Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Celebrate Black History Month UK 2009

October is the Black History month in the UK. It was first celebrated in 1987 as part of the African Jubilee Year, the period from August 1987 to July 1988 designated to mark the centenary of the birth of Marcus Josiah Garvey; the 150th anniversary of emancipation in the Caribbean and the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity. But now it's an event that is celebrated throughout the UK.

Blacks have been in London since 1555, though the first real influx in Britain came in the late 18th century in flights from the 13 colonies during the American Revolution. Prominent black British figures include John Blacke, a trumpeter to kings Henry VII and VIII, who about 1507 became the first black mentioned in royal records; Sir Ira Aldridge, England's first recognized black actor, famous for his role as Othello; John Richard Archer, a leader in London's Pan Africanist Movement, also the country's first British-born councilor and mayor in the early 1900s; and Marianne Jean Baptiste, who in 1996 became the first black British woman nominated for an Academy Award.

Black History Month website

Black history month in London 2009

Celebrate Black History Month in Newham (london)

Monday, September 28, 2009

StrangerFestival: Dutch videomakers sign up now!

For the second time the StrangerAcademy opens its doors in Amsterdam, this year from 13 - 17 October 2009.

Over 150 video-makers between the ages of 15 and 25 from across Europe will together improve their skills in video and storytelling. They will all take part in one of the professional-led StrangerAcademy workshops and show their work to an audience of experts and other video fans. All participants stay in the Stayokay hostel ajoining the festival location (Studio K, Timorplein, Amsterdam Oost).

Programme preview Strangeracademy: click here.
Participants of the StrangerAcademy are the finalists of the StrangerFestival competition, talented video makers selected by our international partners and Dutch talented young video makers. Dutch video makers can still sign up!How? sent an email to and ask for the registration form, or copy the text below & sign up.

One of the conditions for signing up is you have to upload at least 1 self-made video on this website... you can also sign up when you have NOT uploaded a video and you take part in a beginner workshop. More info in the registration form.

Dutch videomakers click here

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rama Yade the leader of France's Modern-Day Black Power Movement?

According to the US political blog Booker Rising French secretary Rama Yade (32) seemed to have said: "Some Folks Are Saying That I'm Leading France's Modern-Day Black Power Movement". Read the full story here

But the real news is that she will be in Washington this week, to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual legislative conference.

Short history. French President Sarkozy appointed Yade as the secretary of human rights and called her the French Condoleezza Rice. Rama Yade became, after the riots, Sarkozy’s television-friendly integration symbol during his presidential campaign. After the elections she became the only black and the youngest member of the French cabinet

But after a while Sarkozy asked her to run for the European Parliament, which she refused. After her refusal Sark became ‘disappointed’ in her and she was dropped. After a cabinet reshuffle she was appointed as the Secretary of State for Sports.

This week she will be in the US. The Washington post wrote: “The Yade act will be on tour this week in Washington, where aides said the young minister has been invited to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual legislative conference. President Obama is likely to attend, they added, inviting a comparison with the U.S. leader whose charisma, like Yade's, seems to eclipse racial considerations.”

But paper also stated that she still has to “transcend the role of Sarkozy's television-friendly integration symbol”. Read French Minister's Star Status Holds Political Promise

And maybe they are right, Rama Yade is still a symbol. I don’t doubt her commitment to the cause. In 2007 she wrote the book Noirs de France (Blacks in France) as a response about the way the French media reported the death of Afro-Caribbean people in a pension fire. Although people from the French Antilles are officially French citizens, in the newspapers they where portrayed as foreigners.

But most articles about Yade are about her appearance, not about her competence. And to be frank, it is easy to point a finger at the white establishment and yell: ‘there are no blacks in da house!’. Changes are she will become the French Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Or better, she will end up like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali became popular as politician in The Netherlands, but ended up as writer in the US.

So I hope that Yada will indeed transcend the role of Sarkozy's television-friendly integration symbol, and perhaps really become the leader of France's Modern-Day Black Power Movement.

See an interesting interview with Rama Yade

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Winners of the Trophées des Arts Afro-Caribéens 2009 (Afro-Caribbean Arts Awards)

Photo and copyright: Régis Durand de Girard
It's official now. The Trophées des Arts Afro-Caribéens 2009 (the French Caribbean Arts Awards) have been given to the winners. Most interesting detail, the theme of most winners is slavery or black history. Best clip, best essay and best documentary have a slavery theme, and best film fiction is a film about a true story of colonial French black history. So listen and see the best of Afro-France in 2009. Also read the read the report of fxgpariscaraibe (French) here


ARTISTE DE L'ANNÉE (Artist of the year)
Davy Sicard
Origin: Réunion

Magic System - Origin Ivory Coast

MEILLEUR CLIP (Best clip): Kamnouze
Kamnouse ft Fanny J mon Irreel

RÉVÉLATION DE L'ANNÉE (Revelation of the Year)
Origin: Guadeloupe

Inspiration information vol 3 - Mulatu Astatké
Origin: Ethiopia / Grande-Bretagne


MEILLEUR ROMAN (Best novel): Les Caracteres sexuels secondaires - Tania de Montaigne
The anti-depression novel crucial for moments when you're having the blues, according to ELLE magazine It's the 3rd novel by Tania de Montaigne. The book is about a woman who got married and then left. A woman who returns home to her mother and asks how to be a woman like everyone else.

MEILLEUR ESSAI (Best essay): La France a-te-elle Aboli l’esclavage? - Nelly Schmidt
1848 marked the end of slavery for “the country of the rights of Man;” however, upon reading Nelly Schmidt’s scrupulous historical exploration, the question remains: “La France a-t-elle aboli l’esclavage?” [Did France abolish slavery?] or did it discretely pursue colonial politics in such a way as to secure a reservoir of cheap manpower and the control of overseas economy? In 1848, when France abolished slavery for the second time in its history, new colonial policies were set into place opening access to citizenship in Guadeloupe, Martinique, and French Guiana. Nevertheless, one century later, in the midst of social and economic disaster, the conditions of the “nouveaux libres” were not much different from the previous. Why?


MEILLEURE FICTION (Best fiction): Aliker - Guy Deslauriers
Aliker, a new film by Guy Deslauriers, narrates the story of André Aliker, the Martinican journalist assassinated in 1934. The film is based on a script by Martinican novelist Patrick Chamoiseau.

André Aliker, a communist militant who wrote for Justice, the newspaper of the Martinican Communist Party, became widely known throughout the island as a champion of journalism as a form of free expression and as the means for the pursuit of the truth in the colonial context of Martinique in the 1930s. This commitment to free journalistic practice would cost him his life. The film, critics have said, shows what can be accomplished by a Creole film industry without access to the usual big budgets available in the industry. Read full story here

Le pays à l’envers - Sylvaine Dampierre
Filmmaker Sylvaine Dampierre goes in search of her roots and personal history. Along the way, she intends to find the origin of her surname

Monday, September 21, 2009

Joseph Dunoyer and his Trophées des Arts Afro-Caribéens

France: Tonight the Trophées des Arts Afro-Caribéens will be held for the fourth time, but before the event François-Xavier Guillerm of FXG interviewed Guadeloupian Joseph Dunoyer, director general of Afro-Caribbean Arts Awards.

Dunoyer feels good about this year. “A year older, means one year more experience, and when you look at the progress since 23 October 2006, the picture is very positive despite the different waves that we have met during our crusade! “

Dunyor emphasis the location. “ The event will held at the Theater du Chatelet in Paris, a mythical place in the capital and in the French culture.”

Personalities that could give greater visibility to the award ceremony will attend the event. Dunoyer: “ Minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand, Teddy Riner World champion in judo, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, Patricia Renel, a Caribbean artist who has exhibited in over 47 countries, Sebastien Follin, Willian Galas Sonia Rolland, Antonhy Kavanagh, Omar, Jean-Marc Thibaudier, host of Tele Guadeloupe, Fany J, the revelation of last year, Jacques Martial, Aissa Maiga and many others! For them it is an honour to participate in an event of this size in France.

But the award ceremony also has a deeper meaning. The famous French poet Aimé Césaire told Dunoyer that this event has everything to brotherhood.

Read the interview with Dunoyer on the blog fxgpariscaraibe (French).
(Photo and copyright: Régis Durand de Girard)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Afro-Punk: Debut album NOISEAUX – “Out Now” released today

The Afro-Punk band NOISEAUX has released its debut album NOISEAUX – “Out Now” today. The band of German media personality and writer Noah Sow will according to the record label inject Germany with the growing Afro-Punk wave from the USA and England.

About NOISEAUX The Hamburger Abenddblatt wrote: "But that a black singer is reacting to propulsive guitars and crunchy beats, is not the only characteristic of the quintet. The background of the band moves between Korea, the Philippines, Germany, Mexico, France and Senegal.”

The songs are about freedom, politics and racism. In the song “Keine Kommentare“ , which means “No comment”, Sow sings about the prejudice in Germany, “You think you’re normal .. No comment about my hair.” The Hamburger paper called it the short version of Noah Sow’s book “Deutschland Schwarz Weiß” (Deutschland Black & white. Everyday Racism' )

The CD is released in a German and English

Go to:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kréyol Day 2009 in London

Live performances, traditional craft and food stands and debates will mark the 8th edition of the Creole Day (“Kreyol Day”) on Sunday 27 September 2009

Saint Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Reunion Island, Guyana, Haiti, Cuba, Cape Verde, Mauritius...

London, September 15th, 2009 – A unique event in the UK, the 8th Creole Day (“Kreyol Day”) will bring together in one place live performances by Creole artists, traditional craft and food stands, and a conference, all representing the diversity of the Creole culture around the world.

The event will be a special day of celebration and entertainment for the whole family, inviting visitors to discover and enjoy the Creole world. More than 1,000 visitors will be expected at this year’s Kreyol Day, which will take place at the Conway Hall, in Holborn, London.

Organised by the French Caribbean Association Menm Biten Menm Bagay (MBMB), the UK charity promoting cultural sharing and solidarity between Creole communities, the Kreyol Day will kick start in style the Black History Month (more here). With famous traditional Caribbean singer Dédé Saint Prix (view video here) as its patron, the Kreyol Day will bring together more than 10 Creole regions, taking visitors on a day-trip full of colours, sounds, flavours, and fragrances from several corners of the Creole world.

This year’s programme will bring together famous as well rising performers, traditional craft exhibitors and expert speakers.

- Creole performers:
. Singers, including a performance by the undisputed queen of Zouk Love Sonia Dersion (view video here); also performing: Subajah (Reggae, Dancehall), Frenglish connexion (Hip-Hop, Reggae. Dancehall), Sked Swad (Creole hip hop), JM (Dancehall)
. Traditional Creole music and dance groups such as ZilOKa (view video here);
. Salsa performance (London Salsa Scene);
. Poetry (Novitse).

About Creole Cultures
Creole cultures are a vibrant mix of African heritage with European influences. The Creole world is spread between 3 main regions: the Caribbean, North and South America, and the coast of Africa by the Indian Ocean region.
With an estimated 800,000 people from these regions living in the UK, the Creole communities contribute dynamically to the UK’s diversity.

Entrance Fee (Booking available on
- MBMB Members: £5
- Advanced booking: £7
- At the door: £9
- Students (at the door): £7
- Children under 10: free

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

AfroEuropean Mayors or The Black Mayors of Europe

Mayor Auguste Senghor with the town's council

After the post about the first black mayor in the Netherlands I got intrigued by the presence of black people in European politics. I did some research and found out that in all Western European countries, from Norway to Italy you could find at least one black face in parliament, and several people of non European descent representing their regions on different levels of government.

The more people of foreign origin in a country, the more they will be represented politically Therefore countries like France and the UK have the largest portion of black politicians, up to ministries and chief secretaries. Women and men. In all other countries, except for the Netherlands, their representation is very small, but it is there and that’s what matters.

I think of the Secretary of State for Sports in France, Rama Yade or the chief Secretary to the Treasury Paul Boateng in the UK. Both are part of a recent phenomenon but it is clear that many will follow in their footsteps. It is therefore no illusion that one day France could elect a black president (the current one is half Hungarian, and has some Greek-Jewish ancestry on his mother side…) and England will have a black prime minister. The colour of their skin doesn’t matter, in a true democratic system, the best candidate (whatever his origins) should eventually take office.

We shouldn’t forget either that the population of African ancestry in Western Europe is very small. In countries like France (without its Caribbean territories), the Netherlands and the UK they represent approx. 3% to 5% of the population (mixed race included). However, you’ll find high concentrations in the cities, predominantly in certain areas of London and Paris. But even then, rarely do black people represent more than 50% of a municipality’s population.

In this context I did some research to the election of Black mayors throughout Europe. Although I can’t guarantee that I researched the topic thoroughly enough, I think I can give you an idea here. What is surprising is that the presence of a lot of black people in a municipality doesn’t mean you have a greater chance to find a black mayor. On the contrary, all black mayors were elected in rather small towns, with very few black people. They were elected not because of the colour of their skin, but because the people thought that she/he was the right person for that job. It all started in 1904 in Thetford, Norfolk.

The first in the UK

Picture of John Archer

John Richard Archer is generally believed to be the first black mayor in the UK, elected (nominated) in Battersea in 1913, a municipality in the London area. However it was found that Dr Allan Glaisyer Minns (1858-1930), elected Mayor of the town of Thetford, Norfolk in 1904, was the first black man to become a mayor in Britain. He was a doctor, surgeon and politician. However, there is very little information about him. Much more is known about John Archer and therefore he is often mentioned as the first black mayor of Britain.

John Archer was born in Liverpool in 1863. His father was from Barbados and worked as a ship’s steward. His mother was Irish. Nothing is known about Archer’s education but as a young man he travelled the world probably spending some time in the West Indies and North America. During this time he met and married Bertha, a black Canadian.

Archer and his wife settled in Battersea in the 1890s and in 1913 he became Mayor of Battersea. Read more about him on this website and this website too

The first in France

Raphaël Elizé

In France we will have to wait until 1929 before the First black mayor is elected. Raphaël Elizé was elected as mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe, a rural town in the department Pays de la Loire (central western France) of around 12.000 inhabitants. Raphaël Elizé was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1891. He graduated as veterinary from the university of Lyon, France and during World War I he served for the French army in Europe. After WWI he settles in Sablé and starts a political career with the Socialist Party. During World War II he was part of the Résistance. He was deported to Buchenwald and died there in 1945. Phillippe Bérenger, a French filmmaker, is working on a film about this man ‘Le Nègre de Sablé’.

Below I post a little youtube documentary about Elizé, (unfortunately only for those who understand French)

More info?

Except for John Archer, Allan Minns and Rafaël Elizé I have no knowledge of other people of African descent who became mayors in the then so-called Mother Countries in Europe. In England and the UK there might have been other cases but I do not know of any and couldn’t find any.

However several black political activist and politicians past and present have been active in the UK, at various levels of government. For a list check wikipedia’s Black British politician page .

France recently

It is not clear who is the next black mayor in France after Elizé. France is kind of mysterious about race and colour of skin. The official story is that it doesn’t exist and so official reports on the issue are nonexistent. It’s quite sure that it is Auguste Senghor (a nephew of Léopold Sedar Senghor) who was the next black mayor in Franc after Elizé, but sources contradict each other on the year of his taking office as a mayor. He was mayor of Le May-sur-Èvre (Maine-et-Loire, 3,891 inhabitants) several times. However the Wikipedia page of May-sur-Evre states Auguste Senghor was their mayor from 1977 till 1989 and from 1995 till 2008. This makes him the second black mayor in France and the longest ever running black mayor in France.

Last year he moved to another town on the Atlantic shores of Bretagne, (Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, 1900 inhabitants) and was recently elected mayor there.
We are certain that Kofi Yamgnane who is originally from Togo, became mayor of Saint Coulitz in the department of Finistère, a tiny little village (approx. 400 inhabitants) in Bretagne, western France. He must be confused when he mentions on his webpage that he actually is the first black mayor of France. Not exactly but close. Fact is that in France race is taboo. It is illegal to classify people according to race, therefore the election of a black mayor will only be informally registered. But reading below what happened in 2008, you’ll discover that the government in Paris seems to be hypocritical about race.

The 2008 elections in France

In 2008 several black French mayors were elected, one of them Kader Atteye in the tiny village of Morey (180 inhabitants, central France, department Saône-et-Loire). He was born and raised in the region, his parents were immigrants from Djibouti.
This election was not without problems because more than a third of the municipal council members (5 out of 11) have resigned in protest of the election of a black person with a Muslim background (though I doubt he is still a practicing Muslim, I didn’t find anything about it though. What is certain is that he has two kids and lives together with the mother of both kids in a tiny village of 180 people …). The mayor didn't have to run for reelection but stayed in office, however 5 new council members had to be elected. read more on this racist controversy here(in French) and on this link (in French) . A similar scenario occurred in another small town where the people elected a Frenchmen of Algerian origin.

Kader Atteye, mayor of a tiny village of 180 inhabitants

During the local elections in 2008 4 municipalities elected a mayor of African origin. One of them was Kader Atteye. All were small rural municipalities of less than 5000 people, and with no significant black population. Two mayors are of Afro Caribbean ancestry and 2 of African ancestry. More info via wikipedia


Hector Julio Castillo Figueroa

Spain just has a recent democratic history. As soon as 4 years after General Franco’s death the first black mayor is elected in Spain. On the 3rd of April 1979 Héctor Julio Castillo Figueroa is elected as mayor of Isla Cristina, a coastal town of 20.000 people on the Atlantic shores of southern Spain (close to the city of Cadiz). Figueroa was a native from the Dominican Republic. He is a doctor and currently still lives in Isla Cristina. If you read Spanish you can find more about him here

Until 2007 there is no info of any other black mayor in Spain. More recently Juan Antonio de la Morena Doca was elected mayor of the town of Villamantilla in 2007, a municipality in the greater Madrid area of just 800 people. His father is Spanish, his mother comes from Equatorial Guinea in Western Africa. You can read an interview with him on line in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo or there is also an article via this link.
Juan Antonio de la Morena Doca


Sandy Cane

In Italy we have Sandy Cane, who is African American and Italian and was elected this year (2009) mayor of Viggiu (5000 inhabitants) a small town in the Italian Alps. The first mayor of African ancestry in Italy’s modern history (I say ‘modern’, as some research states that during the Roman empire, some 2000 years ago, people of African ancestry settled in Italy and were actively involved in local affairs and politics, read more here and here. I don't want to go into any discussion about this topic, as I am convinced that the concepts of race, as we understand it today, do not apply to that era). She was backed by the alleged xenophobic Lega Nord


Rotimi Adebari

Ireland also elected its first black mayor. Rotimi Adebari, a native of Nigeria, was elected mayor of Portlaoise Town in 2007. Portlaoise(pronounced something like Portleash) is a town in central Ireland of approx. 14.000 inhabitants. However there is some controversy on the person of Rotimi Abedari as he would have lied about his troubles in Nigeria (and whereabouts previous to his life in Ireland) applying for the procedure to get legal residence in Ireland. More details about this issue are mentioned on the Wikipedia page here.


Joyce Sylvester

In the Netherlands Joyce Sylvester recently became mayor of Naarden, replacing the fromer mayor Anna Paulowna. As such she became the first black woman to become a mayor in the Netherlands. Naarden is a beautiful medieval town in Holland worth a touristic visit. It was recently elected as the most pleasant town to live in the Netherlands. Naarden is rather small, and also doesn’t have a predominantly black population, rather predominantly white. Sylvester is born in Amsterdam and from Surinamese origins.

But Joyce Sylvester was not the first black person to become a mayor of a Dutch municipality. This was Headly Binderhagel , a Surinam born creole man, who was mayor of Nuth from 2002 to 2008. Nuth is small town of 15.000 people in the southern province of Limburg in the Netherlands.

Headly Binderhagel

Sylvester and Binderhagel became, like all the other AfroEuropean mayors, the mayor of a town because of their person, their communication skills, theri political skills, their character, … not because of race, not because of affirmative action …


And as a last little thing this picture that I found on this link about an African running for mayor of a Russian town. Is this real or hoax? I don’t know, but it is worth a thorough research.


Peter Bossman

Peter Bossman (born 2 November 1955) is a Ghanaian-born Slovenian doctor and politician. He is currently the elected mayor of Piran, a city and municipality on the Gulf of Piran in south-western Slovenia. A member of the centre-left Social Democrats, he defeated the incumbent mayor in the October 2010 mayoral election to become Slovenia's first black mayor.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Photo expo of black London gang culture in Holland

A photo exposition about youth gang culture in South London, from 6 September through 4 October 2009 at Noorderlicht international Photofestival 2009 in Groningen, the Netherlands. It's the exposition of the Irish photographer Adam Patterson. Read the interview with Patterson here.

But I wonder if he really succeeded in his mission. He teamed up with a guy called Vipoh who is from the Ivory Coast, which of course is French Africa. Patterson even went with him on a bus to France to photograph him at his aunties wedding.

I don't know much about the situation in London, but wouldn't it have been more interesting to see the situation of born and raised young Afro-Caribbean Britons, who don't get on a bus to Paris?

Although I’am usually sceptical about this type of urban black community photography, I'am actually planning to visit the exposition.

Monday, September 14, 2009

No kinky hair during classical ballet class?

Netherlands: A Dutch black girl with nappy hair was excluded from ballet class because she didn’t wore her hair in a smooth bun.

But a week ago the Dutch Equal Treatment Commission ruled, that a dance school may not force students with black hair to wear their hair in a smooth bun.

The mother of a 12-year-old girl filed a complaint with the Commission last year against a dance school in The Hague. The school has a rule that hair of dancers in classical ballet must be worn in a bun. The student in question has black hair and usually wears her hair in pigtails.

When the girl wanted to attend ballet class with her braided hair up in a bun, the dance school denied her access to the classes as long as she would not wear her hair in a smooth knot.

According to the student and her mother it takes too much time to get black hair without braids in a knot. They offered to prepare the hair for performances and official events of the ballet school, but the dance school found it inadequate. They argued that other students with black hair did conform to the prescribed guidelines.

The dance school argued that no distinction is made on the basis of race, because the rule applies to everyone. But the Equal Treatment Commission ruled that the school indirectly does make the distinction, because having nappy hair (black hair) is associated with ethnic origin.

According to the hair website the hairstyle on the photo is not allowed

Update: The post was entitled: No nappy hair during classical ballet class?

Friday, September 11, 2009

The film Skin – Starring Sophie Okonedo

The film Skin has finally made it to the Netherlands. Skin is of course the portrayal of the life of Sandra Laing, a dark skinned girl born to white (Afrikaan) parents in South Africa during the Apartheid era. With UK born actress Sophie Okonedo as Sandra Laing. In an interview Okonedo said that her upbringing was not too dissimilar to Laing’s. Okenedo is bi-racial Nigerian/Jewish.

Also read the interesting review of the film on shadow and act.

But now Amsterdam. On the blog of the film I read ‘Dutch Courage’. But why do you need courage to show this film? On shadow and act screenwriter and film critic Wendy Okoi-Obuli wrote:" You know who Okonedo is, right? Dirty Pretty Things, Hotel Rwanda, Aeon Flux, The Secret Life of Bees… as well as lots of TV and theatre roles under her belt. OK, so you may not like her entire body of work, you may not even like her acting style, but she’s an Oscar nominated actress; surely that’s enough to at least make her a bankable name, right? Not to most film distributors, it isn’t. “ Read the full story here

From September 11the till October 30th the film will be shown in Europen movie theatres. From October 30th it will be distributed in the US.

Skin’s official movie website

Interview with Sophie Okonedo

The Dutch data for your google agenda

Skin – The story of mixed 'outcast' Sandra Laing

Sandra Laing was a black baby born to white parents at the height of apartheid in South Africa. The hatred, rejection and heartache she suffered at the hands of the authorities, her teachers and her family sent shock waves across the world.

On the timesonline a story was published about her life, the racial implications of being stuck in the racial middle during the apartheid in South Africa, and about the movie Skin. "The story goes beyond race. It’s about a need to belong, a need to be loved and accepted. There’s a moment when her father lovingly puts skin-bleaching cream on her face to lighten her skin. It burns and he blows on it. Fabian (Producer and director of the film Skin) describes Laing as like a peach. “The skin easily bruises, but there is a hard core, a big stone of strength.

The one thing that haunts Laing is her relationship with her brothers. Neither of them speaks to her. When Adriaan was a baby she used to cradle him and feed him. “Leon told me that if Adriaan’s wife finds out that he has been talking to me she is going to divorce him.” Is it because Adriaan, himself quite dark-coloured, is ashamed of his even darker sister and the way it might interrupt his nice white life? “I don’t know what colour his children turned out to be. People say they are white. He must remember me, how close we were. Maybe he is scared of his wife.” Read the full story here.

In a book review bi-racial author Rebecca Walker wrote about laing's story. " Laing's story is similar to that of many who straddle racial designations that have more to do with social engineering than with actual differences among human beings. Shame, alienation from family members, memory loss and difficulty in sustaining a stable home are a few of the possible effects of belonging to more than one racial category. Ironically, Laing eventually seems to have found some peace with help from members of the same media that once took part in her objectification. Two journalists in particular helped to fit the pieces of Laing's life together, and as a result of their work to reunite Laing with her estranged mother, she finally felt unburdened. In a moving passage, one of those journalists, Judith Stone, tells of Laing dreaming that she was "laughing and laughing"; she felt "a new space open up in her heart."

The sad part is that one of her parents has black roots, but ended up being a pro-white nationalist.

See more pictures here

See youtube video: Sandra Laing: A Spiritual Journey - South Africa

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

NY400 - Black Holland on the Hudson

This is the black community in the Amsterdam and in New York, at least according to NY400 Holland on the Hudson.

This year Holland and the city of New York will celebrate 400 years of friendship. It's a one year celebration, but this week, 08 - 13 September, special Dutch events will be organised in New York to mark the event. For this special occasion there is an official website called NY400 to show the New Yorkers what Holland is all about. No tullips this time.

Of course, as a black guy from Holland, I was looking for some “diversity” on this site. I found it though, but it wasn't really what I was looking for.

The only black person I found was an image of black man lying on the street. He will be discussed on a Conference Urban Health “A Public Health Tale of Two Cities” Part 2.

The intro states: "Big cities inhabit groups of marginalized people. The mental illnesses, addiction and health problems where they suffer from have an impact on the individual and society." Is this black Holland on the Hudson?

Amsterdam is the most multicultural city in the Netherlands and it seems that was the only "shared" thing they could find. Take it from me, you won’t find black people lying on the streets in Amsterdam. And is this the right image of the black community in New York?

But let's not spoil the party. Apart from this website, Holland is a great country to live in, and Amsterdam is the place to be. So If you are in New York, take that free Dutch bike ride and eat my most favourite cookie, stroopwafels. Have fun!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Muhammed Ali is Irish?

On September 1st 2009 boxing legend Muhammed Ali visited his ancestral home in Ireland. See the story and the pics here.

Muhammed Ali though he got his European blood due to slavery (see video), but it turned out he got it from his Irish great-grandfather Abe Grady, who settled in the United States in the 1860s and married a freed African-American slave. One of their grandchildren, Odessa Lee Grady Clay, was Ali’s mother.

Abe Grady lived in the Western Irish town Ennis, and Ali was honoured as the first Freeman of his ancestral home Ennis.

I don't know what "Freeman" means, but according to some people it means free drinks at the pub and free entrance to the disco.

In this interview Ali did know his ancestry, but still he thought his great grandfather was a slave owner. But listen to the mistake of interviewer!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Joyce Sylvester - First black woman mayor in The Netherlands

Joyce Sylvester (43) is acting mayor of the Dutch city of Naarden. She is the first black woman to serve as mayor in the Netherlands. Sylvester is born in Amsterdam and is of Surinam descent.

Since there is so much attention for Sandy Cane, the first black mayor in Italy who is also a member of the right-wing party Lega Nord, here is a Dutch black mayor who is a member of a party which can be compared with the labour Party in the UK and with the Democrats in the USA.

About being black and female she stated in an interview (Dutch). "Yes, I am a woman and I have a colour, so what? I have experienced no limitations because of that." But during her first position as acting mayor she saw that gender and colour did matter. "You notice the signals from the organisation. You can't escape the fact of being seen as role model."

In 1992 Sylvester survived a serious train accident. Five passengers were killed. They all sat with Sylvester in the coupe. She was seriously injured, was held in coma, was operated on six times and the prospects were poor. Her political party leader Bos said: "You never hear her complain, the accident affected her considerably. Even years later her toes had to be broken to put them straight. She is literally a woman of iron."

On her website she writes about her impressive career: "I am acting Mayor of Naarden.

From October 31, 2008 to May 31, 2009 I was acting mayor of Anna Pavlovna.

Since 2003 I am also a member of the Dutch Senate (PVDA).

My portfolios are Economy, Agriculture and Finance. I am a member of the Committee on Petitions.

I am also housing commissioner of the housing association Alliance, member of the Amarantis school Advisory Board in Amsterdam, a member of the Delta Lloyd Advisory Board, member of a Board of Supervisors of the diversity counsil of the Dutch police, member of the Advisory Council for Microfinance Netherlands, supervisor at the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra and member of the Advisory Board of the Dutch Society for Industry and Commerce. I am the ambassador of d'ONS Foundation, the acronym stands for Sustainable Development Netherlands Surinam. Finally, and I am owner of Spirit organisatieadvies bv.

I started my career as a controller at the central FEZ Directorate of the Ministry of Transport. After I became adviser to the Mayor of Amsterdam I worked for Twynstra Gudde management consultants."

Sylvester earned a Masters degree in communication science and political science from the University of Amsterdam, and she holds a PhD from the Law Faculty of VU University Amsterdam.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Erik - Nominee Trophées des Arts Afro-Caribéens

Erik (Erik Chayé Kow), the 22 year old singer from Guadeloupe is one of the nominees of the Trophées des Arts Afro-Caribéens in the category Artist Revelation de L'annee (best newcomer of the year).

The French award ceremony will take place on Monday September 21th in Paris.

Erik's music is a mix of dancehall and Caribbean Jazz, but it also has a Zouk flavour in it. He is born in Pointe à Pitre, Guadeloupe, and grew up in a family of musicians. According to his MySpace bio:" At 22 he has taken his place in a new generation of highly talented and innovative West Indian singers."

I think he will be one of the artists who will walk away with an award on Monday September 21th.

See list of nominees best newcomer of the year

Offical website: Myspace Erik
Album : Chayé Cow
Label : Awimusic
Video: Si Ou Pa La

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What is Afro-Europe? Who are the Afro-Europeans or black Europeans?

Some who read this blog may think what the hell this is all about. Are we trying to imitate the USA and their ‘racial’ interpretation of society? Or we trying to pigeonhole the black people of Europe in a new category? What gives us the right to bring together topics related to black people in Europe in one blog? Isn’t it racist to categorize black people in Europe as one group? Based on what? Skincolour? Culture?

The central question is what a Nigerian in Italy, an Angolan in Sweden, a Jamaican in the UK and a mixed race Congolese in France or Germany have in common. Europe is not even united so how would black people coming from different nations feel united within Europe? We don’t even have a common language. Below I will give my opinion on this issue.

500 years
What we have in common is the western and European experience, and the way we are categorized within Europe as a certain kind of people. Whether you are in France, Germany, Italy or any other European country, the majority white people of Europe perceive people of African ancestry in quite the same way. This categorization isn’t entrenched in the laws of European nations, but for centuries in the past it was. It isn’t something we can easily describe nor can we demonstrate it through clear facts and figures. However, through a history of relations between Europe and the darker peoples of the planet, the ‘black man’ has received a certain place. Although racial slavery has been abolished, and racist laws eradicated from law books, the concepts and ideas inherited from more than 5 centuries of African-European relationships are still there. Whatever the colour of our skin, we are part of this history.

An anomaly
Black people in Europe, whether with brown or black skin, whether born there or not, whether having a white parent or not, whether adopted or not, whether they speak the national language or not, whether integrated or not, ...are all perceived as a certain kind of foreigners. They are not supposed to be there. But in reality most black people in Europe have built their homes in Europe, have adopted European cultures as their own and are perfectly integrated. If not the first generation, then certainly their children.

This experience; being perceived as foreigners from a common continent (whether being really a foreigner or not), is central in the creation of our identity. Identity is based on the relationship you have with others. I do think that most Europeans of African ancestry, i.e culturally integrated black people, would prefer just to be seen as part of the country where they are living, fully accepted as members of that society. In reality it is not so. Even when they have actually forgotten the cultures and languages of their ancestors and only know the Western world as their world, they will still be seen as an anomaly within the Western world, even after generations. (It is important to note here that Italians who migrated to France, Belgians who migrated to Sweden, etc. are assimilated after one or two generations). However, after centuries of African-European relationship Europe influenced Africa, but the other way around is certainly just as true. The presence of black people in Europe is a logic consequence of the African-European history. Europe seems not to accept this logic.

Europe’s relationship with the other, (whether Africans or people from the ‘Orient’) and the way it has described the other, has been the vehicle in the creation of a European and Western identity. Unfortunately black people do not fit into that identity. We could fight for being acknowledged as part of the European identity. But this means a total reconsideration of what being European means. When we look at the social and political reality of today's Europe there is an urge to defend and protect an essentialist view of Europe as 'white and pure'. Therefore today, black people in Europe are creating a new concept of self within the Western world, i.e. Afro-Europe.

Besides that there is the influence of the American media in Europe. Europeans, whether black or white, consume a lot of American media and are influenced by it. Whether you’re French, Swedish, Italian, … we all watch Hollywood movies, we all enjoy the same soaps and series. We all listen to Jazz, Hip Hop, Rock, Grunge, Metal, Soul, Reggae, House .... Our pop culture is impregnated with American pop culture (Predominantly from the USA but actually also from the Caribbean and Latin America). We are all, white and black, part of the Western world. This has a direct influence to how black people within Europe are creating an identity, and how they have been categorized within Europe.

Being ‘black’ is being Western
Black people in Europe do not really have common cultural roots, but second generations feel more related to Western black culture as it is expressed in the Americas than through the culture of their parents. Black people in the Western world have very different roots and backgrounds but have a common experience. Their black identity only makes sense within a Western world dominated by white European culture.

In fact it’s because they have become part of white European culture that they are now ‘black people’ and not Yoruba, Bakongo or Banyarundi, to name just some of the many African peoples living in Africa. This is why, according to me, the European people of African ancestry are becoming black Europeans, Afro-Europeans (or Afropeans as some label us). This is why, according to me, today there is a blog called Afro-Europe, informing the world about the African presence within Europe's culture and society.

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