søndag den 15. november 2009

Multi-ethnic mixed race mash up

The 7th of November 2009 was a tremendous occasion for me, for many reasons, varied and disparate. As one Elia Elisabeth Johnson, Co-founder of the Facebook group for people of mixed race heritage in Denmark put it, the night gave rise to “perhaps Denmark’s first ever mixed race event and perhaps also one of Denmark’s most beautiful social gatherings”

I had mixed expectations prior to the night itself, which kicked off with dinner at an eatery in downtown Copenhagen that goes by the name of Riz Raz. On the one hand, I was eager to meet my fellow mixed-race brothers and sisters, and on the other hand I was really anxious, if not nervous about the very prospect of doing so. I think everyone that attended felt the same way to a certain extent. I wondered what it would be like, and the novelty of it all had me casting mild aspersions within my conscience.

And so on as gloomy a winter’s day as you could imagine, I set off towards Riz-Raz, headphones in and volume up as I sat on the 6A bus. My rendezvous with the rest of the attendees, felt like a dive into the Atlantic; I was hit by a stream of colourful emotions and a vibe unlike any other I’d experienced before. It was odd seeing people who looked just like me, and I must say I was quite shy to start off with, as indeed we all were.

Dinner was a rustic affair, and the restaurant itself didn’t exactly provide us with an out of this world service or menu yet this was completely and totally irrelevant in the context of the night. During the festivities, a certain Neil Steinbeck Bloem [1], candidate for the post of communal representative for the district of Copenhagen dropped in with a stack of flyers ahead of next Tuesday’s communal elections in Denmark. Neil, who just so happens to be half Danish, half South African, gave a brief yet enlightening speech during which he highlighted a couple of the eccentricities of being mixed race. He pointed out that we’d been discriminated against by the better part of society for a long time, yet of late, we have emerged as something of a dernier cri in the social circles we inhabit an observation that many were in agreement with.

Dinner done and dusted, we proceeded to the nearby club Mambo, in what seemed like a walk down a red carpet at the Cannes film festival. All around, we were greeted by curious stares and camera flashes as we trekked to the second half of the night’s festivities. Club Mambo was arguably a most idyllic venue for a mixed race gathering, what with its multi-ethnic public, Latin vibes and Salsa music. Our group seemed to get significantly larger at Mambo’s as more of our own trickled in. Conversation upon conversation with one fellow mixed race individual after another triggered one parallel viewpoint after another as we shared our views on everything from nationality, cultural values, patriotism and identity.

Whilst all of the aforementioned sounds all merry and grand, there were several minor incidents on the night that reminded us of the controversial situation we live in. At club Mambo, for instance, we were confronted by a surly American lady who went on and on about how racist it was of us to organise a party that was exclusively for a certain type of individuals, thereby segregating others. As valid as her point may have been, it may be worth note that several of the guests present were not in fact mixed race, and that no attempt was made to exclude them from the festivities at any time.

I went home at the end of it all beaming inside out with glee. Suddenly I didn’t feel that alone anymore, suddenly I knew that there was and is a whole world of “us” in society, even in Danish society, which is far from multicultural. In many ways, last Saturday’s mixed race gathering was a ratification of my identity; a counter-conviction to the doubts and aspersions that every mixed race individual faces in the lifelong quest to find their niche. I can hardly wait for the next reunion.

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