Black Feminism in Belgium
a look at the Past, Present and Future
The rich and growing body of black feminist writings of the last decades constitutes a powerful reminder of the fact that Black women, and the non-binary people that the world perceives and treats as such, have long worked to challenge and dismantle the many axes of oppression such as race, gender, class and disability. Despite being widely excluded from mainstream feminism, history shows us that Black women, and the non-binary people that the world perceives and treats as such, have successfully harnessed the power of their nuanced experiences and knowledge to advocate for women’s rights.
Black feminism moves the voices and experiences Black women, and the non-binary people that the world perceives and treats as such, from the margins to the center of gender equality movements. In doing so, it engages with the multifaceted aspect of identity and gives way to the emergence of new forms of critical thinking, solidarity as well as solutions to fight systemic oppression.
Building on the mapping research work of Graciela Dutrieue, Black History Month Belgium will be holding an Open Forum at the Kaaistudio's to discuss and reflect on the past, present and future of Black feminist thought but also further exchange on the issues which continue to affect Black(-descendant) Women and non-binary People in Belgium. After a keynote lecture by Dutrieue, and a special intervention by Ruth Grâce Paluku-Atoka, there will be a panel discussion with Philsan Osman, Aïda Yancy, Henriette Essami and Collectif Susu. The evening is hosted and moderated by Rachael Moore.
• Graciela Malou Dutrieue (she/her) is a Gender and Diversity Master student who also holds a bachelor degree in Arabic and Islamic studies and plans on starting a masters in Journalism. https://www.instagram.com/graciela.malou/
• Ruth Grâce Paluku-Atoka (they/them) is a queer, non-binary, Congolese activist. They are part of the Climate Justice Camp. Their work is centered around anti-capitalism, anti-racism, feminism, ecology and queer and trans identities. They're also an artist, writer, and poet.
• Rachael Moore (she/her) is an LGBT+ activist, facilitator and Diversity & Inclusion expert living and working in Brussels, Belgium. In 2018, she became co-founder of Rainbow Nation Brussels, an association dedicated to promoting and advancing the visibility and artistic, cultural and civic expression of LGBTQIA+ people who are Black or of colour. Currently, she is now the European representative on the ILGA World Bisexual Steering Committee. https://www.instagram.com/raerae_lacray/
• Philsan Osman (she/her) is from Somalia. She is a writer, activist and community builder and studies African Languages and Cultures at Ghent University. She co-authored the book Voor wie willen we zorgen? Ecofeminisme als inspiratiebron, is an event and production manager for Black History Month Belgium's Ghent team and is an editor and writer for the online feminist magazine Spijker Magazine. https://www.instagram.com/o_philsan/
• Collectif Susu is an afrofeminist, anticapitalist, anti-racist collective based in Brussels. Their creation is based on the fact that Black people face multiple and varied oppressions, in different spaces and by different authorities… Their main objective being to organize politically to fight together against these oppressions, they work on the development of times of militant struggle, through the collective assumption of responsibility of the problems which the people belonging to their communities are confronted with. At the same time, they work to create places of politicization, organization and meeting allowing them to put into practice, to question, even to adapt the theoretical tools inherited from their freedom fighters elders. https://www.instagram.com/collectifsusu/
• Henriette Essami (she/her) is the spokeswoman of the Undocumented Women Cmmittee (Comité des Femmes Sans-Papiers) and a member of various organizations such as La Voix Des Sans-Papiers collective, VSP Amazones, La Coordination des Sans-Papiers and other afro-feminist groups. She is a writer, an activist, a multi-faceted artist, and a dedicated mother. Fighting for the recognition of the rights of undocumented people in Belgium, She organizes a political occupation in the heart of the capital. Henriette is part of a collective movement leading fights to assert the right of undocumented people to have clear criteria for the regularization process. By forming strategic alliances and gathering support, they were collectively able to secure housing for hundred of our stranded diaspora's siblings. But Henriette isn't only a militant: she also is a black woman at the intersection of multiple domination mechanisms, which gave her a specific angle to re-think how we should collectively organize around oppressions. https://www.facebook.com/voixsp1/
• Aïda Yancy (she/her) is a Brussels based LGBTI+ and anti-racist activist and educator. With a Masters in History, a specialization in Gender Studies and a degree in teaching, Aïda focuses on taking an intersectional approach regarding social inequities, race, gender, and sexuality. She’s particularly interested in the ways in which the notions of multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusivity are misused and the damages this causes to people not only from minorities but also those who are perceived as such. In the last two years she has been focusing on the concept of safer spaces and accessibility for LGBTQI+ people perceived as having a migration background, culminating by the publication of a toolbox for general services. Her work call’s for a redefinition of such concepts centered on the perspectives of the very people they tend to ignore. https://www.instagram.com/aida_yancy/
• Black History Month Belgium (BHM) is an annual celebration (during the month of March) of the resilience of the black community in the present and the past. It is an attempt to transform the way in which we represent the past and the present through conversations, exchange moments, lectures, film, debate, performances and exhibitions. Through a people's history/history from below (the past told from the perspective of everyday people instead of leaders) we strive to make history more honest/truthful and inclusive, so more about all of us, regardless of our socio-economic, ethnic or cultural backgrounds. The ultimate motivation is to demonstrate the importance of conserving and promoting cultural diversity and the right to culture for everyone in our society.
The year 2022 marks the fifth edition of Black History Month Belgium. After four successful editions, this year’s focus will be on ‘the power of assembly.’ Documenting the different ways Black people in Belgium have gathered together throughout the years and acted in concert to raise awareness, call into question, and explore new ways of thinking, acting, being, creating, exploring, and caring. Coming together for friendship, worship, play, sports, learning, commerce, protest, governing, mourning, healing, or celebration is fundamental. The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021 and the protests against endemic racism in 2020 have brought new attention to our desire and need to assemble. Groups suddenly coming together in large numbers can be a source of hope. By asserting that we are still existing and taking up space, assembling is an expressive action and a politically significant event, that can happen wordlessly in the course of any gathering. An assembly is not the act of gathering people. An assembly represents the essence of the people who have gathered and the synthesis of their knowledge and commitments