Some 4,000 people attended yesterday’s demonstration in solidarity with Black Americans held at Austurvöllur square in front of Iceland’s Parliament in Reykjavík yesterday. Asantewa Feaster, one of the organisers and speakers at the event, told the Grapevine that they have received a mainly positive response.
Almost all of the speakers—Jeff Guarino, Derek T. Allen, Thorkell Brynjuson and Dori Levitt Baldvinsson, as well as Asantewa—were Black Americans, with Black Icelander and Socialist Party Reykjavík city councilperson Sanna Magdalena Mörtudóttir also speaking.
Their topics of discussion ranged from the lived experience of racism in different societal sectors; misconceptions about anti-racism; the importance of saying “Black lives matter” and how white people can use their privilege as a force against racism.
“I was very pleased with how many people there were,” Asantewa told the Grapevine. “I think we were all surprised, being that there’s a global pandemic going on, we weren’t sure how many would feel safe to come, but that was ultimately a personal choice. We were happy to have whoever showed up yesterday in attendance.”
She says the response have been “mainly positive”, adding that this included “a lot of white people who were ready to acknowledge their privilege and they would like to use that to the benefit of the Black people in their lives and the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Asantewa says that today or tomorrow there will be a Black Lives Matter Iceland page on Facebook, and that she encourages everyone to like and share this page.
“There will be ongoing support resources, for example for white parents of Black children and children of colour,” she says of the page. “Also if you have adopted children of colour from other countries, this is a resource for White parents who want them to have ongoing support and have a place to come and basically challenge the inner biases they have and how they’re inflicting that on their children. We’re going to to have possibly some classes and courses on white allyship and how you can be a good white ally—instead of speaking for Black people, learning how to give them the mic so they can speak their truth. I would also like to have something for Black Icelandic youth, who are Black or biracial, and have not seen themselves represented in Icelandic media, and also addresses the systems of racism that are particular to Iceland.”
In closing, Asantewa said that she wants young Icelandic Black people to know “that we see them and we love them and they are valid, and that their feelings are valid.”
You can watch Grapevine’s entire livestream of the event and listen to the speakers here, or embedded below:
For those who expressed concern that an event of this size exceeds the 200-person gathering ban, Reykjavík area chief of police Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson offered the following observation to Fréttablaðið: “This depends on how you choose to define a ‘space’. I can’t see how Austurvöllur counts unless we start limiting Laugarvegur or Lækjartorg or someplace to no more than 200 people. That would be difficult to enforce.”
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