Tag Archive for Sweden

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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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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Who would have thought a die-hard NYC chick would fall hard for a Swede and the Country.

In a new series of articles, black women living in Europe share their views from the inside. In our third article, Lucie Buissereth shares how much the Swedish countryside means to her. 

Yup, it happened to me and forever changed my life!

204aa 300x225 Who would have thought a die hard NYC chick would fall hard for a Swede and the Country.

Lucie Buissereth in Sweden. Photo Lucie Buissereth.

After 8 grueling months of coaching, training and competing, I needed a “Time OUT”- So it was off to Sweden to see my honey! This was my first trip to Sweden and whilst on the plane, I wondered how I would fare being away from my business and NYC.  Got to Arlanda, picked up my luggage, hurried to the lobby and there stood my gorgeous Swede with yellow flowers in hand and I was like, “YES I’m Home! He said we’d be skipping Stockholm for a few days and doing the “Country”.

5 290x300 Who would have thought a die hard NYC chick would fall hard for a Swede and the Country.

World Jump Rope medal winner. Photo credit Staffan Lindner

I was like “Umm, what? The Country? NO way dude! I don’t do Hilly Billy”, then he said, “Trust me my love”!  Well, I couldn’t resist!

I was seriously jetlagged and fatigued so we called it an early night but was reminded the next day would be “active”. The next morning, we were off on my surprise excursion. OMG! The walk through the Forest and into “Blairwitch Country”.

fd 300x225 Who would have thought a die hard NYC chick would fall hard for a Swede and the Country.

Walking through the woods. Photo Lucie Buissereth.

I was like,” dude, are you serious?” But the more I walked through the boggy wet grounds, the more my soul said Yes Lucie B! Yes! When we finally got to our destination,

a1a 300x225 Who would have thought a die hard NYC chick would fall hard for a Swede and the Country.

The wow factor. Photo Lucie Buissereth.

I stopped, took a deep breath and looked out and saw the most magnificent scenery my eyes ever saw! I was speechless! It was a jolt to my senses! The Blueness of the Sea, the Coolness of of the Granite grey Rocks, the Greeness  of the trees, the stillnesss  of the Air, the beautiful Blue Skies, the sounds of the birds all around me! I remember tearing up without even knowing it! I was in the middle of God’s slice of heaven on Earth, unofficially called “Bonaparte Cliffs” right here in Utana Country; I realized right there and then that I was meant to be here, to heal myself, my soul, my spirit!

jg 300x225 Who would have thought a die hard NYC chick would fall hard for a Swede and the Country.

At peace. Photo credit Staffan Lindner

We were only supposed to be in the country for 3 days, well, it ended up being a full 8 days of journaling by the water, walking through the forest, mushroom picking, hugging trees and fishing!

I recommend this beautiful peaceful place for anyone who needs a spiritual and mental Detox from the stress of city life and/or need a re- connect to God and Nature…This is the place!

yurt 300x225 Who would have thought a die hard NYC chick would fall hard for a Swede and the Country.

Lucie Buissereth, AKA- Lucie B is a M.D. turned Regional and National Jump Rope Champion, World Jump Rope Gold, Silver and Bronze Medalist, Arnolds Champion in Speed, and Power N’ Endurance. She is a Jump Rope Master trainer, Boss Lady, Entrepreneur, Owner of Lucie B Jump N Fun, Trainer N’ Coach of “Lucie B’s Rock It Ropers”- NY’s 1st Single Rope Speed Team. She is a Motivator, Ultra-Creative, Out the Box, Super Positive, who is always ahead of the pack, Leading the way to make my dreams come true, making a difference in the lives of other and leaving a legacy of Love and Light for all!

Next month Twaambo Kapilikisha addresses sisters with children “in the middle”.

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Sweden is like living in Russia.

In a new series of articles, black women living in Europe share their views from the inside. In our first article, Cecilia Gärding explains why she is dedicated to fighting against racism in Sweden. 

I come home from my vacation in the north of Sweden and go back to work as the project-director for ”The Cultural Heritage Agents”. A project with the purpose to help culturally active youth with a status as a national minority and youth with an immigrant background to become more included on the Swedish cultural scene. One of the main reasons for this project is to address how different minority groups are marginalized in the public debate about how they as a people or as a religious group are portrayed in cultural expressions made by mainly ethnic swedes.

Their responses have been strongly criticized by the majority society at large but also been questioned by certain media, celebrities and others. That has scared many people to silence. The few that has had the courage to keep struggling know that the prices they pay are persecution and threat to their lives. In Sweden we have followed the anti-gay laws in Russia and persecutions of the gay community. We might have the laws against racism in Sweden but in many ways, what we are going through here is similar to the Gay community in Russia. We and they know that these persecutions will never be prosecuted and people rarely choose to report these incidents. I know, I am one who is subjected to this. Instead we try to focus on the positive.

For me I try to turn the negative into constructive dialogue by writing books and making films. Through the film “We are like Oranges”, which is inspired by

authentic stories about how Afro-Swedish youth in Sweden face racism, from the book Afro-Swedish in the new Sweden we raise the question about hate-crime towards Afro-Swedes and remind the public about the racist past of Sweden. Where the otherwise untold story of 200 years of Swedish slave-history and blackface scandals at a student party at Lund University 2011 suddenly makes sense. We made the movie to educate and create understanding but Sweden has a long road ahead. Because the latest blackface scandals in Sweden which all happened late summer this year are signs that we are moving backwards. The scandals where Josephine Baker was portrayed by a white woman at a commemoration of her performances at a Stockholm club named Berns and the Pride festival scandal where blackface participants were allowed at the Pride festival and pictures were displayed on their website, can only be seen as warning-signs. As one of the founders of the Facebook page “No pride in Pride” I took a stand to show that blackface stereotypes have to criticize no matter what organization accepts them.  Because of this I have received support but also a massive criticism. A criticism , that once again, comes from a white ethnic Swedish community that reminds me that my experiences and my body as a South-African and Swedish is not mine to own.

I feel a responsibility for the young who grow up in Sweden. What is the effect on them when they hear how grown-ups with no experience of racism tell us who has the right to say what about who´s bodies and who´s experiences. Both the ones with ethnic Swedish background and those who have another background learn right from wrong from us. How are they affected to hear it is ok to say demeaning words to others with another ethnic background or religion? That it is ok to dress up in blackface, that artistic freedom goes before human rights? Or even worse, that this is NOT blackface at all, that we who are involved are the ones that need more education? We already know that the young born in Sweden with another ethnic background are more affected than their Swedish friends of depression, self-inflicting harm, youth unemployment and suicide. This is the result of living in a racist society.

Sweden has been in international news off and on when different ethnic groups have been subjected to racist acts. Researchers are keen on defining this as “Swedish Naivism”. This problem definition should change name, it is nothing naïve going on here and has never been in the history of Swedish or western racism. Instead is a calculated strategy showing its ugly head. The effect of the silencing of ethnic minority groups is the most effective way to deliberately kidnap the right to react and criticize. This is exactly what happened and is happening in the gay right movement and the women rights movement. People who belong to these movements should reflect on these similarities and question status quo.

Sweden is today a population that consists of 28.6% that either has a status as a national minority or has foreign background. Within 10 years the second generation of immigrants will be bigger than the first.  That these groups are not represented in the education of journalists, as co-workers in our cultural institutions or as members of the cultural organizations is a problem. Sweden has a cultural sector that is completely segregated . Because of this the cultural heritage Agents  have decided to create a vision to ensure that this part of the population receives more representation.

The other problem we have is that we lack an understanding of Sweden’s racist past and how different groups have been stereotyped in our art forms. That is why our project analyses for example the connection between Afrofobia, Antiziganism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism In Swedish Film history to create understanding that we need new Swedish film that doesn’t relate to old prejudice. For this reason we have created a film festival in Stockholm named “The diversity of the Swedish film heritage the 24-25th of August.

It is only when we are in agreement that we have a problem that we can work for change together. It is when we reach representation in our culture and media sector, in the gay and women rights movement, when we are respected as cultural actors but also as respected cultural consumers, when we feel safe to react, that Sweden stops to feel like I am living in Russia.

Cecilia Garding 300x199 Sweden is like living in Russia.

Cecilia Gärding Photo credit: Joachim Ljunqvist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cecilia Gärding is Zulu, British and Swedish. She is the Project-director for  The cultural heritage Agents and the producer of the film We are like Oranges. She is also the the Swedish Ambassador of Adyne-The African Diaspora Youth Network in Europe.

Next month Thania Moore shares her hair experiences in Madrid.

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The Maisha Pioneer: Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Clementine Akuyo Brown

Clementine Akuyo Brown. Credit Maisha Galen and Timmy Miansangi 199x300 The Maisha Pioneer: Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Clementine Akuyo Brown

Photo Credit Maisha Galen and Timmy Miansangi

She has proudly represented the African culture in Sweden since 1977. Together with her fellow countryman the passionate Bedu Annan, she became one of the first teachers of African dance in Sweden. With this year’s [Maisha] theme in mind; a tribute to strong African mothers, and for a lifetime achievement with an inspiring approach, we present this woman with this honorary award.

Maisha Galen 2012 The Maisha Pioneer: Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Clementine Akuyo Brown

About Maisha Galahttp://www.maishagalan.se/

The goal of the Maisha Gala is to recognize the achievement of women for the Black/African community in Sweden and Africa. It works to promote the African Diaspora involvement and include the voice of women on various issues of concern to the community. The Maisha Gala is a celebration of African culture that also promotes artists and young talents and the empowerment of youth. Maisha Gala is also networking and advocacy with the thematic approach and focus on pertinent issues.

pixel The Maisha Pioneer: Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Clementine Akuyo Brown

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