The confident prints and colours at the Afropunk Festival this weekend in Paris lifted my heart. For my generation, to wear anything “African” was to risk being identified with Africa and treated accordingly. Many of us shied away from that experience. The young people at Afropunk seem different from their parents and grandparents. Their homes are in Africa as well as in Europe, North America, Australia. Their concerns and understanding of their Blackness is probably different from mine. But we share a common experience of discrimination. There are people who assume that as time goes by and hipsters grow facial hair, discrimination fades away. Instead, the attitudes of the past find new expression with each generation and so Black consciousness is remade in each new generation. I caught up with the Mwasi Collective, a black feminist organization active in France.
Mwasi have organized the first black feminist festival ever to be held in Paris. Most of the spaces at the festival are open to all members of the public. One of the spaces available at the festival is a private gathering for black women. Although the collective stayed within the law in organizing a private event on private property, they were heavily criticized by among others, media and the Mayor of Paris, for “racism.” Bearing in mind that Paris is a place where just months ago, several police officers managed to accidentally ram a baton into the anal orifice of a young black man, causing shocking injuries, without arousing similar concern in political circles.
This is a pattern, Europe-wide. Violence towards black people is normalized. Centre right and right wing parties join the mainstream media, in systematically attacking organisations such as Mwasi, who promote black empowerment and dignity. Liberal, left wing white people and organizations frequently misinterpret what’s happening as “reverse racism.” This is also a pattern, Europe-wide, and one, which urgently needs to be broken. Right wing parties in Europe, have an interest to promote an image of black political organizing as dangerous to the stability of European states. The response of political parties is self-serving. Parties across the political spectrum directly or indirectly endorse the message of the right wing, that the presence of black and minority ethnic communities in Europe is in itself, un-European and problematic. It’s possible to fight this dirty media campaign across Europe, as long as organizers network and support each other, by presenting our own narratives. Lets keep writing and exchanging, organizing against the drift to the right of the political spectrum. And lets support the work of organizations like Mwasi, wherever we live.