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The Black Europe Summer School in Amsterdam

We recently wrapped up the 9th edition of the Summer School on Black Europe (BESS) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.* Founded by Professor Kwame Nimako, BESS is an independent program that addresses the lack of systematic engagement with–and even outright marginalization of–Black diasporic politics within European academic spaces. As Dr. Nimako explained in a 2013 interview:

I took this seminar out of the university because there is no place for this discussion within the university. In universities in Europe they want to talk about two things: immigrants and refugees. They don’t want to talk about race relations, which is a confirmation that the black person is a foreigner. So they want to talk about immigration because they want to stop immigration; and they want to talk about refugees also because they want to control refugees. But they don’t want to talk about racism, they don’t want to talk about discrimination, police brutality against Black people. So universities teach “immigration studies”, but they don’t teach race relations. They talk about refugees… It’s all about people coming into Europe, and Europe has to be a fortress to prevent these people from coming in.

So in the universities if you hear about these studies it will be called immigration, and immigration is about black and non-white people, but they won’t say that it is what it is, but that it is what they mean when they talk about immigration. How do we prevent the Africans or the Asians or the Muslims from coming into the country. Immigration is about demographic figures and the rules for preventing these peoples from coming into the country.

[cml_media_alt id='1348']BESS program director Kwame Nimako on the first day of the Summer School[/cml_media_alt]

BESS program director Kwame Nimako on the first day of the Summer School

BESS brings together a diverse group of academics, policy professionals, activists, and artists for two weeks each year. During an intensive schedule of twice-daily seminars led by an international (and internationally renowned) group of faculty, participants discuss the history of the Black diaspora in Europe; movements against racism and xenophobia; immigration and citizenship laws in Europe; and the legacies of enslavement and colonialism.

The 2016 program saw 43 participants from across the United States and Europe–the countries represented this year included Britain, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The #Brexit vote, drenched in xenophobic and anti-Black rhetorics, occurred in the middle of BESS and gave our conversations an additional sense of urgency.

[cml_media_alt id='1347']BESS participants at the National Slavery Monument during the Amsterdam Black Heritage Tour[/cml_media_alt]

BESS participants at the National Slavery Monument during the Amsterdam Black Heritage Tour

During the program, BESS alumna Jennifer Tosch leads a Black heritage tour in Amsterdam. This emotional journey through the city differs dramatically from more mainstream glorifications of the Dutch Golden Age. Instead, Tosch focuses on traces of the historical Black presence (and Black resistance) in Amsterdam, as well as material legacies of slavery and colonialism throughout the city’s built environment.

[cml_media_alt id='1349']Screening of Asmarina and discussion with Quinsy Gario and Medhin Paolos[/cml_media_alt]

Screening of Asmarina and discussion with Quinsy Gario and Medhin Paolos

This year, BESS participants enjoyed a screening of Italian-Eritrean filmmaker Medhin Paolos’ documentary Asmarina, followed by a lively discussion with artist-activist Quinsy Gario, at the venerable Surinamese community center Vereniging Ons Suriname. They also had the opportunity to learn acting techniques with actor and professor Baron Kelly, who studies the history of Black transnational performance and conducts theater workshops with Black community groups around the world. Other highlights of the program included a series of panels on Black activism in Europe (with perspectives from the UK, Portugal, The Netherlands, and Italy), and the celebration of Keti Koti on July 1, which commemorates the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies.

[cml_media_alt id='1350']Panel on youth politics in Black Europe with Karen Sieben (Netherlands), Kwanza Musi Dos Santos and Evelyne Afaawua (Italy), and Randa Toko (UK/Italy)[/cml_media_alt]

Panel on youth politics in Black Europe with Karen Sieben (Netherlands), Kwanza Musi Dos Santos and Evelyne Afaawua (Italy), and Randa Toko (UK/Italy)

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the program was the new transnational collaborations forged between scholars and activists from the United States and Europe. These connections are absolutely crucial for sustaining a robust movement against racism and anti-Black violence in Europe, a need that is becoming more and more urgent each day.

Applications for the 2017 Summer School on Black Europe (when we will be celebrating the program’s 10th anniversary) will open this fall. Stay tuned for the online application, which will be available on the program website here. The program is open to advanced undergraduate and graduate students; postdoctoral fellows; university faculty and other educators; and policy or NGO professionals. Applicants should show an interest and commitment to issues related to the Black diaspora in Europe, anti-racism and anti-xenophobia, immigration and citizenship, and legacies of slavery and colonialism.

Please send inquiries to blackeurope [at] dialogoglobal.com.

*Note: I am the project manager for the Summer School on Black Europe.




ITALIANO

LA BLACK EUROPE SUMMER SCHOOL AD  AMSTERDM

Abbiamo recentemente concluso la nona edizione della Summer School on Black Europe (BESS) ad Amsterdam, in Olanda.* Fondata dal Professore Kwame Nimako, la BESS è un programma indipendente che affronta la mancanza di riconoscimento (ed anche la marginalizzazione) della diaspora africana nel mondo accademico in Europa. Come ha spiegato il Prof. Nimako in un intervista nel 2013:

I took this seminar out of the university because there is no place for this discussion within the university. In universities in Europe they want to talk about two things: immigrants and refugees. They don’t want to talk about race relations, which is a confirmation that the black person is a foreigner. So they want to talk about immigration because they want to stop immigration; and they want to talk about refugees also because they want to control refugees. But they don’t want to talk about racism, they don’t want to talk about discrimination, police brutality against Black people. So universities teach “immigration studies”, but they don’t teach race relations. They talk about refugees… It’s all about people coming into Europe, and Europe has to be a fortress to prevent these people from coming in.

So in the universities if you hear about these studies it will be called immigration, and immigration is about black and non-white people, but they won’t say that it is what it is, but that it is what they mean when they talk about immigration. How do we prevent the Africans or the Asians or the Muslims from coming into the country. Immigration is about demographic figures and the rules for preventing these peoples from coming into the country.

[cml_media_alt id='1348']BESS program director Kwame Nimako on the first day of the Summer School[/cml_media_alt]

BESS program director Kwame Nimako on the first day of the Summer School

La BESS riunisce un gruppo misto di accademici, professionali politici, attivisti ed artisti, per due settimane ogni anno. Durante un programma intensivo di seminari con professori illustri provenienti da tutto il mondo, i partecipanti discutono della storia e della diaspora africana in Europa; dei movimenti contro il razzismo e la xenofobia; delle varie leggi sull’immigrazione e del diritto alla cittadinanza nei paesi europei; dell’eredità della schiavitù e del colonialismo.

Nel programma del 2016, erano presenti 43 partecipanti provenienti dagli Stati Uniti e dall’Europa (i paesi rappresentati quest’anno includono l’Inghilterra, la Francia, il Portogallo, l’Olanda, il Belgio, l’Italia, la Svizzera, la Croazia, la Finlandia, la Svezia, la Danimarca, e la Germania). Il referendum sulla #Brexit, con tutte le sue retoriche xenofobe e afrofobe, si è svolto durante la BESS e ha dato alle nostre discussioni un ulteriore senso di urgenza.

We recently wrapped up the 9th edition of the Summer School on Black Europe (BESS) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.* Founded by Professor Kwame Nimako, BESS is an independent program that addresses the lack of systematic engagement with–and even outright marginalization of–Black diasporic politics within European academic spaces. As Dr. Nimako explained in a 2013 interview:

I took this seminar out of the university because there is no place for this discussion within the university. In universities in Europe they want to talk about two things: immigrants and refugees. They don’t want to talk about race relations, which is a confirmation that the black person is a foreigner. So they want to talk about immigration because they want to stop immigration; and they want to talk about refugees also because they want to control refugees. But they don’t want to talk about racism, they don’t want to talk about discrimination, police brutality against Black people. So universities teach “immigration studies”, but they don’t teach race relations. They talk about refugees… It’s all about people coming into Europe, and Europe has to be a fortress to prevent these people from coming in.

So in the universities if you hear about these studies it will be called immigration, and immigration is about black and non-white people, but they won’t say that it is what it is, but that it is what they mean when they talk about immigration. How do we prevent the Africans or the Asians or the Muslims from coming into the country. Immigration is about demographic figures and the rules for preventing these peoples from coming into the country.

[cml_media_alt id='1348']BESS program director Kwame Nimako on the first day of the Summer School[/cml_media_alt]

BESS program director Kwame Nimako on the first day of the Summer School

BESS brings together a diverse group of academics, policy professionals, activists, and artists for two weeks each year. During an intensive schedule of twice-daily seminars led by an international (and internationally renowned) group of faculty, participants discuss the history of the Black diaspora in Europe; movements against racism and xenophobia; immigration and citizenship laws in Europe; and the legacies of enslavement and colonialism.

The 2016 program saw 43 participants from across the United States and Europe–the countries represented this year included Britain, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The #Brexit vote, drenched in xenophobic and anti-Black rhetorics, occurred in the middle of BESS and gave our conversations an additional sense of urgency.

[cml_media_alt id='1347']BESS participants at the National Slavery Monument during the Amsterdam Black Heritage Tour[/cml_media_alt]

BESS participants at the National Slavery Monument during the Amsterdam Black Heritage Tour

During the program, BESS alumna Jennifer Tosch leads a Black heritage tour in Amsterdam. This emotional journey through the city differs dramatically from more mainstream glorifications of the Dutch Golden Age. Instead, Tosch focuses on traces of the historical Black presence (and Black resistance) in Amsterdam, as well as material legacies of slavery and colonialism throughout the city’s built environment.

[cml_media_alt id='1349']Screening of Asmarina and discussion with Quinsy Gario and Medhin Paolos[/cml_media_alt]

Screening of Asmarina and discussion with Quinsy Gario and Medhin Paolos

This year, BESS participants enjoyed a screening of Italian-Eritrean filmmaker Medhin Paolos’ documentary Asmarina, followed by a lively discussion with artist-activist Quinsy Gario, at the venerable Surinamese community center Vereniging Ons Suriname. They also had the opportunity to learn acting techniques with actor and professor Baron Kelly, who studies the history of Black transnational performance and conducts theater workshops with Black community groups around the world. Other highlights of the program included a series of panels on Black activism in Europe (with perspectives from the UK, Portugal, The Netherlands, and Italy), and the celebration of Keti Koti on July 1, which commemorates the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies.

[cml_media_alt id='1350']Panel on youth politics in Black Europe with Karen Sieben (Netherlands), Kwanza Musi Dos Santos and Evelyne Afaawua (Italy), and Randa Toko (UK/Italy)[/cml_media_alt]

Panel on youth politics in Black Europe with Karen Sieben (Netherlands), Kwanza Musi Dos Santos and Evelyne Afaawua (Italy), and Randa Toko (UK/Italy)

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the program was the new transnational collaborations forged between scholars and activists from the United States and Europe. These connections are absolutely crucial for sustaining a robust movement against racism and anti-Black violence in Europe, a need that is becoming more and more urgent each day.

Applications for the 2017 Summer School on Black Europe (when we will be celebrating the program’s 10th anniversary) will open this fall. Stay tuned for the online application, which will be available on the program website here. The program is open to advanced undergraduate and graduate students; postdoctoral fellows; university faculty and other educators; and policy or NGO professionals. Applicants should show an interest and commitment to issues related to the Black diaspora in Europe, anti-racism and anti-xenophobia, immigration and citizenship, and legacies of slavery and colonialism.

Please send inquiries to blackeurope [at] dialogoglobal.com.

*Note: I am the project manager for the Summer School on Black Europe.




ITALIANO

LA BLACK EUROPE SUMMER SCHOOL AD  AMSTERDM

Abbiamo recentemente concluso la nona edizione della Summer School on Black Europe (BESS) ad Amsterdam, in Olanda.* Fondata dal Professore Kwame Nimako, la BESS è un programma indipendente che affronta la mancanza di riconoscimento (ed anche la marginalizzazione) della diaspora africana nel mondo accademico in Europa. Come ha spiegato il Prof. Nimako in un intervista nel 2013:

I took this seminar out of the university because there is no place for this discussion within the university. In universities in Europe they want to talk about two things: immigrants and refugees. They don’t want to talk about race relations, which is a confirmation that the black person is a foreigner. So they want to talk about immigration because they want to stop immigration; and they want to talk about refugees also because they want to control refugees. But they don’t want to talk about racism, they don’t want to talk about discrimination, police brutality against Black people. So universities teach “immigration studies”, but they don’t teach race relations. They talk about refugees… It’s all about people coming into Europe, and Europe has to be a fortress to prevent these people from coming in.

So in the universities if you hear about these studies it will be called immigration, and immigration is about black and non-white people, but they won’t say that it is what it is, but that it is what they mean when they talk about immigration. How do we prevent the Africans or the Asians or the Muslims from coming into the country. Immigration is about demographic figures and the rules for preventing these peoples from coming into the country.

[cml_media_alt id='1348']BESS program director Kwame Nimako on the first day of the Summer School[/cml_media_alt]

BESS program director Kwame Nimako on the first day of the Summer School

La BESS riunisce un gruppo misto di accademici, professionali politici, attivisti ed artisti, per due settimane ogni anno. Durante un programma intensivo di seminari con professori illustri provenienti da tutto il mondo, i partecipanti discutono della storia e della diaspora africana in Europa; dei movimenti contro il razzismo e la xenofobia; delle varie leggi sull’immigrazione e del diritto alla cittadinanza nei paesi europei; dell’eredità della schiavitù e del colonialismo.

Nel programma del 2016, erano presenti 43 partecipanti provenienti dagli Stati Uniti e dall’Europa (i paesi rappresentati quest’anno includono l’Inghilterra, la Francia, il Portogallo, l’Olanda, il Belgio, l’Italia, la Svizzera, la Croazia, la Finlandia, la Svezia, la Danimarca, e la Germania). Il referendum sulla #Brexit, con tutte le sue retoriche xenofobe e afrofobe, si è svolto durante la BESS e ha dato alle nostre discussioni un ulteriore senso di urgenza.

[cml_media_alt id='1347']BESS participants at the National Slavery Monument during the Amsterdam Black Heritage Tour[/cml_media_alt]

[cml_media_alt id='1347']BESS participants at the National Slavery Monument during the Amsterdam Black Heritage Tour[/cml_media_alt]

Angela Davis, tra attivismo ed accademia

On March 16, the great radical activist-intellectual Professor Angela Y. Davis visited “Bologna Rossa” and delivered a brilliant address entitled “The Meaning of White Supremacy Today.” Speaking to a packed auditorium at the University of Bologna, Professor Davis began her lecture by acknowledging the legacy of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist philosopher and labor activist who was imprisoned by Mussolini during the fascist regime. Building on a meeting the previous day with a group of graduate students about academia and activism, Angela Davis discussed the contours of new movements around the globe, from #RhodesMustFall in South Africa to #BlackLivesMatter in the United States. These new forms of organizing and activism, she argued, are approaching struggles against capitalism, structural racism, sexism, imperialism, colonialism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia as fundamentally connected. They are also articulating new connections between different arenas of struggle, linking institutions from the university to the prison. And, Davis emphasized, these movements are embracing new forms of leadership, as they are notably led by Black queer women.

[cml_media_alt id='1111']13140495_10101031055233851_1912311325_n[/cml_media_alt]Shortly after the lecture, during a brief trip to California, a dear friend gave me a copy of Professor Davis’ newest book, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a MovementThe theme of interconnections among struggles, which was a centerpiece to her address in Bologna, recurred throughout the interviews and lectures that comprise the book. Indeed, in our current conjuncture, it is important to remember that figures like Donald Trump are not isolated and exceptional cases; rather, they represent an alarming, global shift to the right that has also enveloped Europe (the Freedom Party in Austria, the National Front in France, and the Northern League and Forza Italia in Italy are just some examples). Anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, and anti-Black racisms are all related, and are yoked together in this surge of new far-right and neo-fascist nationalisms sweeping the globe. As Professor Davis says in the book, acknowledging that Black freedom is still yet to be won:

In many ways the Black struggle in the US serves as an emblem of the struggle for freedom. It’s emblematic of larger struggles for freedom. So within the sphere of Black politics, I would also have to include gender struggles, struggles against homophobia, and I would also have to include struggles against repressive immigration politics. I think it’s important to point to what is often called the Black radical tradition. And the Black radical tradition is related not simply to Black people but to all people who are struggling for freedom (39).

As Professor Davis noted in Bologna, generations of Black activists and intellectuals including W.E.B. Du Bois embraced a Third Worldist conception of Black freedom: they saw the fight against structural racism in the United States as linked to the struggle against imperialism on a global scale, and developed solidarities with revolutionaries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Today, Davis argues, these solidarities extend from aboriginal communities in Australia to anti-apartheid activists in Palestine to immigrants and refugees in Europe. Indeed, Davis famously said in a visit to Berlin in 2015, “The refugee movement is the movement of the 21st century.” As Austria restricts the right of asylum and considers building a fence at the border with Italy to keep out refugees, her words remain painfully relevant today.

Scholars are increasingly arguing that the ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean cannot be understood outside a deep, global history of anti-Blackness. These historical and geographical interconnections therefore require a global perspective in our struggles for justice. And these solidarities must move in multiple directions. In Freedom is a Constant Struggle, Frank Barat asks Professor Davis what Black feminism and Black struggle can offer, for instance, to the Palestinian liberation movement. She insightfully replies that “solidarity always implies a kind of mutuality” (41). And Davis reiterated this point in an interview with journalist Kibra Sebhat after the Bologna lecture: “…noi afroamericani possiamo imparare dalle esperienze degli europei neri,” she said. “Ho partecipato a diversi confronti a Parigi e Berlino con immigrati e afrodiscendenti e ho realizzato quanto abbiamo da imparare anche noi.”




ITALIANO

Il 16 Marzo 2016, la grande attivista ed intellettuale, Prof.ssa Angela Y. Davis ha visitato “Bologna Rossa” e ha tenuto un discorso eccezionale su “The Meaning of White Supremacy Today – Il significato della supremazia bianca oggi.” Parlando davanti ad un affollato auditorium, presso l’Università di Bologna, la Prof.ssa Davis ha iniziato il suo intervento con un riconoscimento dell’eredità di Antonio Gramsci, il famoso filosofo marxista italiano, incarcerato da Mussolini durante il regime fascista. Il giorno prima, Angela Davis ha parlato con un gruppo di dottorandi sul legame tra il mondo accademico e l’attivismo, e il 16 Marzo ha discusso sulle caratteristiche tdei nuovi movimenti internazionali, da #RhodesMustFall in Sud Africa a #BlackLivesMatter negli Stati Uniti. Queste nuove forme di organizzazione e di attivismo, ha detto Davis, stanno avvicinando le lotte contro capitalismo, razzismo strutturale, imperialismo, colonialismo, xenofobia, omofobia, e transfobia come fondamentalmente collegate. Inoltre, stanno articolando nuovi collegamenti tra terreni di lotta, connettendo varie istituzioni, dalle università alle prigioni. La Davis ha anche sottolineato che questi movimenti stanno abbracciando nuovi modelli di leadership, come sono considerevolmente condotte dalle donne nere e Queer.

[cml_media_alt id='1111']13140495_10101031055233851_1912311325_n[/cml_media_alt]Poco tempo dopo la conferenza, durante un breve viaggio in California, una cara amica mi ha dato una copia del nuovo libro della Prof.ssa Davis, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Il tema dei legami tra queste lotte, aspetto centrale del suo intervento a Bologna, si è riproposto nelle interviste e conferenze sul suo libro. Infatti, nella nostra situazione attuale, è importante ricordarci che persone come Donald Trump non sono casi isolati o eccezionali; invece, rappresentano uno spostamento globale e allarmante verso la destra che ha avvolto anche l’Europa (si veda  per esempio il Partito Liberale in Austria Libertà, il Fronte Nazionale della Francia, la Lega Nord e Forza Italia). Il razzismo contro i migranti, i musulmani, e neri sono tutti connessi, e vengono collegati in questa ondata di nazionalismo estrema-destra o neo-fascista. Come scrive la Prof.ssa Davis nel suo libro (ammettendo che la libertà per i neri negli Stati Uniti non è ancora totalmente realizzato):

In molti modi la lotta nera negli Stati Uniti serve da emblema della lotta per libertà. È emblematica di più grandi lotte per la libertà. Così all’interno della sfera delle politica nere, dovrei inoltre includere le lotte di genere, lotte contro l’omofobia ed inoltre dovrei comprendere le lotte contro le politiche repressive dell’immigrazione. Penso che sia importante indicare che cosa spesso è richiamato alla tradizione radicale nera. E la tradizione radicale nera è riferita non semplicemente alle persone di colore ma a tutta la gente che sta lottando per libertà (39).

Come la Prof.ssa Davis ha sottolineato alla conferenza a Bologna, le generazioni di attivisti e intellettuali neri come W.E.B. Du Bois hanno abbracciato una concezione terzomondista di Black freedom: credevano che la lotta contro il razzismo strutturale negli Stati Uniti era collegato con la lotta contro l’imperialismo a livello globale, e quindi hanno costruito sistemi di solidarietà con rivoluzionari in Africa, Asia, e America Latina. Oggi, afferma Davis, questa solidarietà si estende dalle comunità indigeni in Australia agli attivisti contro l’apartheid nella Palestina, ai migranti e profughi in Europa. In una visita a Berlino nel 2015, Davis notoriamente ha dichiarato che “Il movimento dei migranti è il movimento del ventunesimo secolo.” Le sue parole sono ancora significative oggi, poiché, l’Austria, per esempio ha limitato il diritto di asilo e sta considerando la possibilità di costruire una barriera al confine con l’Italia per impedire ai profughi di entrare.

Sempre più studiosi stanno sostenendo che la crisi in corso dei profughi nel Mediterraneo non può essere capita ed analizzata al di fuori di una profonda e globale storia storia di anti-Blackness. Questi collegamenti storici e geografici richiedono quindi, una visione globale nelle nostre lotte per la giustizia. E queste solidarietà devono muoversi in diverse direzioni. In Freedom is a Constant Struggle, Frank Barat chiede alla Prof.ssa Davis in cosa il Femminismo Nero Lotta Nera possano contribuire, per esempio, al movimento per la liberazione della Palestina. La sua perspicace risposta è stata, “La solidarietà implica sempre una specie di mutualità” (41). Davis ha ripreso questo pensiero in un’intervista con la giornalista Kibra Sebhat per “La città nuova” dopo la presentazione a Bologna: “Noi afroamericani possiamo imparare dalle esperienze degli europei neri,” disse. “Ho partecipato a diversi confronti a Parigi e Berlino con immigrati e afrodiscendenti e ho realizzato quanto abbiamo da imparare anche noi.”

Adventures in Black Europe – Avventure nell’Afroeuropa

 

I admit that it is a good thing to place different civilizations in contact with each other that it is an excellent thing to blend different worlds; that whatever its own particular genius may be, a civilization that withdraws into itself atrophies; that for civilizations, exchange is oxygen; that the great good fortune of Europe is to have been a crossroads, and that because it was the locus of all ideas, the receptacle of all philosophies, the meeting place of all sentiments, it was the best center for the redistribution of energy.
But then I ask the following question: has colonization really placed civilizations in contact? Or, if you prefer, of all the ways of establishing contact, was it the best?
I answer no.
-Aime Cesaire, Discours sur le colonialisme (1950)

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