The name of the conference in Dublin was “Re-thinking anti-racism Practice in Adult Education” and from the getgo I wondered what we would be rethinking? Why would I rethink anything that has to do with racism? What’s there to rethink?
Then I walked into the intro-session -fashionably late and looking handsome doing it- and met a room full of white people. 40 of them, 35 women, one Indian woman.
After I introduced myself, the facilitator walked up to me and said “I was afraid you wouldn’t come, because here I am facilitating this meeting on racism, with no Black people in attendance 🤷🏾♂️”
I smiled, thinking she gets it. She cont’d “no really I looked at your website and your work is amazing. Your experiences … you should be facilitating these sessions 🤷🏾♂️”
I shrugged and kept smiling
Then I handed her a straw. “You know what. The way I force myself to look at it, is that we all have experiences. White people go through your own things that shape your views
Who knows I will learn something, find new perspectives that will help me fight my fight even harder.”
She said thank you for that and dribbled into calling on me to share my experiences with the rest
I thought that’s gonna be quite a ride for them and apologized beforehand.
She stayed through. The next day, in the midst of her session, she told the room she wanted me to share my experience. Everybody was like “whoa, why are you putting the weight on the Black man?”
I told them nah, I’m always ready.
And the next morning I took them to task. Here’s my speech”
“You know Zoryana yesterday, when you showed the video of the spoken word artist, she was saying that she had to rebuild herself. And from everything we did in this training, this got to me the most. Because I have had to rebuild myself too.
In fact, she just came to Europe and she is having these experiences now. I have been having these experiences my whole life. It’s all my parents knew, because back then there was no support system. I don’t even wanna think about what my grandparents had to endure. And their parents were slaves. Everything was taken away from them. They lived through racism all their lives and often they did not even know that they were facing it. So I was raised without really knowing my African identity so I have been rebuilding myself my whole life. I had to start from scratch and I am doing what I am doing for them. And for my children.
It is not easy because I have been facing attempts to push me back all my life. Racism hides in every corner, always trying to take away my peace of mind. There was a time long ago that I would let it slide, because the world had always tried to convince me that I should let shit slide. That I live in these people their world. Not true. I have as much right to every particle of air, like everyone does.
But okay. Stories about racism. I want you to challenge me.
I want you all to give me ten words, nouns, verbs. It doesn’t matter. Just words. From those ten words I will choose a few to give you a few experiences that I have had with racism.
First story was about my last name.
They threw 11 more words at me …
I told them six stories, six of the dozens of times that I have experiences racism
The reason I am telling you these stories is because I want to drive home why what I am doing is important. First of all with my foundation we want to create safe spaces for Black people to study without facing prejudice and marginalization and discouragement.
I remember going to school and my teachers telling me that I would never amount to anything. That I should behave according to my skin color. I should know my place. I was bullied and discouraged throughout my teen years … and that was in a multicultural society. Imagine going to this school to learn about the people who enslaved your ancestors like they were heroes. Imagine being Jewish and Hitler is praised in your classroom by your teacher. Because your teacher was taught to teach you that. Can you imagine that?
In the US, after slavery was abolished, they implemented segregation. Black children were not allowed to go to universities. So what did the Black community do? They started their own schools HBCU’s. These schools still exist. They deliver the top lawyers, doctors and politicians from the Black community. The reason that they deliver these topnotch Black scholars, is that these schools are safe spaces for Black children, where their identities and their strong characters were formed.
Let me be clear. I have no problem with eurocentrism. The problem is that eurocentrism is the only thing taught in schools. All over the world. In former colonies, schools are still Eurocentric. Last year I was tagged in an article about the first afrocentric school in Africa! In 2022!!! So I asked the journalist how he would feel if I would write about the first Eurocentric school in Europe! I was sarcastic of course, but He got offended: all schools in Europe are Eurocentric!
There is a lot of research about Black children underperforming at regular schools in Europe. We believe that it is because their schools are not safe spaces. They do not recognize themselves in the Eurocentric school system. I already spoke about how strange it would be to teach Jewish children that Hitler was a hero.
So we are implementing decolonized schools in Europe in the next couple of years, where afrocentric views will be taught alongside Eurocentric views. Not just schools for Black children, but also children from other backgrounds to learn about Black views. We wanna create holistic children
Another word, another story
Our institute will have four pillars.
The first pillar will be operational in a few months: Broos Academy.
We are launching a virtual campus where you’ll be able to attend masterclasses on afrocentric subjects, given by academics from within the Black communities. People who work with people of African descent can only do their jobs better if they are also taught who people of African descent are, how they look at things. What is our psyche, what makes us tick?
o Masterclass on psychology of people of African descent and of descendants slavery.
o Afro-philosophy master class
o Masterclass on the influence of people of African descent on European history.
o Masterclass art, from (Black and indigenous people)
o Masterclasses Afro-Surinamese and Afro-Caribbean history
o Master class Afro-spirituality
o Masterclass on racism in legislation
o Masterclass on how to Sustainably Transform into an Inclusive Organization
o Masterclass Writing for Change.
Another word, another story
People often say that they do things for their ancestors, because they are proud of what their ancestors did. I know that in a matter of years I will be an ancestor myself; will my descendants be proud of what I did?
To wrap things up
Several people have come up to me to ask me if I felt put on the spot, when she asked me to do this. And I have said every time that I don’t mind, because it gave me the opportunity to tell you what I am doing. I hope I have been able to spark your interest in what we’re doing and who knows we can partner in some way. Thank you for your attention”