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    B&B Chronicles Blog

    Black & Bilingual #AroundTheWorld - Italy

    Italy is a country located in south-central Europe that’s considered part of Western Europe. The Italian population is 60 million people of which around 1,000,000 are black people.

    History

    Italy’s history starts in the classical era. Initially what now composes the Italian territory was occupied by Phoenicians, Celtics, Greek, and Cathargian people.

    An Italic tribe, the Latins, formed the Roman Kingdom. The kingdom became a republic and eventually, it conquered the neighbors, parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa.

    The Roman Empire was a reference for arts, culture, law, technology, religion, economy, and literature.

    Italy was feudal and endured invasions from different foreign people. Even with the feuds, some independent statelets were used as hubs to negotiate with Asia and Near East. This was the scenario until the Renaissance began.

    Italian Renaissance spread to Europe the interest for humanism, science, and art. During this period, Italy produced some of the greatest scholars and polymaths of all time.

    Italy was divided by the many invasions it endured since the fall of the Roman Empire. This caused the rise of a nationalist feeling and led to revolutions that resulted in the unification of almost all the Italian territory in 1861.

    Italy also had an important role in both World War I and World War II, which led to an economic crisis. The crisis was followed by the revolution that abolished the monarchy and established a Republic, followed by an economic boom that made Italy one of the biggest economies in the world.

     

    Afro-Italian People

    Italy has a colonial background in Africa that shouldn’t make any Italian proud. However, Afro-Italian people still face racism regularly not only from fellow citizens but also from the government that is working to make migration each time harder.

    From the second half of the last century, many Africans began to come to Italy either to study or to look for work opportunities. This mass migration made Italy more multi-ethnic, which fed the anti-migration feeling of 45% of Italians.

    Even now many Africans try to get to Italy through the Mediterranean in a dangerous crossing. They come from different countries and aim to have a better life in Italy. Unfortunately, many don’t make it to the Italian shore.

    Some Afro-Italians state that it’s confusing growing as an Afro-Italian because many Italians don’t fully accept them as Italian but at the same time they can’t say they’re from somewhere else.

    Being Afro-Italian means that you won’t learn about colonial history at school and that you won’t be able to claim your Italian nationality until the age of 18 if your parents are immigrants.

    Afro-Italians are facing fear because of the rise of nationalists that see them as intruders of their space. They don’t feel safe because many Afro-Italians are attacked or even killed by nationalists.

    There are humanitarian questions that aren’t brought up to discussion such as the fact that to sell cheap tomatoes to other countries many African migrants do work on those farms at an extremely low wage.

    The racism, xenophobia, and anti-immigration politics caused many Afro-Italians to leave their country with the hope to find the feeling of belonging somewhere else.

    Stella Jean

    She’s a Haitian-Italian fashion designer, the first Afro-Italian and person of color to be on the runaways of Milan Fashion Week. She’s considered Giorgio Armani’s protégé.

    Through her work, she brings multiculturalism and often mixes Italian techniques with a myriad of different elements of other cultures, creating unique collections.

    Her career began as a model in the Vogue Italia contest “Who’s On Next?” in 2011. She didn’t win it but got some eyes on her. She decided that she would rather do the clothes than dress them.

    She showcased her designs in the Armani/Teatro Space during Milano Moda Dona, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, at the FIT Museum in New York.

    She created the “Laboratorio delle Nazioni” where she bridges the Italian design with the work of women artisans from developing countries. This makes each collection have a unique aesthetic.

    The LDN also promotes cultural heritage as a driver to sustainable development. The women work together even though they are thousands of miles apart with the goal to preserve their cultural heritage. By doing that they are building their economic autonomy and gaining a seat on the global market table.

    Stela participated in the Black Lives Matter protests, she was the only fashion designer to participate in it and to denounce the existence of racial discrimination within the country of Italy.

    Rediet (Red) Longo

    He’s a graffiti artist who was born in Ethiopia and adopted by Italians by the age of 6. As he was growing up he realized that he couldn’t be either Ethiopian or Italian, he had to find his own way. This is when he star to refer to himself as Red. This could be an Italian name but is also the color of the African sand.

    He describes himself as a visual artist who likes to express himself through paintings and fashion and thinks that there is more in this generation than depressed kids.

    Black & Bilingual #AroundTheWorld - Germany

    Germany is a country located in Western Europe. The capital of Germany is Berlin. Germany has a population of about 83.02 million people, with about 1 million of that number being Black residents. 

     

    History

    Historically, Germany was a country that was rarely united until the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 through conservative Prussian aristocrat, Otto von Bismarck. He broke the territory free from Austria, and united "Small Germany", which consisted of Prussia and the remaining German states. This led to the creation of The Reichstag. The Reichstag was the lower house of Parliament created during the Second Reich and the Weimar Republic. During this period, German saw a loss of territory, financial reparations, and a diminished military. In a nutshell, this all led to the start of World War II and the Holocaust. 

     ** DISCLAIMER: It is important to note that Black & Bilingual does not support Germany's role in the establishment and maintenance of colonization and white supremacy in many nations worldwide. This post was created to give a background of Germany and the Afro-German people that call the nation their home ** 

     

     Afro-Germans

     

    Afro people’s history in Germany begins with the soldiers the French sent to occupy the lands Germany lost as reparation imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. Around one-fifth of them were black, which made Germans feel humiliated and start racist propaganda.

    This propaganda was called “Die Schwarze Schmach” (the black shame) and both the government and civilians were behind it. Black people were described as rapists, savage beasts, and murderers.

    Hitler also mentioned black people in his autobiography Mein Kampf (My Struggle). He wrote that black people were brought to Germany with the clear intention to affect the pureness of the white race.

    Even with all the racist propaganda, many inter-racial affairs happened, and the so-called  "Rhineland bastards" were born. Their existence was a reminder of the defeat Germany faced in World War I so they were excluded.

    Their social and economical rights were disrespected, they couldn’t attend university and many jobs wouldn’t accept them, including the military ones.

    During World War II there wasn’t a plan to eliminate black people as there was to eliminate jews. This doesn’t mean that black people didn’t suffer during the Nazist rise.

    Afro-German kids were registered and sent to sterilization. Some of them were also measured and photographed to be used as data in the Nazist eugenic program. Officially, 436 kids were sterilized during this period but the number of unregistered sterilizations is much higher. Some of them were also used in experiments and others just “disappeared”.

    During the war, not only the children born from interracial relationships were targeted by the Nazists, Afro-Americans, and black Europeans were illegally arrested and taken to intern in the Nazist concentration camp system.

    Due to the segregation in the United States, Jazz music didn’t have much space to grow. This caused Jazz artists to go to Europe. The Nazist rise didn’t stop them and many of them were captured in the occupied parts of Europe. Those had the same fate as the war prisoners.

    There they suffered mistreatment, were forced to work to death in constructions, or died due to the tough conditions in the concentration camps. Some of them didn’t even make it to the concentration camps and were immediately killed by the SS or the Gestapo.

    Nowadays the biggest Afro-German population is found in larger cities such as Hamburg or Berlin, even though there’s a considerable population in formerly occupied cities.

    Aminata Touré

    She’s a politician part of the German Green Party and the first Afro-German -- and youngest person -- to be elected to assume a Landtag (State Parliament).

    She fights for equality, women’s rights, migration, children and youth, LGBTQ issues, and racism.

    May Ayim

    Born Sylvia Andler, she worked to unite black German people to fight against racism. She faced racism since before she was born. Her parents couldn’t keep her because, as an interracial couple, their children were a State ward and she was placed for adoption.

    She wrote her thesis about Afro-German history which was used as a base to the book “Afro-German Women Speak-Out” and founded the Initiative of Black People in Germany.

    When she decided to go after her ancestrality, she found her father in Ghana and then adopted his name (Ayim) as her pen name.

    Ika Hügel-Marshall

    She’s an activist who has felt the effects of racism since her early childhood. She’s a child of a German and an African-American soldier. She was raised by her mother and stepfather until she was 5 when her mother was forced to send her to an orphanage.

    At the orphanage, she suffered physical and mental violence. There she was told that since she was black her soul had sin placed in it. She got to a point where her deepest desire was to be white.

    She spent 39 years before seeing another black face beside her own. This happened when she attended the meeting of Afro-Germans. There she was empowered by the sense of community and started her life as an activist.

    Her life as an activist began when she entered ADEFRA (Afro-German Women), where they fight to be accepted as Germans despite their skin color.

    She also wrote her autobiography as an act of resistance, so people would know how it is to grow in racist Germany as a black person. She always fought to be seen, and she tells her perspective of how it is to grow up -- and to live -- like this in her book Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany

    Black & Bilingual #AroundTheWorld - Poland

    Poland is a country located in Central Europe. Its capital is Warsaw and is estimated that 38 million people live there. Around 5,000 to 10,000 of these people are Black.

    History

    The first time Poland was recognized as a unitary and territorial entity was around the 10th century. Since then Poland has suffered from many invasions from different countries.

     At the end of World War I, Poland had its independence back after a series of military conflicts. Its independence was lost when the Nazi invasion and the Soviet invasion happened in World War II.

    Even occupied, Poland had an important role in World War II. They had the 4th contribution of tropes, that served both the Polish Government (in the west) and the Soviet (in the east). Poland was also a great provider of intelligence, their codebreakers were responsible for cracking the Enigma cipher.

     

    ** DISCLAIMER: It is important to note that Black & Bilingual does not support Poland's role in the establishment and maintenance of colonization and white supremacy. This post was created to give a background of Poland and the Afro-Poles people that call the nation their home ** 

     

    Afro-Polish people

    After World War II,  the Soviet government supported the anti-colonial movements in Africa. This made many Africans migrate to Europe to study, mostly between the 1950s and the 1980s.

    Poland is one of the most homogeneous ethnic countries in the world, around 97% of its population is white. This, combined with the recent right-wing government, creates an environment that can be unwelcoming to Black people.

    The migration became stronger when Poland entered the European Union in 2004, yet most of the Black people migration happens due to academic reasons. This means Black people who choose to stay there contribute to the economy once they start working.

    Being Black and living in Poland can have two very different sides. Some people will treat black people well and even make you feel like a celebrity, while others will be hostile.

    Many Polish people have never seen Black people before, so they can be curious and ask for pictures (or take them without asking), which garners a lot of attention.

    It’s very common to for Black Poles to face the prejudice of being seen as a “race” rather than a person, and to have their experiences shaped by negative  stereotypes.

    Many Black Poles can say that they have already faced a situation where they were called “monkeys” or that people act as if they shouldn’t be in Poland. Some people tell them not to sit near them on the bus, whether there’s an extra seat or not.

    After George Floyd’s death, many campaigns to talk about racism were created and  to make people understand that’s something that also happens in Poland.

    One of these campaigns is the #dontcallmemurzyn, this campaign asked young Black women to share their experiences with racism in Poland. Murzyn is a pejorative word used to refer to Black people. They say it’s not as offensive as the N* word for Americans, but for Black Poles the word is equivalent to that.

    On the other hand, there have been marches happening in favor of a “white” and “pure” Poland. These are mainly caused by the politicization of the immigration issue. This has been used as a ploy by politicians from all fronts.

    Black people in Poland are striving to gain visibility so they get more respect. In the 2011 Census, for the first time, there was a question about nationality or ethnicity. However, there was no option to choose “Black”.

    Many people who suffer racism -- even the violent one -- feel that they wouldn’t get the needed support if looking for help, that’s the reason why many racially-charged incidents go unreported.

    Afro-Polish people are responding to this by seeking more representation in the community. Either by creating Non-profit organizations and engaging in Polish Politics. They also challenge the misrepresentation by interacting with Polish citizens to teach them that Black people aren’t different from them.

     

    August Agboola Browne

    Known as the only Black man in the resistance during World War II, he was born Nigerian but chose Poland to be his home.

    There isn’t much information about him or about how he got to Poland. But we know that he had a great career as a jazz percussionist, playing at restaurants in Warsaw. Then, he started his work for the resistance by distributing underground newspapers, trading electronic equipment, and sheltering refugees from the ghetto.

    He participated in the Warsaw Uprising, which took place on August 1st, they attacked the Germans and even gained control of much of the city. But the Germans called for reinforcements, which ended up surrounding them on  October 2nd. This episode left  200,000 civilians and 16,000 fighters dead.

    We don’t know exactly how Browne did to survive this episode and being black during the Nazi occupation in Poland. His daughter, Tatiana, says that he had such a charismatic personality and his energy drew people towards him and made people like him.

    His history emerged in 2009 when patriotism and xenophobia were raising in Poland. Politicians were interested in it and started talking about making him a national hero.

    The co-founder and then president of the conservative Law and Justice Party wanted to honor him on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. But he died in a plane crash in 2010 and the plan died with him.

    Bowne’s contribution to Poland’s story is remembered by a small stone monument in Warsaw and a monument that was built by a non-profit organization, the Freedom and Peace Movement Foundation.

    His story is now remembered by both conservatives and progressives as a symbol of Poland.

    Black & Bilingual #AroundTheWorld - France

    France is a country located in Western Europe. Paris is the capital of France. According to the World Bank, about 67.06 million people call France home, and 5 million of those residents identify as Black. 

     

    History

     

    The original name for France is Gual or Gallia, which is Latin for "Country of the Franks". After the fall of the Roman Empire, France became an independent nation in the 9th Century. Since the 17th Century, France has been considered a world power, and has played a major role in world events. A part from the mainland, France has six international departments: French Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mayotte, Reunion, Saint Pierre, and Miquelon. The country also has overseas territories called "small possessions", which are small islands around the world. 

    ** DISCLAIMER: It is important to note that Black & Bilingual does not support France's role in the establishment and maintenance of colonization and white supremacy in many nations worldwide. This post was created to give a background of France and the Afro-French people that call the nation their home ** 

     

    Afro-French People

    (French Protesters in Paris. Picture from NPR

    pas de justice, pas de paix!

    Black Culture in France can be best described as a 'salad bowl'. From those born in France, to The Caribbean, U.S., U.K., and African people that have moved to the country, Black people have had an established presence in France for decades. 

    Due to France's high regard for nationalism, race and race relations are often downplayed. However, racial injustice does exist in France. The mass migration of Black people to France occurred after World War II. Just like in other nations, white French people grew uncomfortable with the immigration of Black people. However, France has never had established segregation laws - like in the United States. This is why many Black people saw France as a place of refuge. Notable Black people that called France home include: Richard Wright, Nina Simone, Josephine Baker and James Baldwin. 

    Black Francophones have contributed so much to the culture and lifestyle of France, that it is hard to mention everything in this post. Therefore, we will link the full article here for more information. Next, we will discuss Alexandre Dumas and Adama Traoré.

     

    Alexandre Dumas

    Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was born in Haiti in 1802. His father was a slave who later became a general in Napoleon's army. After his dad's death, Dumas moved to Paris to try to become a lawyer, but he ended up working in theatre instead. Alexandre Dumas became best known as the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

    Adama Traoré

    Adama Traoré was a 24-year-old Black man of Malian-French descent that was killed by the French police. Much like police brutality cases in the United States, the officers involved in the shooting were not held accountable. Traoré's death was ruled out as being from pre-exisiting conditons, even though he died while being in police custody. The murder of Traoré, coupled with the rising police brutality happening around the world, has been the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter France Movement. #MoiAussiJaiPeurDevantLaPolice 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Black & Bilingual #AroundTheWorld - Haiti

    The Republic of Haiti is a sovereign state located on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti. The population of Haiti is about 10.8 million people. Haiti is the second most populous nation in the Caribbean. 

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