Do a Little More: A Black Woman Reflects on Global Crisis

By Yovanka Paquete Perdigao

I have been quite slow to think and react about the migrant crisis affecting Europe. I am a Black woman living in London with many privileges, more preoccupied with my life’s problems such as where to go to party for Notting Hill Carnival, a job, boyfriends, crap TV, friends’ skirmishes, etc. Living in a life relatively free of worries on security, food, and a home has meant that in the whirlwind of life I forget myself.

Sadly it took a few Facebook scrolls and the image of a dead Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach for me to feel. In this age we have become accustomed to death and it’s easy to feel no sense of duty other than social media activism. However, something deeper for me resonated when I saw the images of children who had perished like Aylan Kurdi, as I know from a personal experience what it feels to be a refugee.

In 1998, I was six years old, three more than Aylan Kurdi but still a child who could not understand what the word “war” truly meant when bombs and the sound of shooting became a daily recurrence. Now 23 years old, I still remember the first day of the war to me. I was playing outside with a friend when her mother dragged us to their house after hearing the news that our country Guinea-Bissau was to descend in war. My sister then came to collect me, and we never stepped out again until my grandma took me and my sister by the hand with all our possessions and crossed the city.

It is useless to describe to you the fear, the crying, the smell of death surrounding us until we left that day. Useless to describe how many people in my family, how many friends perished in that very city we all called home. Useless to describe that until we arrived in Lisbon all of three us, even me at six, did not believe we had made it alive. Useless to say that even after all of it was over, the sound of Guy Fawkes fireworks still threw me into a frenzied state locked in my undergraduate accommodation crying.

Unlike Aylan Kurdi and his family, I was lucky. We managed to get on a secure boat for French nationals. We made it to Dakar, Senegal, where we took an army airplane to Lisbon. A few years back, my father retrieved an old picture that showed me, my grandma and sister front page when we had arrived in Senegal alive – unlike the children who are washing up every day in Europe.

For once this not the moment for any of us to reflect on social-economics, class, race. This is actually the moment where we need to all roll up our sleeves, get on a bus, bike to Calais or go out shopping for essentials to donate, or even just donate any amount to the countless charities and IndieGoGo pages set up for this crisis.

Today I am a masters’ graduate in Violence, Conflict and Development. I work full-time in London, I am member of a Black feminist collective, and sometimes I write here and there. I try to do my small part in life and I have been fairly successful; after all I was one of the lucky ones. Had friends and family not helped me when I landed with no clothes, toys, or food, I would have not been who I am today.

In today’s age, Black and brown bodies are continuously swallowed in a neo-colonial white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. The violence acted upon these bodies have become daily occurrences that if we are not careful will become normalized to our eyes. So I urge you to not let yourself be desensitized. I urge to do more than social media activism. I urge to do just a little more than usual because it can make a difference to someone and perhaps one day they will not have to write an article similar to this one.

Photo: Safin Hamed

Yovanka was born in Portugal. Hailing from origins in Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome, she has lived between Senegal and Ivory Coast but is currently based in London. She is a writer, visual arts enthusiast and cultural producer. Find her tweeting @yova_nka!

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