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Alicia Keys Defends Madonna

As more celebrities get involved in helping African nations overcome debt, AIDS and poverty, some cynics have questioned whether their motives are spurred by good intentions or publicity — most notably, with Madonna's recent trip to Malawi to adopt a child.

Alicia Keys, who is hosting her annual Black Ball charity concert in New York City on Thursday, says such criticism is unfair and a disservice to those in Africa who need help.

"I think that's horrible, and I think that really degrades and tries to discourage people who do have a voice, who do have power, who do have money, who do have the ability to reach out to people and get involved in situations," the 25-year-old R&B singer told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

"I think if you make a choice to do something positive, that shouldn't be diminished. I think that takes away from what's actually going on."

Keys, who has been involved in African causes for years, said celebrities have been in the forefront of charitable and political causes, and that's how it should be. She also said celebrities have helped direct attention to the problems in many African nations.

"I do think that it has become more on people's radars, whereas before it kind of came across as, `Oh, it's so far away,"' she said. "It's really positive to know that it is a global community."

Keys is hosting the Black Ball concert with supermodel Iman to benefit Keep a Child Alive, which provides drugs for AIDS and HIV patients. The event will include performances by Keys; Iman's husband, David Bowie; Damian Marley; and Angelique Kidjo.

Keys, who visited Africa earlier this year, said the problems that beset some countries can seem insurmountable, but she's seen how charity can save lives.

"That's why when I speak and I use my voice, I like to emphasize the way that everyday people like you and me ... can really be a huge hero," she said. "If you don't do anything else in your life, if you can save one life — one life? It's amazing. Imagine saving 10 or 20 or 50 or 100."

By Nekesa Mumbi Moody