Her Majesty,” which wound up on the record as an accident.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass, collectively known as Tenacious D, recently reimagined two of the songs in the medley, "You Never Give Me Your Money" and "The End," for acoustic guitars for a performance on SiriusXM's Octane Channel. Like everything with Tenacious D, it showed off the duo’s impressive musical chops as well as their fantastic sense of humor.

The truncated version of the medley was also a wonderful tribute to the incredible work the Beatles did 53 years ago.

Warning: This video contains NSFW language.

Adam Sandler and Brendan Fraser for Variety's "Actors on Actors."

There are few actors in this world as universally loved as Brendan Fraser and Adam Sandler. So when the two sign on to interview one another, you can bet that people are going to be thrilled.

During one of Variety's “Actors on Actors” segments, the two swapped stories of being in the entertainment business—from the movie “Airheads," which they both starred in, to more recent projects like Sandler’s “Hustle” and Fraser’s “The Whale.”

It’s clear that these two respect and admire each other’s work. Sandler applauded Fraser’s career-long stride of making bold and interesting choices, and especially commended him for his starring role in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale,” which has been hailed as a major comeback for the “Mummy” franchise star.
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