Tag Archives: African Diaspora

Apartheid Museum

14 Nov


This will be a brief post: A friend of mine recently visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and has granted me permission to share his photos here.


Although his photos have few captions, the images are powerful.  Let us not forget the various lives we’ve had as a people of African descent in this world.

Enjoy and REMEMBER.


You knew it was coming…Africans in Madrid

1 Jun

 So in my ritualistic vaunt through the hotel neighborhood on the first day, I saw two surprising things. Walking out of the Puerta de Sol, I came up on a street that was lined with African merchants, in true African style — tarp on the ground, wares laid out (mainly knock off bags and sunglasses and a few knock off soccer jerseys) and of course, standing in the shade and talking with one another. Several others were walking up with their tarps bundled on their backs. For a minute, I forgot I was in Spain and thought I was in Dakar (there were THAT many).
I didn’t think too much of it, beyond the quick “that’s odd” thought and continued on. When I walked up to the next plaza, I saw about 15 African men running at full speed with their tarps bundled on their backs. I’m not sure from whom they were running (I didn’t see police or anything like that behind them) and no one else seemed moved by their flight. When I headed back to the hotel, the street that was once lined with African vendors was completely clear, as if they were never there.

So you know I immediately went to “Africans in Madrid” on Google on found a blog post by Nelson George (http://nelsondgeorge.net/?page=blog&item=39) that mentions Africans in Madrid, a few articles about South Africans and many, many comments and posts about racism in Madrid (later on that one).

I then needed to turn to my primary research. I just asked my Seminar Program Assistant (an Afro-Brazilian). This was her response:

There are a lot of illegal African immigrants in Europe, Spain too. Many come from South Africa, but they are from many different countries in Africa, majority West Africa after the South Africans. Because they are illegal, they cannot work, they cannot get healthcare, they cannot get housing, they cannot get an education. A lot of them fall into the hands of the mafia and cartels. They sell goods for them on the street. Often times for about 10 euros a day (around $8). Because they are illegal, they cannot get a vendor license to sell so when the police come, they pack up and move to another location. It hurts me to see them live like that. They have no place to go and no hope. It’s so sad. (translated)

So this “pack up” is a bit more intricate and well thought out. Initially, when I saw the first group on my first day, it just looked like they had everything bundled in the tarp like a satchel (an old school word). In truth, the tarp has rope rigged in it so when they see the police, they can quickly “close shop” by pulling on the ropes, move and easily “set up shop” in a new location.

Now to paint a broader picture for you, I need to give a little bit of our walking tour today. We visited a neighborhood, Lavapies, that has historically belonged to the immigrants in Madrid (I’m about to focus on the Africans only, so more information can be found here: http://www.crecelatino.co/About_Lavapies.php). According to a presentation by upcommons.edu, posted from 2009, African immigrants make up about 11.14% of the immigrant population and about 1/3 of the unemployed in Madrid. Imagine if you will Lavapies looking not much different than the West End in Atlanta, U Street in DC (in the early 2000s just before gentrification REALLY hit) or the West side of Chicago: parts that are cool, parts not so cool, parts that are safe, parts not so safe and occasionally a gray area or two in between them. From what I saw today, the Africans are the drug dealers, which given the inferred mafia/cartel connection above, makes sense. There is a desperation for survival present from the money hustle to the home hustle. There are a few abandoned buildings in Lavapies (no shocker there given the demographic) and the neighborhood association has turned some of them into quimeras (safe havens) for the homeless to squat. There are no squatters’ rights in Madrid or Spain as a whole, so in my idealistic mind, I see it as the government paying selective attention by not shutting them down.

So here comes the political rant……

Black people really deserve better! This is not your opportunity to try to school me on illegal immigration, I have worked with the displaced, refugees and illegals for a good portion of my professional career in some capacity or another. I know the difference between what’s legal and illegal, what governments can and cannot do. What I see is in a different direction: 1) What have we (as a western society) done to the continent of Africa that many of the BLACK people who live there see no other hope but to risk life and limb and expend their savings (and possibly the savings of others) to become homeless and unwanted in a westernized country? 2) What have we done that “that life there” (as described in #1) looks so much better than “this life here?” 3) Why is it that there is no better accountability within the countries on the continent and us (as a western society) to consider the basic life needs of the BLACK citizens?

Yeah, yeah, I know “corruption, blah, blah, blah,” “post-colonialism, yadda, yadda, yadda,” “we tried, etc.” but at some point, rehashing the same failed solution should cause reflection.

Bringing it back to seminar discussions today, Kolb (1984) describes experiential learning this way: You have a concrete experience (such as a failed attempt to assist the countries in Africa), you then should reflect on that experience (What went wrong? How could we have done things differently? What factors played a part in the failure?). After reflection, you make meaning of the experience and the reflection in order to do something different (Maybe if we do X in Africa, it will eliminate some of the negative factors from the first time), you try out the new way and start this process all over again…until you get it right! Study abroad and international education scholars have flocked to Kolb as the be all for teaching the intercultural experience for students. Isn’t this really what I’m describing?

So yes, I have brought my second day in Madrid back to the concerns of the Diaspora…but you knew that was coming.



Kolb, D. (1984).  Experential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning. Prentice Hall

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