Black Women in Europe Power Lister Cecilia Gärding‘s first trailer Tolvkommfyra, that she directed, as part of the 12,4 Campaign, to address the issue of Swedish youth not finishing secondary high school, initiated by The Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company, won silver at the Eurovision Connect Awards 2015. The Sochi Winter Olympics campaign won gold. The film explores the reality of youth not staying in school; a hiphop group taking on this by making a song of the youngsters lyrics; and later the music video about this issue.
Hat tip: Lorraine Spencer
Indra Rios-Moore’s story begins on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, continues across the Atlantic in Denmark, but as yet has not come close to reaching a climax, or thankfully an ending. Like every good story it has had twists along the way, ups, as well as downs, joy and pain, but also sacrifice and success. If art reflects life then it is little wonder that Indra’s album, Heartland is eclecticism in the extreme…it is an album that is both intensely personal but also broad in its musical sweep. Hardly surprising given Indra’s story.
Indra, named by her mother after the Hindu warrior deity of the sky and the rain, was born to a Puerto Rican social worker, Elizabeth, and an African-American-Syrian jazz bassist, Donald Moore (his credits include, the New York Contemporary Five, Archie Shepp, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins, and Jackie McLean). Growing up in a tough neighborhood, Indra spent her formative years in an imaginary world with her mother’s extensive record collection of jazz, soul, and rock music for company.
Singing was always a private experience for Indra, but at the age of 13, her mother convinced her to audition for a place at Mannes College of Music; despite her inhibitions about her singing Indra was awarded a scholarship. Indra developed her soprano voice and during the same year that she started studying at Mannes, she attended the Village Harmony, summer camp in Northern Vermont. Her teenage years were spent in a musical parallel existence; one full of classical arias and vocalization practice and the other filled with traditional American folks tunes and old Balkan folk songs in the woods of Vermont. While working as a waitress in a Brooklyn wine bar, she met Benjamin Traerup, a Danish jazz saxophonist; three weeks later they were living together and one year after that they were married and living in Denmark. According to Indra,
“If I hadn’t been young and a little stupid I would never have moved to Denmark, but I was in love, and I still am, so it was a pragmatic choice. It took me four years to learn Danish, as it is not a language that falls naturally from an American tongue. In the end we found that creativity was in part born out of hardship.”
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Americulinariska.com is a Finalist for “Best Use of #Video” in the 6th Annual @saveurmag Blog Awards! We are one of six finalists (out of 50,000!) in the “Best Use of Video” category: and I need your vote! Click the link in the bio!
Now until April 30, 2015 voting will be open at saveur.com/blogawards NOTE: You have to sign up/login to vote. First hover over the AmeriCulinariska image, choose vote, and you’ll be asked to login or register. Simple process!
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I have been, if not a friend, a friendly acquaintance and fan of Lesley-Ann Brown, a.k.a. Black Girl on Mars since 2006 or so. Her writing is so compelling I am grateful she has agreed to let me share her work here in a new series of blog posts titled ‘Our Voices’*. Her first contribution in this series was originally published on The Murmur.
Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong.
Two knitting needles and a ball of yarn that’s what I used to integrate into the Danish society. Sitting together but separately, I wove myself into the fabric of this culture, though it was my fingers that did all the work.
No, I am not being indecisive.
Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong. That’s me learning how to knit as, hunched over two knitting needles, I struggle to “capture” the “free” yarn into the stitches already cast onto my needles.
Although the rest of the English speaking world learns to knit purl knit purl knit purl, my teacher Anni, is Danish. She teaches me to ‘ret og vrang’ instead, but all I hear is ‘right and wrong, right and wrong’.
After all, I don’t speak a word of Danish and her English isn’t fluent, but together we are moving into uncharted territory. While I patiently learn to knit, I start my timid journey of learning Danish. And through me, Anni gets to practice her English. It is no wonder that I could read Danish knitting patterns years before I could actually speak the language.
At the time, I am four months pregnant and a new arrival in Denmark. Anni is my mother in law, and I spend hours with her while my then-husband busily prepares for the arrival of our child. During this time together, Anni and I manage to cultivate our own authentic relationship, based on love – a relationship solidified through knitting.
There is perhaps no greater show of love than teaching someone to knit. It requires patience and presence – virtues held by my Danish mother-in-law. Although I am no longer married to her son, she will always hold a special place in my heart. Her teaching me to knit plays no small part in this.
It was through Anni that I was introduced to a tolerant Denmark. An open Denmark. Through Anni I met her Tante Liv, Anni’s fiercely independent aunt. We got along famously. She introduced me to the herbal flowers in her garden and taught me how to make natural teas. Once she leaned in and whispered, “There is something about a young woman moving 6000 miles away from her place of home.”
Tante Liv’s husband, Onkel Per, was a character. He took my pregnant South African friend and me to his boat club in northern Denmark. You could tell he got a kick from all the stares he received, an elderly Danish man with two young, pregnant and very foreign women. I still laugh when I think about that day, the way his big blue eyes twinkled as we sat in his boat, out at sea, and the other boats passed us by.
Tante Liv, as well as the rest of her family, treated me with nothing but love, respect and openness. It was a family of women who read and think. I was in my element. We were of the same tribe, brought together through the craft of knitting.
I had always wanted to learn how to knit. Whenever my grandmother from Trinidad visited us on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, smelling like peppermint and airplane, she would always have a few knitting and craft magazines with her.
They were full of knitwear masterpieces and patterns I had not yet learned to decipher. Despite being a renaissance woman of sorts, my grandmother did not know how to knit. She offered other lessons, including her deep, unwavering commitment to me. “You are here for a reason,” she’d whisper in my ear. Her words would soothe my unsettled soul like a cool Caribbean breeze.
My great grandmother Beryl Nunez died from “the draught,” a reference that could just as much allude to the cold as to racism, I suppose, in Canada. She made lace. My other great grandmother, Frances Lopez, also made exquisite handkerchiefs, delicate lace curtains and tablecloths. But despite my burning desire, there was no YouTube back then and no one to teach me. Don’t feel sorry for me; the 80s furnished me with plastic bubble jackets and roller skates. We played ‘run, catch, kiss’ and I mastered Double Dutch. I was happily distracted from myself.
Fast forward. I meet my Dane. We court. I meet his mother. It was love at first sight. My ex-husband and his mother ushered me into Danish culture with love and patience. And I know it was love, because she took the time to teach me to knit.
I have now gone on to teach three grade five classes how to knit and I stood back in wonder as I watched the children teach each other. I saw how boys want to learn how to knit as much as girls. I simmered with joy as the students worked together but separately, sitting quietly and knitting.
When I hold the yarn in my hand, I feel as though it connects me to my great-grandmothers. But it was Anni who brought out that creative energy. Knitting is magic, knitting is healing. Knitting is immeasurable. When you knit, your brain produces beta waves. No matter what troubles me, if I catch a whiff of wool, spy a ball of yarn, or hold a pair of knitting needles (bamboo preferably), I’m in bliss.
My time here has been sustained by the energy knitting has given me. When I returned from my last trip to the States in the autumn, I knew that I wanted to incorporate knitting more into my life. When I was in Rhode Island at the Rhode Island Writers Colony, I went to see the writer Anne Hood read from her latest book, “An Italian Wife”. She saw me in the audience with my knitting needles and yarn, stopped what she was saying and called out to ask me what I was knitting. A baby blanket for my friend’s newborn baby, I replied.
That’s what I love about knitting: it brings people together. So when I returned to Denmark, my intention was to start a knitting group. I shyly put out a call of interest on Facebook and, to my delight, the Geeky Knitter’s Club was borne. Every week, a group of other expat women and myself gather to knit, talk, and offer support. It is one of the best ventures I have embarked on.
And the kids? Although I am no longer teaching, I still knit with them. All of this I owe to Anni Bomholtz – the most loving of ex-mother-in-laws.
A Trinidadian American freelance writer living in Copenhagen, Lesley-Ann studied writing at The New School, NYC.
Read Lesley’s full bio. It’s fascinating!
*”Our Voices” aims to provide a platform for writers to share their work. The stories may have been published previously and are posted here due to their relevance to the black women’s experience in Europe.
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Feminist Initiative (Swedish: Feministiskt initiativ, abbreviated Fi or F!) is a feminist political party in Sweden. The party was formed (from a previous pressure group of the same name) in 2005, and announced on 9 September 2005 that it would put up candidates for the 2006 parliamentary elections in Sweden.
After running in the consequent two Riksdag elections, as well as the European Parliamentary election of 2009, Fi had not taken any seats in either parliament. The European elections of 2014 proved a turning point, as the party attracted 5.3% of the Swedish vote, with Soraya Post taking one seat in the European Parliament. This marks the first time an exclusively feminist political party won a seat in the European Parliament.
In the 2014 general election, Fi received a best-ever 3.1% of the vote; despite not meeting the 4.0% threshold for getting seats, Fi became the most popular party outside of parliament.
Margaret Gärding is the 1st stand in to go to the European Parliament when the F! party leader is unavailable. She leads Fi’s work concerning the European Union. She is part of the Nominating Committee for the party’s next elections.
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Award-winning food blogger and travel writer Whitney Love invites readers to get to know the Norway she loves through more than 70 delicious recipes. Thanks for the Food: The Culinary Adventures of An American in Norway transports readers to the kitchens of Norway with traditional and modern takes on:
- Norway’s famous pepperkaker—Christmas cookies with a peppery snap;
- Boller—heavenly cardamom-scented, sugar-laced cinnamon buns;
- Norwegian meatballs with traditional brown gravy, potatoes, and lingonberry jam;
- Crispy fish fritters, smoked salmon wraps, crab salad with dill, and other seafood dishes;
- Fårikål, the national dish of lamb and cabbage—Norwegian soul food at its coziest;
- And many more beloved sweets, salads, and hearty winter meals.
draws on the author’s experience as an American ex-pat, an adventure she shares on Thanks for the Food: A Norwegian Food Blog. In her new cookbook, Love offers tips on finding unusual ingredients (or substituting with excellent results), shares insights on Norway’s historic and modern food culture and culinary celebrations, and advises hungry travelers on getting the most from their own visits to Norway’s famous agricultural, fishing, and dairying regions. Get cooking with Thanks For The Food—and fall in love with Norway.
Written by Whitney Love
Edited by Reilly O’Neal
Cover design and layout by Rositsa Germanova
Cover photo, recipe photos, and food styling by Linn Heidi Knutsen
Tableware provided by Figgjo Norway
Published by Digital Word Norway
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In the 12th article in our “Inside View” series The Murmur.shares what her deaf son taught her. Lesley originally published her story on
I was a first-time mother, far from home, when I discovered that my three-year-old son had a hearing impairment.
It was a shock because he had passed all his hearing tests and was even one of the first babies in my mothering group to say “bye bye” on cue. I thought he was not only developing by the book, but excelling too.
In retrospect, there were signs that something was amiss. When he played alone he was so deeply concentrated that he was hard to reach (“he’s just ignoring you”, people told me), he had a deep physical attachment to me (he would never just run off on his own), he hit other kids in daycare and kindergarten (anything to get a reaction he could understand) and he had started to mouth the words I was saying (apparently he was teaching himself how to lip read).
I was relieved when we received his diagnosis. The worst part was not knowing what was wrong. It also explained so much, and of all the things that could have been ‘wrong’ with my little boy, deafness was certainly not the worst. His father took the news less well. “But I wanted him to study music!” I remember he exclaimed.
We later learned that it’s quite normal for a parent to experience this depression and mourn the “perfect” child they used to have. The trick is to see that your child is still perfect, that they are the perfect expression of what they are meant to be.
Kai’s world blossomed after getting his hearing aids. It was obvious that he needed them from the moment he put them on. Having not heard for so long, he appreciated how this piece of technology could change his life completely.
But even though he took to his new technologically-improved life, I needed him to know he wasn’t alone. I made sure he was surrounded with imagery of other children with hearing aids and brought him into contact with other hearing-impaired children.
Ironically, he isn’t actually “deaf enough” to join the deaf community and we did not have the choice to send him to a special needs school for deaf children. If we had, he would have learned to sign and would now be part of – what I have experienced to be – a proud parallel society with its own culture, identity and role models. Instead we gave him hearing aids and sent him to ordinary schools where he received additional learning support.
This approach is called ‘mainstreaming’ and superficially it sounds like a good idea. If we could choose to be part of a bigger society, wouldn’t we? However, studies have shown that children like my son with moderate to heavy hearing loss tend to experience a lower quality of life than children who are more profoundly deaf. The latter go to school with each other, where they learn sign language and spend time with people who have the same issues as they do. This trend has been changing, to great debate.
Kai is now a teenager and seems to be thriving. His father’s fears were unfounded and he has already been in two bands, playing guitar in the first and drums in the second. He is even experimenting with music production. I’ve seen him design his own t-shirts and his father told me he’s a great skier. I know he’s not too bad on a skateboard either.
He still sticks out, though. One morning, a little girl came up to us and asked me, “Do those hearing aids help him?”
She was sweet – I love it when people just come right out and ask instead of gawking at him. And I understood why she asked. I was on my way to pick Kai up from school one day, when a group of kids from the deaf school boarded at Østerport Station and sat across from me. Despite having a deaf child, and against my better judgment, I stared at them.
I stared at their hands and the speed that they signed. I stared at their hearing aids and wondered if Kai would have preferred hearing aids like the blue pair worn by one of the boys. They didn’t notice me, so wrapped up and secure in their own little world to give me notice. I wish that my son was sitting next to me so we could witness this silent beauty – the incredible ability of human beings to adapt.
Then I remembered the little girl who so openly approached us the other morning. Some day, she and Kai could get on a Copenhagen train and talk, and continue their lives together with everyone else in the city. He too has adapted and, despite his limitations, is thriving.
I remember when he first learned about Einstein and he asked me what type of scientist he was.
“A physicist,” I replied.
“Well, I want to be one like him when I grow up.” I smiled, knowing that Kai didn’t necessarily want to be a physicist; he just wanted to earn people’s respect like Einstein had.
Kai may go on to learn about general relativity. He may even study music at the Royal Academy. We really don’t know what he will do. As long as the society he finds himself in is committed to accommodating everyone, the only limits he will ever experience are the limits he chooses to accept.
A Caribbean American freelance writer living in Copenhagen, Lesley-Ann studied writing at The New School, NYC. Lesley-Ann blogs at Black Girl on Mars.