One Year After George Floyd in Europe: Afro-Greeks and African Migrants Speak Out [Videos]

The Second Publication in a Contributed Series Titled ‘One Year After George Floyd: A Global Perspective’

In Athens, Greece, the police killing of George Floyd was greeted with rage. For the first time in modern Greek history, the broader movement for Black lives appeared and a demonstration in front of the American embassy ended up in flames. The impacts of Floyd’s death spread to millions of people across the world struggling against anti-Black racism.

Expanding Unicorn Riot’s ‘One Year After George Floyd: A Global Perspective’ series, we visit Athens, Greece, and hear from an Afro-Greek and two African migrants living in Greece, each from various Black/African communities.

In the Summer of 2021, Loretta Macauley with the United African Women’s Organization Greece, Jeffrey from the African Heritage Music Collective, and Michalis Affolanio from Anasa Cultural Center visited the Free Social Space Nosotros in the ‘Exarcheia’ neighborhood to share some words with Unicorn Riot.

They spoke about their opinions on the impacts that the killing of George Floyd and the uprising had in Greece and the anti-racist legacy it left in the country and globally. [Videos are provided with English closed-captions and transcriptions are located at the bottom of the article.]

Jeffrey – African Heritage Music Collective

Jeffrey, from Senegal, Africa, is a musical artist with the African Heritage Music Collective, a group of street artists in Athens, Greece, who have been around for more than 10 years, focusing mainly on making drum beats and dancing.

They’re active mostly in Monastiraki and Thiseio, two of the most emblematic and touristic areas in Athens’ city center. They’ve persevered through heavy gentrification and touristification of those two parts of the city, however they aren’t able to earn as much money. Because of the structural and social changes to the city landscape, street artists have been arrested, humiliated, and been subject to racist attacks.

The group, started mainly by people from Sierra Leone and Senegal, now has members from all over West Africa and provides original artistic expression in the streets of Athens.

Jeffrey is the lead singer and performer in the group. He lures the people with his voice and moves in these metropolitan ceremonies. He’s also experimenting in his individual musical projects and is always present and contributing through his art, in solidarity events or political happenings like the Embros Theatre anti-eviction campaign where he was deeply involved.

Jeffrey said that after watching George Floyd be killed, he was reminded of his saying that every Black person must “prepare for themselves.” He also spoke with us about some of the racist micro-aggressions he’s faced. [Transcription]

Loretta Macauley – United African Women’s Organization Greece

Loretta Macauley founded one of the oldest African political communities in Greece, the United African Women’s Organization Greece in 2005.

The organization was created to raise awareness on various issues concerning African women and their children in Greece, to create mutual bonds of solidarity between Africans and Greeks, and to participate in and strengthen all the struggles about human rights and against police oppression which has been targeting the African communities.

The organization stands for justice and a nonracial friendly society for all. It has been continuously present in the struggles of the Greek movement and one of the most inspirational groups for political participation among the African communities.

Besides speaking about the work of her organization, Loretta said that what happened to George Floyd made the “whole of Greece … become aware” of racism and that second generation immigrants and migrants are feeling “empowered to talk about their problems.” [Transcription]

Michalis Affolanio – ANASA Cultural Center

Michalis Affolanio is one of the main pillars at Anasa Cultural Center in Athens, Greece. He’s an experienced hip-hop artist, actor, and activist. Anasa is a center for African arts and culture in the Kerameikos neighborhood in the center of Athens, functioning since 2010.

They are a non-profit NGO working toward “the elimination of racism, exclusion and discrimination, the promotion of multiculturalism and intercultural dialogue among peoples, and the empowerment and inclusion, through art and culture, of young people of African origin who were either born in Greece or came as migrants or refugees.”

Anasa was not named after the Greek translation of the word which means “breath,” but from the Swahili language meaning “joy of life.” The center’s participants try to reach this joy through music, dance, singing, literature, theater, or other kinds of artistic events and educational projects.

Speaking in only Greek, Affolanio gave an analysis of the boosting impacts on the African diaspora from the uprising in response to the police killing of George Floyd. Affolanio said the second generation, of which he’s a part of, being born in Greece to parents from Nigeria, gained a “voice” and “strength” from the uprising.

He said that “people of African ancestry” protested in the streets and became more organized and educated. Affolanio said that they took to studying the history of America (historical narratives of the African Holocaust/slavery are often overlooked across the world). Upon learning “more about what has happened in the States … the history of the Black diaspora in the New World starting [with] the slavery era,” then people becoming “radicalized” and beginning to self-organize to “create groups and speak up.” [Transcription]


TRANSCRIPTIONS

Jeffrey

When they killed him [George Floyd] what I said is that everyone has to prepare for themselves, I mean when you are Black. I’m Jeffrey, from Senegal, West African, Jelani Diop. I come to Greece in 2011 and I live here until now [2021].

That I say, everyone have to prepare for themselves because it’s not just one time and we don’t know when the these things are going to stop. What I say always – some police they are police but some police they are not police. And who do all this? The government. It’s them that give them power, to do this. So imagine like, police, when someone was trying to kill this person [George Floyd] police are the ones who have to come to help, but most of the crime that happens in Europe against Black people is the from the policeman.

So, the police, we know this, they cannot do nothing for us. Me and my one of my friends we were speaking our language and the police tell me, “Hey, you don’t have to speak here your language – here is Greek” and I tell him, “Fuck off.” So you are police and you tell me I don’t have to say like my language here and you are the police and say, “Yeah this is Greece. So if you don’t like, you have to go out.”

What I see some times and many people do it – you can say, ‘I’m not racist’… but also you are racist. Because racism is not only like ‘I don’t like Black’ or how you are dealing with Black people but what what way you deal with Black people? Because there is one thing, if you keep treating people like that… these things are mean, they kill me.

Because, I walk around and I see about 100 or 300 or thirty people they are walking – no problem. But when they turn and see me as a Black you see, they change their back. Or when you’re in a group and you don’t wear a mask and then when you see me – you wear your mask. I say always, ‘Thank God!’ because the COVID don’t come from Africa. Imagine these things if COVID was coming from Africa?!

Even when Black and white people have kids. The first things of what they say, the mom or the dad – she or he will be like beautiful – and people will say, ‘you can be dancer.’ They don’t think something big for them – just like, it’s the limit. You can be a football player, or you can be a dancer, or you can be a singer – only this. Like we’re limiting ourselves like this. And these things kill me. Because you have to believe you are human like us. If they love you, okay. If they don’t love you, okay. But you must love yourself because no one born walk with the head.

Loretta Macauley

My name is Loretta Macauley. I am the founder of United African Women Organization Greece. So I’m going to talk about George Floyd, the influence that it’s created among Africans and the Greek society. A little bit about the United African Women Organization, we are a women-led organization Black-led organization with women. And in our organization also women fight for their rights. Women speak out. Women try to eliminate racism in this society. And we do a lot of events to eliminate racism in the society.

And we do sometimes some festivals that the Greeks and the immigrants will meet together, know each other, understand each other. And I think it is playing a good impact on Greek society. The second generation [immigrants], they organize a lot of events during the pandemic, the second generation become aware.

A lot of them stick to their communities and sharing each [others] stories about racists about racist things that has been done to them. The citizens also of Greece became aware so much that they joined the Black Africans to demonstrate and to change the situation. I think, even though we have the lockdown.

But people are so aware of that, that yeah, a lot of things change now. And a lot of people, especially immigrant that we are not saying anything about their problems or what they are facing, they stop to be that afraid. They are empowered to talk about their problem outside to make it public. So I think George Floyd, what’s happened to him make the whole of Greece because I’m living in Greece, become aware about what is going on in our in Greek society. Since the COVID started, it’s only one time we do an event.

And after that everything is forbidden not to do, not to go outside, not to do go to event like that. And then what I know is that people we are inside of course, but them are more closer to each other through the network, social media, you can see that people are organizing things on social media, even our self we organize an event on social media because of the refugees so that they [the State] can grant them their request.

So but now that they are opening little by little, we start our events and see how the situation goes more. Because by meeting people, physically you can understand what is going on. Not everybody is putting, what is uploading [every] thing that is happening to them on social media. So we are still waiting now. And we will start to organize ourselves more now that everything is opening.

Michalis Affolanio

My name is Michalis Affolanio, I come from Nigeria but I was born in Greece and I belong to a second generation of immigrants. It (second generation) was a movement which started in the beginning of 2000 having as a main demand the access of the children who are born in Greece to citizenship.

Last year we witnessed the murder of George Floyd by the police, an event which shocked the world and ignited a worldwide movement, a movement called Black Lives Matter which awakened other movements and definitely portrayed as a main axis to the injustice that Black people have to suffer from all around the world. It’s mostly of course in America but it identifies with people all around the globe as well as in Greece.

We considered and still do, that it gives us the voice and the strength even if we already had done some things to boost our dynamics in order to express our points regarding the Afro diaspora or the rights of the second generation in Greece. What I felt which was also unprecedented for me, was that I saw new people of African ancestry to get out in the street and protest. I noticed people in the street trying also to get self-organized, meaning to become more organized, more educated and under this occasion to study a bit more about what has happened in the States and become generally aware of the history of the Black diaspora in the New World starting by the slavery era and through that, radicalized themselves meaning to self-organize create groups and speak up.

Even recently in Amerikis Square, an event was held in an effort to support the struggle in the states [USA] and the movement there, but after COVID appeared, the whole situation started to decline since we couldn’t get out, we couldn’t do things and the fear of the virus and the pandemic was present. As a result, this had an impact on the movement which in my opinion obviously had a potential. I mean I was positively surprised and encouraged that we can support this to move forward, something that we successfully did in the period before.

For example, as we said with the event in Amerikis Square where we connected with other groups or collectives which weren’t only Black Lives Matter, they were also refugee matters, LGBQTI matters and most importantly people who were claiming rights against barbarism and police terrorism which is common almost globally and that was one of the most strong points.

Furthermore, we noticed another very important issue, that the local society showed gained a sensitivity around this subject, especially for the Black orientated racism since the latter can appear in many forms, so we speak mainly for the racism that has to do with color and because of that, me personally, at least have been present in many discussions, presentations of the work we do as a cultural center of African art and culture at Anasa.

I forgot to mention it before but I mention it now as we work a lot with diaspora and young people with African ancestry mostly from second generation. This whole situation gave us a step to talk and discuss about these matters, which even if it seems we have overcome as a society, we really haven’t.

The Golden Dawn subject [neo-Nazi party] and the whole case around it, created in the beginning a numbness to the people and that put redefinition, reshaping and reorganization on the table in order for the collectives themselves to figure out how to weather this storm [of racism]. After this reorganizing started to take shape and a new front became visible, a sense of unity was intense in the movement and in a later stage with Black Lives Matter as an epicenter, its tendencies interacted and even merged with each other.

For example, I was in a demo about the environment and then the Black Lives Matter demo appears and then a demo for workers rights, so in the same time in Syntagma Square [in central Athens] there were three or more demo calls for different reasons and everyone knew that they are gonna meet each other more or less so it was on purpose. I was really impressed because for example there were people from left groups for the environmental issues who were quite organized with their speakers and equipment and when the Black Lives Matter demo appeared they allowed its people to use the mic and speak or read texts or intervene, something quite hopeful and strong. But after with the lockdown, big problem.


Why Focus on Greece?From our anonymous contributor who produced this piece:

The police murder of George Floyd ignited the fuse of the explosive American reality and revealed to the world how entrenched racism is in the United States. To the world, the killing revealed the ongoing and relentless attack and repression by the police and state against African American communities all over the U.S.

Through increasingly militarized ways, the United States’ Police forces continue to target the Black community, conducting racial war which is boiling under a dismantled society with torn social bonds and fear and oppression as the stamps of the social contract. The flames of the uprising reached all over the world where neoliberal policies permiss police brutality, racial profiling, and a racist colonial perspective.

Demos appeared in nearly every country in the world with each place showing its own unique, autonomous characteristics. The spread preserved a fire that sent smoke signals of hope all over the planet. The fight against racism and death threats regarding your skin, language or sexuality belong to a common global struggle which should unite regardless of ideological differences and beyond different political starting points.

Bringing together two African migrants and an Afro-Greek from various political backgrounds who are part of this beautiful symphony of protest and creation that lured the country’s ears after George Floyd was killed. In this piece we attempt to spotlight the connections and the stronger bonds and interactions between local groups and abroad, spoken about by Jeffrey, Loretta, and Michalis.


The First Publication in the Contributed Series Titled ‘One Year After George Floyd: A Global Perspective’ One Year After George Floyd in Europe: The Deep Roots of Racism in Germany


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