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

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.

 

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!

Lucie Buissereth in Sweden
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”.

Medal winner.
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”.

Walking through the woods.
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,

The wow factor.
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!

At peace.
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

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”.

Nice things happen to me in Sweden – My first Tjejmilen

On the 30th Anniversary of the Tjejmilen, I decided to participate. It is the biggest sporting event for women in Sweden.

Ready to walk
Ready to walk.

I signed up in the walking category so we were the last two groups to start the race.

Her canine babies.
Her canine babies.

This was the category for women with baby strollers, walking sticks, and newbies like me.

DSCN1479
Me and Germaine.

I walked up on Germaine, we hugged, took a photo and I kept on moving. She was in a zone.

My Swede popped up to take my pic.
My Swede popped up to take my pic.

This may be around the 3 km mark, in the park and just by the restaurant where we took my mother on her most recent visit. So I thought of her as I walked by.

Beautiful course.
Beautiful course.

We walked a beautiful 10k course that took us through some of Stockholm’s prettiest paths.

My and my bottle.
My and my bottle.

One bottle of water lasted me the entire time. I only needed half of it. I did consumer half of a banana and a small power bar too. I got hungry.

Some of the dozens of volunteers.
Some of the dozens of volunteers.

Of course there were water stations along the route. Toilets too and at one point, we could take an energy tablet, that was chewable, from the hands of the dozens and dozens of volunteers.

Some of the live entertainment on the course.
Some of the live entertainment on the course.

My Swede described the event as a follkfest. There was live music at different stages along the course. How fun!

The second spot where my Swede popped up.
The second spot where my Swede popped up.

My Swede had the course map so I never knew where he may pop up. Can you imagine how much fun it was for him to surprise me?

Yay! I did it.
Yay! I did it.

What a great feeling to cross the finish line, pick up a medal and celebrate. And I didn’t event break a sweat. How cool is that? Ha ha!

My Swede had a congratulatory rose for me.
My Swede had a congratulatory rose for me.

I got the medal, the rose, and the Swede. It was a good, no GREAT day.

Tjejmilen journey
Tjejmilen journey with my time.

Nice things happen to me in Sweden.

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 Gärding
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.

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.

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.

The Maisha Award for Newcomer of The Year goes to actress, director and producer, Josette Bushell-Mingo

Photo Credit Maisha Galen and Timmy Miansangi

She is an Officer of the Order Of The British Empire (OBE) for her Contribution to the Arts.

She is the artistic director of both the National Swedish Theatre for the Deaf and TRYKK,who work for the promotion and development of Black Theatre and black art events.

She is a recipient of numerous awards and the director and producer of many acclaimed works.

She is the current chair woman at CinemAfrica, a non-profit organization who work to update the image of Africa, and to add to the body of African images and voices in Sweden, by distributing films and documentaries from Africa by Africans.

Ironically,her career spans over 25 years, but this brilliant woman has only recent come to our attention!

Ladies and gentlemen The Maisha Award for Newcomer of The Year goes to actress, director and producer, Josette Bushell-Mingo.

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.

2012 Maisha Award for Artist of the Year goes to Mary N’diaye

Photo credit-Maishagalen and Timmy Miansang

The phrase “Lead by example” comes to mind when one thinks of this Sene-gambian woman.

She is the founder of Rock Africk which is an initiative with the objective of spotlighting and celebrating noteworthy African achievement, as well as an outreach to African youth in Africa.

She is a 2012 Semi-finalist in TV4’s The Voice, a vocal competition where the strongest voices across the country compete for a recording contract.

She is an Air Chrysalis songwriter and Hitlab artist. If Akon can sign her, we can co-sign for her.

She is the little woman with the big voice.Ladies and gentlemen,The 2012 Maisha Award for Artist of the Year goes to Mary N’diaye.

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.