At One People ASBL, our most cherished quote is: “Anti-racism is a team sport.”
Celebrating Black History Month is a diverse and inclusive event that highlights and promotes the rich culture and history of the Afro community. It caters to people of all backgrounds, including children, youths, entrepreneurs, and employees. The event includes a wide range of activities such as concerts, discussions, topics such as the role of technology like AI in combating discrimination, explorations of Afro-feminism and Pan-Africanism, and screenings of media and films that delve into the experiences and contributions of the Black community.
Migrant Tales had the opportunity to talk to One People ASBL Madeline Yougye, One People chairperon.
“I was born in Cameroon, moved to France at the age of 3, and have been living in Luxembourg for nearly a decade,” she said. “I was immediately drawn to the cultural diversity of Luxembourg, with 70% of the capital’s residents hailing from different parts of the world, such as Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Yougye said that upon moving to Luxembourg, she noticed the disparities in the treatment of expatriates. “This realization inspired me to become involved in the local community, particularly after the death of George Floyd,” she said. “In collaboration with like-minded individuals, I founded One People dedicated to fighting racism and promoting equality of opportunity.”
Black History Month is celebrated during the month of October and organized by One People ASBL of Luxembourg and aims to forster fosters a sense of belonging and unity among all communities while promoting a deeper understanding of the challenges and achievements of the Black community.
One People ASBL Chairperson Madeleine Yougye.
Yahya Rouissi: Can you tell us a little about your organization?
Madeline Yougye: One People is a not-for-profit association created in Luxembourg in 2021 that works to strengthen citizen and intercultural anti-racism, for real equal opportunities while respecting everyone’s fundamental rights.
Our aim is to raise awareness of the exclusion suffered by people who are discriminated against because they belong to an ethnic group.”
YR: Are there any role models or experiences that have shaped your activism and work?
MY: My father used to wait for Mohammed Alie’s fights all night long with jet lag, I didn’t understand why, it was only afterward that I became interested in this personality and understood his commitment.
My first real job was as an event organizer for the AIDS association in Paris. I had the opportunity to go to the French West Indies when I was 25, and it was the first time for me to see a book with a Black person on the cover. I realized that after a more or less successful schooling, after having read Molière, Zola and Orwell, I had never read an Afro-descendant writer. So I bought this book and several others: “Peau noir masque blanc” by Frantz Fanon. It was this book that helped me answer many of the questions I was asking myself at the time, and awakened my awareness of the profound nature of systemic racism and the biases it could introduce into my own vision of the world and the way others looked at me because of my skin. Then I start reading all books i could find written by people of color, like Cheik Anta Diop, Aimé Cesaire, Tony Morrison… “
YR: What are the key objectives of your association to fight against racism?
MY: As an anti-racism organization, it is very important for us to determine the best angle to address the subject without excluding anyone. We consider that we are fighting against an ideology and a system, not against people. Our objective is therefore to unite as many individuals as possible in a fundamental humanist posture that allows us to break the biases of racism. Organizing Black History Month reflects our commitment to an intergenerational celebration because this event allows us to highlight the past, the struggles against slavery, civic rights, and colonization. This story is a story common to all Black and non-Black people, and the whole reality of which must be shared and not made invisible to allow us all to establish healthy foundations for living together.
YR: When and how did the idea of Black History Month come to light for One People ASBL?
MY: We attended an event in Brussels during Anti-Racism Week when we engaged in fruitful discussions and built connections within a wider community. At the event, we also learned about two upcoming events: Black African Month in Italy, which took place in February, and another event in Ireland scheduled for October. It envisions that Luxembourg has yet to showcase and present its rich heritage, history, and contributions.
YR: Why October?
MY: The choice of October for Black History Month is related to the history and significance of African American heritage in the United States. While February is commonly recognized as Black History Month in the U.S., October is seen as a month to commemorate this milestone in the struggle for civil rights and freedom. In October 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery in the United States. It was an event that marked a crucial turning point in the history of African Americans, as it began the process of legally ending slavery. It is also the harvest month that may symbolize the “fruits” of labor and contributions of the Black African to both American and European society. So, the context is rooted in a desire to acknowledge and commemorate significant historical events related to Black African History.
YR: How important it is to have more international events to acknowledge Black History?
MY: An illustrative instance is when we submitted our proposal to host Black History Month; they were already aware of its existence in various locations around the world. This awareness actually facilitated the process, as it encourages the establishment of new celebrations in different areas and ultimately helps reach and unite more people globally.
YR: What makes Luxembourg special and what to expect from Black History Month in Luxembourg?
MY: Luxembourg is a small country and around 40% of the population comes from another country. People come to work and most of them came here, like me, because they found a job. Besides, many people stay around five years or less, because of employment projections. I think that’s one of the reasons why it might be difficult to get them to engage in the social field.
At the same time, there is much to do in the area of anti-racism and the latest study on this subject (Liser/CEFIS 2022) highlights the need to address education, the housing rental market, and human resources of companies. Sometimes people think that not being Luxembourgish or not speaking the language is an obstacle, but that’s not the case. Language is a tool and not a skill, and in Luxembourg, you can deal with the 3 main official languages: German, English, and French). So langauge is not a blocking point.
For our first Black History Month, the opening ceremony of which was a success, we have and will receive throughout the month around this event several European visitors to Luxembourg.
Malcolm Jallow parliamentarian and activist from Sweden, Amnzat Boukarie writer and pan-Africanist historian, Monica Semedo MEP-elect from Luxembourg, DR Faith Mkwesha from Finland, Dr Toyin Agbetu from UK, and Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana as well, and Tolulope Ogunbakin from Germany, and Oyidiya Oji PALINO from the Ear of Belgium. All of them send a really powerful message.
During the month of October, we will have activities for children, after workshops, conferences on pan-African entrepreneurship, on the role of media and artificial intelligence as well as a concert and a live quiz.
YR: There will be a screening of films. Can you tell me about them?
MY: One movie is about the story of the first Black man in Luxembourg, a story happening around the 1920s called ‘Un Noir Parmis Nous’, (A Black man upon us), another movie was made here in Luxembourg about immigration called ‘Anger;’ there is a short movie about students coming from Ukraine and it’s called, ‘Travel Safe.’
YR: What is the current status and goals of One People Asbl, and how are you seeking to support and expand this initiative in the future?”
MY: Each support gives us more strength and our commitment and thus strength. For example, allowing students from Ukraine to return to normal schooling and integrate into their new host country is a real encouragement for us and encourages us to continue. In this area there are several needslike needing people who are committed, whether to finalize administrative files, to provide temporary housing, or to give the key advice necessary for a successful integration.
There are many people who are sensitive to our commitment but who sometimes do not know how to act. They can join us, we have a lot to do all together.
With the support of ENAR (European Network Against Racism) it was possible for us to link with many activists around Europe, and we are really grateful for having as well local support us, such as the ministry of culture, the ministry of integration and the Oeuvre Duchess Charlotte.
All of it isn’t without challenges of course, we have opponents, but also allies, so I think that the biggest challenge is really citizen engagement around social issues.
This event received media coverage, including radio broadcasts, and received support from multiple associations, enhancing its impact and reach. We aim to build on this momentum to develop a more inclusive and impactful platform in the fight against racism and discrimination.”