No White Saviors is a majorly female East African and fully passionate group of individuals who want to bring change to the current state of development and missionary work in the region. This group is also responsible for the #nowhitesaviors social media campaign that calls out ‘’White saviourism’’ and the ‘white savior’ complex.
When two young women teamed up to highlight racism in the development sector, and call out the celebrities and aid workers who pushed stereotypes that Africans needed saving, it was seen by many as a welcome intervention. The group, which was known for canceling missionaries and aid workers for alleged misdeeds — is embroiled in some very ugly scandals of its own.
The two social workers, Olivia Alaso, a black Ugandan and Kelsey Nielsen, a white American, began No White Saviors (NWS) in 2018 and its social media presence grew quickly, attracting a black and white liberal audience. It rose to prominence on the back of several high-profile campaigns.
In a 2019 interview with Glim magazine, the co-founders said about their group;’ We are about real change, real progress, real revolutionary work. For too long, issues surrounding white saviorism on the African continent have been discussed in abstractions and theories and not in a tangible, direct manner. This has allowed for many to read, agree with and identify the harm of white saviorism without taking ownership of their own role in perpetuating it. We are about validating the experiences of Black and African and providing all who want to do good with a way forward. It is incredibly lazy to take the discussions being had on our page as us telling people not to help. We are talking about the need to improve the way the help is delivered and how much influence power dynamics have in deterring real development from taking place in our communities.
The group often called out problematic actors it deemed to be “white saviors” (a critical term for white people who depict themselves as liberators or uplifters of non-white people from developing African nations), publicly shaming and harassing them by mobilizing its fans.
But earlier this year, NWS publicly imploded amid accusations of the very thing it was designed to tackle – white saviourism and privilege. Nielsen was accused of using her white privilege to control the organisation and of abusing black Ugandan staff. Allegations surfaced of bar brawls.
In a report in INPUT magazine, Dionna Owens, whose marriage crashed as a result of her husband, D’Juan Owen’s romantic involvement with NWS co-founder Kelsey Nielsen and other targets of NWS have started to speak out about their experiences over the last few months. Working together, they say they’ve discovered a tangled web of lies, deceit, and even possible fraud. They charge that Nielsen has tricked No White Saviors’ more than 900,000 followers with her false allegations, pocketing thousands of dollars and destroying lives in the process. Dionna has two teenage daughters she has with D’Juan. She is currently battling a defamation case that Nielsen filed against her in November 2020, in which the No White Saviors co-founder is seeking at least $50,000 in damages over the Instagram posts Dionna made about her. “But I’ve never seen the benefits of No White Saviors money going to anything,” Dionna said in an interview with INPUT magazine.
Nielsen has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work from Temple University in Philadelphia. After several years of volunteering and working in Uganda in the 2010s, Nielsen co-founded No White Saviors with Alaso in June 2018.
Now Nielsen, who has since resigned from the organisation she helped to start, has told The Guardian that she acknowledges she behaved in a hypocritical way. “I have been part of the problem. If you looked at my Instagram six, seven years ago, everything we criticize, pretty much, you would see,” Nielsen told the BBC in her 2019 interview. “My goal is to always keep my fellow white people accountable, and that includes me.”
On April 21, Nielsen’s No White Saviors co-founder, Olivia Alaso, released an official statement via Instagram. She claimed that Nielsen had been sending money to an unknown account in the U.S. without approval from her team, something Alaso says she noticed last October.