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It brings me great, deep-rooted-joy to announce that the good people at Sandberg Instituut (Amsterdam) were excited about my pitch for a new temporary program and as of right now, I’m the director of the course Blacker Blackness. With this four-semester-course that will start in September 2021, we’ll focus on imagination as a method to decolonize, uncode and liberate representations of Blackness in art and design. Our research question for this four semester program is: “What are the questions you ask, your way of archiving, your use of existing archives and/or your selection of art when you center the interior lives, memories, connecting identities and lived experiences of Black people?” The main tutors are Ola Hassanain, Zawdie Sandvliet and yours truly. We’re excited to work with guest lecturers such as Books&Rhymes, Jennifer Tosch, dr. Charl Landvreugd, dr. Guno Jones, Richard Kofi and Mark Ponte.
– Monday February 22, from 20h-21h (Amsterdam time): Ola Hassanain and I are hosting a digital talk about the first two semesters of the program. If you’d like to attend, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can send you the ZOOM-link.
– Monday March 8 from 20h-21h (Amsterdam time): The last four guest lecturers will be announced during our digital presentation. During this session, we’ll also talk more about the third and fourth semester of the program.
– Thursday April 1: The deadline to register online. You can register by clicking here.
The four semesters
The Blacker Blackness course will analyze and develop research and artistic practices rooted in Black-centered imaginations. We’ll study and create artistic representations of Afro-European communities whose presence can be traced from the 15th century until today. While focusing on the interior lives, joys, refusals and everydayness of these Afrodiasporic communities, we’ll use imagination as a (re)centering tool.
The first semester of this two- year masters programme focuses on Afro-Europeans in the 16th, 17th and 18th century. What could artistic representations of their presence be if we centered, researched and imagined their interior lives and various forms of what Amal Alhaag and Barby Asante call “Black Togetherness”? In the following semester we’ll (re)read three novels: Segu by Maryse Conde, Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih and After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haity by Edwidge Danticat. From these works we’ll imagine and create uncoded representations of Afrodiasporic spiritualities as forms of hope and survival, the impacts of being uprooted and the social as well as the interior lives of enslaved people.
Next to writing the thesis, the second yearthird semester starts with researching how practices of decolonization, imagination, rejection and refusal -all of them amplified by technology in general and social media in particular- impacted not just the presence and art by but also positions of power of Black people. Our final semester focussesfocuses on final works and the social and political impact of sculptures, statues and other art pieces in public spaces.
Each semester is scheduled to close with a public event where the students present the storylines, collection of images and research questions they worked on.
The Blacker Blackness course requires a two year investment in decolonial, anti-racist, hype-free artistic representations of Blackness. The Temporary Programme welcomes students interested in literature and visual art by decolonial Afro-European, Afro-Caribbean and Africontinental writers, as well as those in dire need to picture and discuss Blackness in ways that aren’t solely linked to trauma, injustice or so-called street culture.
For updates, please follow @blackerblackness on Instagram and/or make sure to follow lazeefuik.com.
Myths of the Netherlands as the home of tulips and tolerance should only exist in the minds of those who’re in the business of touristy promotions. In reality, this is the country of Eva “Nggbtch” Hoeke, Thierry Baudet who got his privilege ravaged and handed to him by the briljant Fatou Diome and Dutch sports commentators who, on national TV, wonder if Boko Haram would be part of Nigeria’s soccer team. It’s the home of white cartoonists who mock Black casualties of forced migration and white public figures who appear on talkshows to refer to African refugees as “blackies” or tell the presenter that he’s rather unlucky because he’s “not just Black… but also stupid!” This is the Netherlands, where on July 23 national newspaper NRC offered space to Charles Groenhuijsen’s column about the trials of the Black communities and the Black Lives Matters campaign founded by Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors (pic). The title: “Black America needs to look at itself.”
In his intro, Groenhuijsen argues that “Black poverty in the US comes forth out of racism, but you can’t blame white people for everything.” Groenhuijsen, a white Dutch journalist, writer and public speaker who’s based in Bethesda (USA), is the quintessential poster boy of his country’s distorted approach to Black people’s histories, the national sentiment that whiteness outweighs research or study and the subpar level of journalism all this produces. He continues: “Ask Americans what the biggest problem of the country is and they will start about the economy, unemployment and the role of the government. And since this Spring also racism. Not that racism was ever gone, but it wasn’t on top of the list. Because of deathly incidents where police officers killed black civilians (Ferguson, Staten Island, South-Charleston) racism is back on the front pages. It is a persistent problem. Contradictions between white and black are rather bigger than smaller. Also the first black president of the US does not bring improvement. Obama doesn’t realize the impossible. Which is not a reproach.”
The Dutch in any case, from their role in slavery to their grave abuse of the rights of illegalized refugees, demand nuance. Whenever racism is discussed in the Netherlands it is always in conjunction with nuance. Groenhuijsen has no intention to break his country’s code of whiteness: “Who in a discussion about racism insists on nuance can count on criticism. What is there to nuance about racism? I will try either way. Not to suggest it’s not that bad with discrimination in the US. It is bad. Large and small racism is there every day. At the office, at school, in shops, on street corners. It leads to an angry debate that gets stuck in the hopeless binary of right and wrong, victim and perpetrator. Too often it is about the consequences in the 21st century of slavery in the 18th and 19th century: a black-white dispute in which bitterness and pessimism prevail. Too many whites say: racism is about over. If a black American can conquer the White House, is everything possible. Stop complaining and demonstrating. Oh, and as well-meaning white person I don’t want to be blamed for something that happened two centuries ago.”
Groenhuijsen’s call for nuance is appalling. Not only is he telling Black Americans what to do in a Dutch newspaper, he suggests Black Americans play an equal part in the current racial affairs. He fails to ask why Black people are attacked and incarcerated daily, fails to ask how white people contribute and maintain the very white supremacist system that he calls nuanced racism. Where does he question how it is possible that Black people are arrested on non-existing grounds and die at the hands of the State? The problem with Groenhuijsen and the likes is that next to forever wanting nuance they also are firm believers of equality. After his ‘analysis’, he deems himself important enough to offer ‘solutions’ for America’s future. And of course, the answer lays in the idea that Black and white both need to let go of their prejudice and work together towards a ‘hopeful’ future. “Is there only bad news for black America? No, the good news is that more and more African Americans are successful. You can become professor, surgeon, director, top athlete, popstar, and indeed president. Unfortunately, the number of those who structurally stay behind remains too large. Too often Black Americans misused deprivation (as powerlessness, despair?) as something to be proud of. Who tries to do better is a show off: ‘You are acting so white’.”
As a good little white progressive, Groenhuijsen reminds us what his kinfolks are known for: discussing racism and discrimination by talking about how it affects white people. “In the meantime, discrimination against white people is very common. Just ask a random white pupil or student. Is it a form of bitterness?” This is the kind of mind that produces hashtags like #AllLivesMatter but limits calls for ‘inclusion’ to occasions when whiteness fears that its ‘other, better side’ is being ignored. Unable to see racism as an oppressive structure, white people like Groenhuijsen fail to graduate from the ‘Why don’t you like me? Why aren’t we talking about what this means for me?’-part of the conversation. To him and the vast majority of his countrymen, racism is the result of a lack of effort to overcome inequalities. Groenhuijsen references cops killing Black people, the link between poverty and racism, the existing figures on racism, and still argues whites will only change their attitudes if Black Americans change their behaviour. Groenhuijsen eagerly makes use of the widespread idea that Black humanity is dependent on white goodwill. He states: “[…] young black Americans: you don’t need to impregnate 16 year old girls because your grandmother sat in the back of the bus. You don’t need to shoot and kill fellow blacks because there was once slavery […] Of course black lives are of value. But why do Black Americans kill each other so often (more than 40 deaths a week)? When compared to whites, the number of African American killers is seven times as high. Doesn’t your battle cry count in those cases? Why isn’t there a black leader standing up to yell “Yes, all black lives matter” for every black murder victim? […] Obama is the best possible ally of black Amerika. But don’t expect a black president to solve just solve all problems for you.”
The aim of the translations we offer here is not to reproduce his racist and violent words, but to hold Groenhuijsen and Dutch media responsible and call them out on their racist propaganda. Dutch media needs to face their daily reproduction of whiteness plus answer for it on both a national and an international level. It is utter cowardice to write such bold, anti-Black statements about a movement but do so in a way in which the changes of a response are slim to none. Did Groenhuijsen approach any American media in an attempt to sell his Dutch views on the Black Lives Matter movement? If Groenhuijsen is serious, or at least sincere, about the advice he wants to offer Black America, why did he choose this rather inaccessible form? Could it be that, not quit unlike a growing group of white liberals/progressives/saviors/etc. Groenhuijsen thinks that conversations about Black people need to be had far away from the reality that we might respond and drag them for filth?
Please add #DecolonizeDutchMedia to your statements on social media and consider mentioning @nrcnext when you’re Tweeting about this article. We’re urging everybody to not click on any of the NRC links so they can’t turn this into some random click peak that will make them more interesting for sponsors and/or advertisers.