Do a Little More: A Black Woman Reflects on Global Crisis9/09/2015
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...
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.
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.
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!