Archive for black Scandinavia

Lessons learned: From my mother and while living in Sweden

In the 9th article in our Inside View series Faith set out to travel the world while making a difference in people’s lives. While in Sweden she got a phone call that changed her life forever.

At about 10:00pm on August 28, 2007, I arrived at Stockholm Arlanda airport. I remember the day so vividly because it was the eve of my 24th birthday. I had just left Phuket, Thailand after spending about two weeks there, most of which were spent with me suffering and recovering from food poisoning.

About three months prior I had just received my Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Policy at Howard University in Washington, DC. Instead of joining the work force like most of my peers, I decided instead to travel with a global education program called Up with People. The program is an opportunity for participants to travel for 6 months with others from around the world to volunteer and perform a show of cultural peace.

I can remember a couple of days after I arrived in the very multi-cultural Sodertalje, Sweden, I emailed my mother to tell her that one day I hoped to move to Sweden. To me, Stockholm, especially reminded me of Chicago. Perhaps the Swedish immigrants in Chicago felt similarly. My mother’s reply was that she and I could move there together for a couple of months. It was a great suggestion; one that I hoped would come true. After all, she was my best friend.

It was only about 20 days later, while in Vimmerby, Sweden that I got a very disturbing email. My father emailed me to say that I should come home right away. He told me that my mother was sick. I knew immediately that my mother was dead. She was gone and I was all the way in Sweden.

My journey back to Chicago from Sweden was long and physically taxing. After planning my mother’s service and taking care of her estate, I decided to rejoin my cast for the last 6 weeks of our tour in the US.

After my tour finished, I traveled to other countries visiting my castmates from Up With People and eventually settled into a career as a teacher in Chicago. It wasn’t long before I landed a job as the Dean of Students at my alma mater; an all-girl high school on the south side of Chicago. My passion to empower girls and young women became even more evident.

Even as a school administrator in Chicago, I decided to connect with the large Swedish population in my hometown. I joined the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce, and became a volunteer at the Swedish American Museum. Since I knew that I had hoped to one day hoped to live in Sweden, I applied for a scholarship with the American Swedish Institute to research bullying in multi-cultural schools in Sodertalje, Sweden.

So, in August of 2011 I moved to Sweden for one year to perform research in schools in Sodertalje about bullying among 6th grade girls. Additionally, I spent the year working on my recently published book: Ten Lessons My Mother Taught Me Before She Died, which is dedicated to “girls” without mothers.

Initially, it took me a while to adjust to the idea that I was taking more than just a vacation to Sweden, but actually living there. It was quite an adjustment for me, but living in a Swedish host family helped make the transition a lot less stressful. Admittedly, I was not used to living a “green life”, but even now, I am a lot less wasteful than I was before I moved to Sweden. I am must move environmentally friendly. I grew to appreciate the Swedes appreciation for the environment.

In Chicago I wasn’t used to taking public transportation everywhere, so in Sweden I would get lost at least twice week: especially if I was going to Stockholm. My Swedish friends still joke with me about how horrible my sense of direction can be.

There were adjustments that did not frustrate me as much, like being able to take a “fika” or coffee break in the middle of meetings and even church service. The dress code at school was much more relaxed than in the USA which helped with my level of stress and anxiety. I did not feel as constrained. Actually as a Lupus patient, I was happy that I spent much of the year there without experiencing many symptoms of the disease. I was able to better under the health care system in Sweden as a patient who received amazing care from doctors who communicated about my status regularly. As an American I wish that we could adopt a similar method of healthcare.

I hated to leave Sweden, but was so happy that I had the opportunity to return to a country that means so much to me. Organizations like the American Women’s Club of Stockholm provided me with friends that I still keep in contact with today. Perhaps one day I will return Sweden to live permanently, but for now I remain connected here in Chicago to the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce and the Swedish American Museum. Most of all, I try to practice speaking and writing Swedish as much as possible. Jag hoppas att jag ska aldrig glomma Svenska.

Faith Elle 5 19 2013 10 1024x1024 Lessons learned: From my mother and while living in Sweden

Ms. Faith Elle is a life coach, providing life coaching services to girls and women. Her company Faith Elle Enterprises also conducts workshops for youth and staff development in schools. Faith is currently an adjunct faculty member at Harry S Truman College, where she teaches College Success, an interdisciplinary class which prepares students to matriculate through the collegiate pipeline. She is a noted speaker, author and global citizen: to date she has traveled to 25 countries on five continents. Faith is a girls advocate and expert. The product of an all-girl school and a lifetime member of Girl Scouts of the USA.

In 2010, Faith was diagnosed with, Lupus, a chronic auto-immune disease which can affect the entire body. In order to raise awareness, Faith has committed to donating ten percent of all this book’s proceeds to Lupus research. Her book: Ten Lessons My Mother Taught Me before She Died is dedicated to “girls” without mothers worldwide.

Editor’s note: Faith’s fee for writing this article was donated to an organization dedicated to Lupus research, in her name.

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Gloria Dixon-Svärd – An American in Norrland

In a new series of articles, black women living in Europe share their views from the inside. In our sixth article, Gloria Dixon-Svärd traded her dreams of being a diplomat for a life way up north. 

So what made a big city girl like me venture off to a small town way up in the north of Sweden and stay there for 19 years and become a “Norrlänning”? Well I suppose this question can’t be answered in one short story since there are so many factors which play a part. Some have to do with the person I was before coming to Sweden and the rest has to do with experiencing Sweden as a new arrival in the north. I had a lot of the quietness that is the stereotype of most people from the north and I simply fit right in.

hqdefault Gloria Dixon Svärd   An American in Norrland

My first encounter with Sweden was back in 1974 when I came as an exchange student to small town outside of Katrineholm. That doesn’t say much for those who don’t know Sweden but at that time Katrineholm probably had a population of about 20,000 as opposed to Washington DC’s over 700,000. The fact that I had fallen so deeply in love with a Swedish exchange student at my school the year before had a lot to do with it. Still, in my junior year I had expected to study abroad in Paris. I was very focused on becoming a diplomat and working at the US State Department so an international experience was mandatory. The romance with the Swede and contact with Sweden became a big plus in my quest for international knowledge. When I got to Sweden I simply fell in love with the country – its simplicity, the standard of living; the people, one couldn’t help but love the country. It was the closest thing to a “Utopia” which I had read so much about in my history and political science classes during the 70’s. But that’s another story.

BodenSunseta Gloria Dixon Svärd   An American in Norrland

The years came and went. I finished a 2 year visit in Sweden and went back home to become the diplomat I thought was my destiny. It didn’t happen! I continued to vacation in Sweden and on one such vacation I met my future husband who just so happened to be from a small northern town called Boden. I could write an entire article to describe my encounter with Boden and the north. In terms of “area” Boden’s Kommun is a very big town comprised of several small, neighboring towns. Up until the late 90’s Boden was Sweden’s northern most strategic, security point of protection. And yes, my husband like so many other men who lived in Boden worked for the military. So in the spring of 1979 I was living a life I never thought was possible: married and living in northern Sweden. Boden is a beautiful town in the summer. Like Stockholm it is a city on water but without the stress and the masses. I was now in the land of the midnight sun and it was truly an experience to find oneself up at midnight wondering when you would get tired. That comes at the price of November and December when there is approximately 3 hours of daylight! But there was something very exotic about that contrast which enthralled me for about 10 years. Experiencing the northern lights for the first time, Wow! I considered myself enlightened back then but I had never heard of the northern lights until I found myself on a dark, lonely road on my way home one night. Mine was the only car for miles around and the lights suddenly appeared in the sky, dancing as they say in the north in all its magnificence. I was terrified! I was sure that I was experiencing an encounter with the unknown. This is before mobile phones so I was “ALONE” and scared in every sense of the word.

Aurora borealis Gloria Dixon Svärd   An American in Norrland

Northern Lights

In the north you find yourself living in wait of the return of spring and the new life waiting around the corner.  Still, Boden turned out to be my door into the world of international business. As an American I was quite unique for that part of the country so I can truly say that I was a novelty in the right place at the right time. And I was a novelty because I was American, black, female in high heels and skirts, spoke not only Swedish and English but I also possessed at the time a working knowledge of French which was exactly what was needed for the job I secured. I was in charge of all the international contacts with both customers, suppliers and several sister companies around the world. So my studies of diplomacy came in handy after all.

My husband, son, daughter and I moved to Stockholm in 1998 as my son had just started to become a person to reckon with in track and field and the opportunities in the north were not many. We wanted him to have the best possibility to fulfill his dreams and I would come closer to an international scene and maybe work for the Swedish government. The job with the Swedish government didn’t happen, but I work for another international company and my life is here. My husband passed away 5 years ago but my son and daughter and granddaughter are within reach. They mean the world to me which is why I am still in Sweden. Yes I think about moving home but I have lived here longer now than I have lived in the US. I have become European and I don’t know how I would fit in to American society, trying to go back to being the American I once was after the exposure to a life in Sweden! Not just a Swedish experience but a European experience!!

Gloria 300x195 Gloria Dixon Svärd   An American in Norrland

Gloria Dixon-Svärd was born and raised in Washington, DC. She moved to Sweden 34 years ago where she married, had two children and became a grandmother. Instead of becoming the US diplomat she dreamed of she built a career working for International companies in northern Sweden and Stockholm.

In our next article Erica Smith-Escassut found a way to feed her spirit in France.

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Claire Requa, Denmark – Powerful woman

Slide 11 Claire Requa, Denmark   Powerful woman

Design
Award winning jewelry and lighting designer

Much of my work starts with observing nature, window shopping and seeing what is NOT there, and then to my computer. After 3 years of doing just decor, I went into upcycling the acrylic from the production of chandeliers and CLAIRELY upcycled jewellery was born. Accent has participated in trade shows in Denmark, Germany, England, France and New York, USA. My products have been sold in over 20 countries, Illums Bolighus, Denmark; Normann Copenhagen, Denmark; Chateau Versailles Museum shop, France; ABC Home, USA to name a few.

Visit: http://accentcph.wordpress.com

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Kendra Williams-Valentine – How I Learned to Enjoy Strawberries

In a new series of articles, black women living in Europe share their views from the inside. In our fifth article, Kendra Williams-Valentine learned to love strawberries. 

It was my first real summer in Sweden. I accompanied my boyfriend to a cookout (I refrain from using the word BBQ) hosted by a friend. After a quick bite, it was time for dessert and I could see the group getting excited… and then it was revealed: sliced strawberries and vanilla cream.

I thought to my self:

That’s it??? Not sliced n chilled for sauce? No gram cracker crumbs on top? Okay so you don’t really do graham crackers here, but you have chocolate Syrup rite? Probably the good stuff from Belgium eh?
Oh. Just the berries.

 Ok then. 

I was not so accustomed to such simple pleasures, it occurred to me. I don’t know if I’d ever done that before to be honest.

It was good, but I was more enraptured with the looks of pleasure of the others around the table. It seemed like each bite was followed by a slight writhing pang just before swallowing. It was as if they were flirting with the ensuing lament that was to come after the season enviably and abruptly ends in Sweden. This joy obviously came from a place deeper then the roots of even the most virile strawberry patch.

For my boyfriend “humble” was always a good thing. I joked that I didn’t really get that way of thinking, even though I secretly wanted to. It was as if somehow the eye of the American eagle was watching and provoked me the constantly make remarks and to be unsatiated by meager portions of “logam” here and there. (“Logam”= Swedish code word for mediocre meant to be positive.)

But, alas! Soon enough, there I was with a strawberry patch of my own supposed to yield come summer. However, as I am adept at planning for failure in the domestic sphere (read: relationship), I just let the notion of gardens and homemaking rest in the back of my head, not silenced but restful.

By year three I was suddenly anticipating the strawberry season and a large yield came. This year we carefully protected them with a net.

Some were large.

Some small and close to the ground still reaching for the strawberry they aspire to be.

Others a bit unassuming, leaning on its neighbor… but the one thing for sure is that they were plentiful.

We picked them off. Without needing to use one word. And enjoyed the simple pleasure of plain strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Both of us.

Kendra 199x300 Kendra Williams Valentine   How I Learned to Enjoy Strawberries

Kendra Williams-Valentine is from Boston (by way of California) and currently lives in Stockholm. She has a professional background in film and media development but her heart is also in the culinary arts. When she is not waiting for a copy of The Modernist Cuisine to magically appear in her lap, she writes freelance as well as on her food blog www.Americulinariska.com.

In our next  article Gloria Dixon-Svärd trades her dreams of being a diplomat for a life way up north.

 

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CinemAfrica Stockholm Honors World AIDS Day

Each Worlds AIDS Day people will light candles all over the world in memory of all those we lost in HIV / AIDS and to honor their lives. CinemAfrica want to turn our attention to the memory of the 1.2 million Africans who died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2012. In 2012, 260 000 children were infected  with HIV. The majority of these are African children. Here are the CinemAfrica activities for World AIDS Day on December 1, 2013.

02 Life Above All CinemAfrica Stockholm Honors World AIDS Day

During CinemAfrica Movie Breakfast, we will show the movie: Life Above all, based on the international award-winning book, Chandas Secret by Allan Stratton. The film is about the 12-year-old Chanda and her family affected by HIV. We meet Chanda shortly after her newborn sister has died. When rumors spread, the fear and the shame rests heavily on her mom, who is forced to flee. She leaves behind Chanda who may struggle to combat superstition and prejudice with truth and courage.

unnamed CinemAfrica Stockholm Honors World AIDS Day

Ophelia Haanyama, was told about being HIV positive when she was in the midst of life. In the book, Ophelia’s Journey, she depicts her life. To live as HIV positive in Sweden with access to antiretroviral drugs and continuous medical checkups and knowing that relatives in Zambia, with just the same disease did not have equal opportunity to live as HIV positive. Ophelia took a conscious decision to publicly talk about their HIV status, and thus inspired many African women and girls to dare to live openly with their illness.

Buy tickets online.

pixel CinemAfrica Stockholm Honors World AIDS Day

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