International solidarity emboldens Afro-Swedes


The dynamic Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnkes turned to me with a face of resignation, when I enquired why she needed two security men with her during her public engagements. ‘Simon, I’m a Black woman in power. Truth is there are some people out there who would wish to do me harm’. And then with a warm smile, she added, ‘But we’ve got work to do, I want to play my role to help defeat racism in this country. Will you help us?

The 9th October in both Malmo University and Malmo local Council was a truly extraordinary day. One commentator told me during lunch, that this is an historic event for tackling racism in Sweden.

The event: Slavhandelns arv - röster från dagens afrosvenskar - The slave trade heritage - voices from today's Afro-Swedes, was both a history lesson, and an empowerment day, to help Afro Swedes and other minorities realise their potential in collectively changing their world.

The organisors were Asfrosvenskaforum,-Pan African Movement for Justice- headed by their charismatic head Momodou Jallow.

This now annual event by the Pan African Movement for Justice, in cooperation with Malmö University, the Workers’ Educational Association (ABF) and the Anti-discrimination bureau -Malmö Against Discrimination and with support from the City of Malmö. Malmö is the only city in Sweden to commemorate the day.

Together they had brought some of the finest minds and brilliant activists to come to Malmo to build upon their already impressive work tackling rising racial hatred and discrimination in Sweden.


The young Black Minister opened the debate telling the audience that she only has a limited time in high office, ‘… so make use of my time and help me make the big changes.’ One of the biggest changes Bah Kunkes wants to confront, challenge and defeat is Sweden’s insistence that it will not monitor anything racially.

Of course here in the UK we’ve won these arguments, but these battles across many European countries mean that racism is felt in all the usual areas such as criminal justice, housing, jobs, and education, but there’s no data, and therefore no action to deal with often blatant discrimination. The Minster received rapturous applause when she announced that with their support she would continue to press the case for monitoring. ‘I may have some good news soon, but you must support me on this’.

The second speaker was the UK version of David Olusoga. Kitimbwa Sabuni, dazzled the audience with facts and figures about Sweden’s involvement in the Slave trade: the names, the places, the scale. A white woman in the audience wept as he gave his presentation. I asked her afterwards, why she was so upset. ‘I knew Swedes were involved in slavery’, she answered, ‘but I didn’t know that it was so extensive.

My role was to internationalise their struggle and to offer guidance in activism. ‘Whether you’re in Malmo, Sweden, or downtown Washington DC, the Parisian suburbs or Tottenham, London, racial discrimination and white supremacy filters through a prism of respectability and a lie that we’re all equal.

I told the audience that, ‘Sweden prides its self on being a fair and decent nation for everyone. And Black politicians and activist around the world support the Minister and activists such as Jallow and demand for the building blocks to effectively tackle racism; will come sooner rather than later. Sweden’ I told them, ‘trades upon this liberal, fair minded image.’

I’ve invited the Minister and Black activist to come to the UK sometime soon, where we can show Afro Swedes and other minority communities the solidarity that binds us together in a spirit that will not be defeated.

Simon Woolley