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July 15th, 2020

Join the Belgian Network for Black Lives

topic:Racism
type:Campaign, NGO
by:Yair Oded

Like many of its formerly-colonial European counterparts, Belgium’s history is steeped in blood, most notably due to its former King Leopold II’s ruthless campaign of exploitation in Congo in the late 19th century, which resulted in the death and mutilation of millions of Congolese people. 

As the world is rattled by protests against deep-rooted systemic racism, Belgium, too, begins to reflect on its dark colonial past and its role in perpetuating racial injustice and abhorrent violence against people of colour. 

Among the leaders of the movement to force Belgium to confront its history and make amends in the Belgian Network for Black Lives, a Belgium-based NGO working to unite local organisations around the cause of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The Belgian Network for Black lives has been a staunch supporter of removing statues of Leopold II and engaging in a reframing of the country’s history, seeing as for many decades children were taught that Belgians exported “civilization” to Congo, and its colonial past has been glamorised by the state. 

“Having statues in a public space that are of a person that has murdered ten to fifteen million people is already showing how we glorify, how we normalise racism in the Belgian context, and it means that these black lives of Congolese people here don’t matter,” said Stephanie Colingwoode Williams, a Belgian Network for Black Lives spokesperson, in an interview for Newsy

The Network isn’t only concerned with removal of statues, however, but pushes for a profound, collective acknowledgement by the Belgian public of its history and a discussion about how to address prevailing racial inequities in the country. 

“Taking down statues is important on the symbolic level, but it is just the beginning,” Joëlle Sambi Nzeba, a spokeswoman for the Network, told the New York Times. “Those monuments are present not just in public space, but also in people’s mentalities […] It’s symptomatic of the absence of responsibility for colonial history [...] It is invisible in the public discourse.”

Please visit the Facebook page of the Network to read more about their actions, engage with their community of activists, and learn about upcoming campaigns and events they organise. Content is available in French, Dutch, and English. 

Image: Dimitri Devuyst

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