Black Speaks Back discusses what it is like being black in Belgian society
“We want to show that we deserve our place and that we won’t be silent” says Emma-Lee, initiator and founder of Black Speaks Back; a Brussels-based movement that discusses what it is like being black in Belgian society. Can you understand racism if you’ve never experienced it? Black Speaks Back tries to explain what it feels like. In their short movies, they discuss various subjects regarding blackness in a white discourse. Or, alternatively: how racism is deeply rooted in our society.
The online world gives voice to a variety of socially engaged groups to tell their stories. Among these socially engaged groups, there are many postcolonial movements who claim their place in the online world. Black Speaks Back is one of these.
Text: Flore De Pauw
The movie ‘Black’
Founded nearly a year ago Black Speaks Back is an idea that had been growing a few months. The incentive was the Belgian movie Black. Black tells the story of two rival gangs based in Brussels: one of the gangs consists of people with a Maghreb background, the other gang of people with a dark skin. The picture presents the audience a black/white image of how the people in the two gangs behave and live.
Once again, the people in the ‘black’ gang are portrayed as violent, criminal and undereducated. Emma-Lee, founder of Black Speaks Back, was tired of this representation. The worst part was that it had even been internalized by other people of color (POC). She decided that she wanted to speak back. And that’s exactly what she did: with like-minded people, she started a movement that tackles different issues of being black in a white society. This is because the movie Black isn’t the only medium that portrays black people in a very biased way. The in 2017 released documentary I Am Not Your Negro (by Raoul Peck) shows us the history of profiling black people in a very clear way.
The doll experiment initiated by Kenneth and Mamie Clark shows an ugly truth as well. In this experiment, the two scientists showed children an identical black and white doll and asked which doll they preferred and wanted to play with. The majority of the children chose the white doll as the ‘best’ one. Even though this experiment was done in in the late 1930s and 1940, recreations show the same outcome. (sidenote: Robin Bernstein has a different interpretation of this experiment.)
Building bridges with video
Black Speaks Back had a message to tell, but how would they transfer their stories? One of the first ideas was organizing a debate evening. But that idea raised some questions. First of all: there are already a lot of debate evenings and it’s not easy to stand out. Furthermore, the things discussed during an evening aren’t always recorded so can’t be reproduced.
The final, and maybe most important issue, was that debate evenings attract the same audience of like-minded people: highly educated people of color and a limited group of white, middle class people. The goal was to spread the message as wide as possible. The solution for all of these problems were short online videos. Short YouTube videos are easy to watch and share so they’re perfect for Black Speaks Back’s message. The movies would look like this: four to five people debating a certain subject for ten minutes or less. These movies are uploaded to Black Speaks Back’s social media channels and this way, the movies are ready to be shared.
Safe space in a white discourse
The intention was that recording videos would be done in a safe space, which makes sure that POC are able to speak their minds without direct confrontation from a racist audience. . A place where the debaters could freely express their thoughts. Of course, YouTube is not a totally safe space after all. The comment section of a YouTube video can attract unwanted or unpleasant comments, particularly when issues of race are discussed.
The fact that Black Speaks Back identifies itself as a separate group of people that share the same experience isn’t acceptable for everyone. Some white people ask themselves why it is necessary to create a separate group if you’re talking about inclusion. Wouldn’t it be better to involve everybody, white people as well? Emma-Lee’s reaction is the following: “I feel like some of the people who ask those questions don’t understand their role when it comes to segregation. It’s not that white people literally tell me to get out but the historical structures do make me feel like I don’t have a place here.” She continues: “when you are welcome, you’re not expected to show too much of your roots, to ask political questions or to have an opinion on skin colour. Your task is to fit in, to behave like the others.”
Emma-Lee isn’t convinced that we’ve achieved a diverse society yet. “A white discourse can’t produce real diversity. The first step towards diversity would be for the majority to look history right in the eyes. Both the Netherlands and Belgium have a colonial past that is more often ignored than talked about. You have to understand why there are so many Congolese people in Belgium and you have to understand why there are so many Surinamese or Antillean people in the Netherlands. As long as this past is being ignored, we have to separate ourselves so we can fight this injustice as a collective.”
Black Speaks Back has its own way of online youth participation. The movement makes online videos to spread their message. One of their upcoming projects will be an afro-futuristic musical film that’s part of a BOZAR-project, called Next Generation, please! The latter is a project in which groups of youngsters re-write the European story and Black Speaks Back is one of those groups. ‘What will Europe look like in the future?’ is what they ask themselves. During the weekend of 30 September and 1 October, Afro-European artists from all over Europe tried to answer this question. In the following months, this group of people will create a film that shows what their Europe will look like and this movie will be presented during a Bozar festival in May.
This way, the next generation of Afro-descendants reclaim their place in the Europe of tomorrow and claims their right to be. “I have the feeling that we can’t fully exist. We can show our beautiful fabrics, do our dances and present our hairstyles when white people please, but we can’t completely participate in this society as equal human beings. Sois belle et tais-toi. With this Afro Futuristic Movie, we want to show that we deserve our place and that we won’t be silent. They can’t keep us quiet. “
Follow Black Speaks Back on Facebook.
This article is a result of a cooperation between European Youth Press and the project “EUth - Tools and Tips for Mobile and Digital Youth Participation in and across Europe”. This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 649594. This article reflects only the author's view and the Research Executive Agency or European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
All new articles
Baby Driver: a movie shot to the rhythm of the soundtrack
Yes, Chase is writing a piece about a movie with Kevin Spacey. But, without neglecting the serious offences to Spacey, Baby Driver is just too good a movie to not say something about it. You could write a whole book about the different aspects of the film: the costume...
Brikabrak, feesten ten voordele van Congolese straatkinderen
Brikabrak is een gloednieuw partyconcept in Brussel dat geld inzamelt voor het goede doel, opgestart door Beatsforbeaches en Chase-medewerker Yooth. "Bij Brikabrak staat de gedachte centraal dat men andermans leven iets dragelijker kan maken, terwijl je zelf van het leven geniet. Zo is het idee ontstaan om...
7 New Belgian hip-hop tracks you don’t want to miss
Haven’t recovered from last week’s hip-hop delivery yet? Too bad. Here are 7 new tracks you should add to your playlist: Majestro -Trainingspak (feat. Purple Goonz, Ice P, Freddie King & Cem) Majestro is back and this time he brought Purple Goonz, Ice P, Freddie King...
5 Colours You Should Rock This Autumn
As the leaves changed colours we replaced our summer clothes with cosy turtle neck jumpers and furry coats a while ago. Are you still wondering how to look fashionable on a rainy day? Here is a small list of the colours you should rock this autumn to keep ...
Why Skin Color is a Bad Party Costume
And so it happened: a friend of mine posted a picture of herself in blackface at a Halloween party. “Oh, what are you tripping about? It was just for fun!” Well, maybe to you, but in the aftermath of the Bazart / Bazalt discussion and in anticipation of Black...
Lil Peep: ‘The future of Emo’ overleden op 15 november 2017
Lil peep is gisteren op 21-jarige leeftijd overleden, dat bevestigde zijn manager Chase Ortega op Twitter. Die laatste tweette: 'I’ve been expecting this call for a year. Mother fuck.' De exacte doodsoorzaak is nog niet bekend maar geruchten over een overdosis doen de ronde. Peep stond bekend...
7 Brusselse street art werken die je niet mag missen
Ah, Brussel! Stad van de chocolade, thuishaven van Manneken Pis en trotse bezitter van het indrukwekkende La Grande Place. Of toch niet? Jammer genoeg zijn ook ‘thuishaven van het extremistische uitschot’ en hellhole tegenwoordig de gangbare associaties die onze hoofdstad oproept. Dat is zonde,...
Black Speaks Back discusses what it is like being black in Belgian society
“We want to show that we deserve our place and that we won’t be silent” says Emma-Lee, initiator and founder of Black Speaks Back; a Brussels-based movement that discusses what it is like being black in Belgian society. Can you understand racism if you’ve...
J Hus: “Having a difficult life is not really an excuse”
J Hus is a 22 year-old rapper straight outta East-London. He describes himself as being very diverse, mixing singing and rapping through a mix of genres, from afrobeat and dancehall to grime. He started his career by recording multiple freestyles and released a variety of singles, but his real breakthrough came...
Why NIVEAU4 is a big deal for the Belgian hip hop scene
Zwangere Guy, L'Or Du Commun, TheColorGrey, Le 77, Darrell Cole, ISHA, Junior Goodfellaz & DJ Vega. On November 30, all of the aforementioned artists will perform together - on one stage - as ‘Niveau4’ at Ancienne Belgique. Niveau4 was originally developed by Couleur Café in 2016 to...
T-Loc wint allereerste Red Bull Bekvechten
Vanavond vond de allereerste editie van Red Bull Bekvechten plaats in De Studio (Antwerpen). Onder leiding van host Salahdine (SLM, NoMoBS) vochten zonet Bennabong, Boeken, Estrada, Jef, Rikky Rozay, T-Loc, The Real Cem en TV Beeld het onder elkaar uit. De avond werd ingezet door dj Majestro...
10 new Belgian hip-hop tracks you should check out
It might seem like a long time ago that we presented you with the best locally grown tracks. Sometimes life just gets too busy with work, school and other projects. But we really want to continue bringing you our weekly Belgian hip-hop updates, so let us offer you...
Who wins the 3rd Chase Award at the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards? Vote now!
For the third year in a row we are handing out a Chase Award for the best Belgian hip hop act at the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards. Two years ago, Woodie Smalls took home the Chase award and last year Roméo Elvis got the most votes. This...
Chase Travels: How The Koi Fish came to spray paint an old Nazi bunker in Norway
Once upon a time, under the pseudonym of The Koi Fish, started painting - you guessed it- splashing Japanese koi fish in Belgium. Shanghai soon followed, and their newest habitat is located the Far West of Scandinavia. You might remember this graffiti artist from our interview with Belgian filmmaker...