Honouring Black Europe: People of African Descent (PAD)


It’s a week since I returned from the inaugural gathering at the European Parliament in Brussels that celebrated the ‘People of African Descent week’, with a conference that both celebrated 20 million people of African descent living in Europe, but also confronted the many challenges far too many face.

Not since the late 1990’s have I  seen so many people from African descent from so many European countries come together to listen, learn, and build a movement that demands dignity, equality and opportunity.  But even back then it was never over a four day period.

Two other headline aspects that made this ground-breaking:  There was great leadership and support from African Americans including Congressman Alcee Hastings, Congressman Gregory Meeks and Congresswoman Gwen S Smore, and the delegation of US activists. Secondly, there was a critical buy-in from many African Embassies who sent Ambassadors  and other senior staff, to let delegates know that the African continent deeply cares about its citizens in  Europe.

But the real buzz came from the grassroots delegates from almost every corner of Europe. Campaigners such as Dr Thomas Ndindah from Germany, Assita Kone from Italy, Isablle Mamadou Blanco from Spain , Killion Munyama from Poland, and I hope she won’t mind me saying this grandees, included Mireille Fanon- Mendes from France.

The UK probably had one of the  largest contingents there ranging from councillors – Abena  Oppong-Asarer, Alisa Fleming, Sanchia Alasia, Educationalist, Dr Kehinde Andrews, and  activist/OSF funder Nick Glynn.

Over the four days delegates discussed a deluge of topics including:  Rights and citizenship;  asylum the police and their practices; political empowerment; business opportunities; remitencess; the far Right; and the digital explosion.

Often when you attend these conferences you come away exhausted with so much to take in. Well the latter part was true, there was so much to take in, but rather than feel exhausted I came way feeling excited and ready to help take this project to the next level.

I think from an observational point of view Jordi Vaquer, head of Open Society foundation in Europe summed up some of the key specific asks that delegates demanded, including:

•    An EU framework for national actions plans to combat discrimination for people o f African descent, similar to the EU framework to combat Roma discrimination
•    Full recognition by the EU member states of the international Decade for People  of African descent, including implementation of ‘Access to Justice’ and measures against poverty
•    Clearer focus on anti- racism specifically on people of African descent
•    Empowerment, legal, political, economic
•    Presence in EU history, society, media, including success and suffering

One week after such an historic event, organisers are already planning for next year, whilst delegates are using social media to build upon the unity adn friendships  made.
For me, I’m trying to do all of the above, and make plans to return to Brussels to meet with other minority groups - Roma,  Asian, and Muslim group in a bold bid to broaden the family of minorities to speak with an even louder voice. Fingers crossed!

Special thanks to the organisers in particularly Daniel Gyamerah, Karen Taylor,  Sarah Chander, Dr Mischa Thompson, Alfiaz Vaiya, and Bettina Gardner. A great job done !

Simon Woolley