A lot has happened in Sweden recently to believe that change is on the way. Although the change I describe is perhaps not in line with Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the bus on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, it is however, the first time in Sweden’s history where ‘Afro-Swedes’ – a term people of African and Caribbean descent fight to be addressed as – have joined together in protest.
The demonstration in Stockholm held on May 12th draws attention to the bill initiated by Gustav Fridolin (Miljöpartiet) regarding thetransatlantic slave trade that Sweden was a part of, but which has not yet been recognized by the Swedish government. This is something that Gustav now wants to change and therefore has written this bill. There was a chorus of dissatisfaction amongst the crowd with the announcement that the bill had been dismissed earlier that afternoon.
It was also unplanned but fitting that the demonstration fell the day after the 30th anniversary of the death of reggae legend Bob Marley, and although the Marley classic ‘Get up, Stand Up‘ wasn’t played, the audience were asked to join in and say ‘Get up, Stand up, Keep up’.
The event organised by Wendy Francis and her mother, Diana, drew around 150 people from all backgrounds to gather outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm in a show of collective condemnation to the recent ‘slave auction’ in Lund, which led to the complainant, Jallow Momodou, to be the subject of racist abuse.
With the heart of Swedish politics just a few yards away, a number of speakers took to the platform and addressed the public including Miriam Carlsson Kanyama (a student from Lund) who drew a strong response from the crowd with claps and cheers with every mention of the struggle that people of colour face in Sweden today. John Odou Andrews called for the public to shout “Black Power”, yet somehow you felt the audience failed to believe it themselves.
“We are too Swedish – one person said – too scared to complain”.
The inclusion of political guests was a subject of debate amongst the people that Urbanlife spoke to, worried that the event might become a political platform.
Sadly when the music started (a rap and reggae artist) the united feeling faded away and so did most of the audience.
Most surprising was the decision to have Kitimbwa Sabuni (Afrosvenskarnas Riksförbund) a renowned speaker on these issues as one of the closing speakers. His speech eloquently captured the Afro-Swedish situation to a focused yet small number of remaining demonstrators.
Elsewhere Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt finally responded to a question on what his government can do about the mock slavery auction at Halland’s Nation.
“Anyone who has followed the progress of humanity knows that there are very dark chapters. One of those is the Holocaust that we mentioned earlier. Another is the slave trade that has afflicted the African continent and influenced many other parts of our world. It is a fact that we still have capital punishment in the world and that we have a long list of oppression in our time.
We cannot do more than to highlight the school’s enormous importance and that we learn about this and also about our own Swedish history. It certainly has not been altogether without character of violence and abuse against the countries in our vicinity, even if it is further back in history.
That’s how we’re preparing: education, knowledge, commitment to schools with great resources, just to steel ourselves against this happening again.”
Not the stirring anti-racism speech to quote in future quizzes, it only confirms that change will take a long time to come, but the initiation of this demonstration is finally a step in the right direction.
Read more at urbanlife.se