Yesterday I turned 32 and this year I spent a lot of time thinking about my Power,
Seems very strange as I would never describe myself as interested or motivated for power,
In fact when I think of that word , I think of politics and greed and excessiveness..
but in all honesty these last weeks I have been feeling powerful and I know exactly why.
Let me put this in context,
These last months in Sweden have been rough
The migrant and refugee crisis has opened the gates for open, unreserved hatred and violence.
Just as engagement and volunteering is increasing, homes where the young refugees are living in are targeted systematically and burned down
By my last count, we were way past 20 burnt homes and I still don’t know what is being done about it
For a whole weekend, Nazi sympathizers roamed the heart of the city, assaulting, - well, I hear it was the african unaccompanied youth, but from witness accounts that I read, anyone who doesn’t look like Khaleesi was a target.
That weekend I had to track my brother and his friends and make sure they stayed home.
When you have to say those words
"Stay home, it’s not safe, there are Nazis in the city and you are a target"
Something inside crumbles.
I have been to over 20 countries in my young life
I have always felt at home and at ease with my difference
I have in all honesty always been a minority, but I have never felt like one until I moved to Sweden
I have never had my hair touched by strangers or friends
I have never been looked at like a curiosity
I have never been told to 'go back where I came from'
I have never been denied a job because of who I am.
This is a fact, before moving here, for every interview I attended I got a job offer, except twice in over 10 years of working.
Those of you who have read my post about find a job in Sweden, know it took me 4 years to get ONE interview .
I realize I have always been powerful,
I say what I think,
I go where I want
I have started projects and gotten jobs I wanted,
I never see anything as a challenge, but rather, right within my reach
My power, the one my parents gave me, made every option available to me
I moved to Sweden because I loved what it represented
so really I am a migrant,
I am not married to a Swede or connected to any,
I am truly just like the people standing at the border now, except I have luxury of a european passport that can take me where I want, when I want.
So that’s the context
I went to the premier of A Raisin in the Sun in Stockholm
It was a cast of AfroSwede’s tell this story that I know so well and studied at school
but for the first time , I felt that desperation they conveyed more personally
It hit home that the world of the 50s, of segregation and racial injustice was right outside my door, today in 2016
When the curtain rose during the applause I could not stop crying ..
I felt powerless
And then I got a message that Seinabo Sey was doing a Grammy performance
and she wanted women of African descent to join her on stage and just 'be there'
It was a week when my family was sick, I had lots work and yet I dragged myself there,
It was too important to miss
We stood on stage, 130 women and in that moment, my power returned to me.
I was looking at the audience, and being outside the Swedish music scene I recognized so few
But I did notice the emotion on Adam Tensta’s face
With the lights on us, I could see those who were watching a performance
and those who were listening to the message we were projecting.
“we are here, we are strong, and we are a part of you”
The lady next me was so close I could feel her nerves and the tremor in her leg,
half way through the song we held hands and I felt her calm return
In that moment of sisterhood
Seinabo gave me what I didn’t realize I had lost
She gave me my power
As a migrant , nothing is owed to me by this country
to be a part of that statement, that night, was truly emotional
not one or two people accepted me,
the sisterhood took me in as one of thiers
because I am not an AfroSwede
but my daughter, born here and raised here,
she, is an AfroSwede
She must have a space in this community that is hers
In the rehearsal room I heard women sharing how it had felt
how they had never been in the same room with so many people who looked like them
how they were from small towns where they were the only person who was of 'other' decent.
I can never know how that would feel for them
I have always felt that my 'otherness' is something positive,
something I celebrate
my loud laugh and brightly colored outfits despite the weather,
my ridiculously mismatched accent to my heritage,
my multiple heritage in itself
my love of strangers and connecting to people
I love it all
I never questioned it
But there you go , that night I found my light again
Thank you Seinabo.
The Nazis in Stockholm:
The feeling in Sweden:
More on Seinabo Sey’s performance