Afropean Summary By Johny Pitts

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In Afropean (2020), Johny Pitts takes readers on a journey of discovery to uncover the experiences and histories hidden within Europe.

He visits cities such as Paris, Berlin, and Moscow to explore the diversity of African-descendent communities in these places – and demonstrate how they are repurposing their identities in spite of Europe's colonial legacy.

Pitts captures stories from everyday people who have been forgotten by official history, painting a vivid picture of life for Black Europeans in art, music, activism and beyond.

This book illuminates the lives of these individuals and serves as an important reminder that identity is much more complex than what is conventionally taught.


Book Name: Afropean (Notes From Black Europe)

Author(s): Johny Pitts

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 26 Minutes

Categories: Society & Culture

Author Bio

Johny Pitts is an incredible British writer, photographer and journalist.

His work has taken him across the continent to highlight the Afro-European diasporic experience through his online journal Afropean.

As a collaboration with author Caryl Phillips for the BBC, he even created a photo essay about London's immigrant communities.

His book "Afropean" is an exploration of the evolving political and social landscape of which Black Europeans are an intricate part of - bringing together art, literature and events from this unique perspective.

The contribution to our collective understanding that he has made through these works makes him one of the most notable figures in our society today.

Exploring the Creation of a Proud Afropean Identity

Proud Afropean Identity

Johny Pitts set out on a mission to uncover the history and culture behind Black Europe – an often overlooked part of European narrative.

He begins his journey in Paris, Brussels, and Moscow.

Along the way, he discovers a vibrant mosaic of influence as he meets Surinamese-Dutch activists, Congolese artists, and Black French militants.

This is the story behind Afropeans who have created a new identity for themselves within Europe.

It’s about the vibrant 1920s cultural renaissance that saw African and Black American people exploring blackness in Paris; it’s about the efforts of Surinamese communities in Amsterdam to preserve their heritage; and it’s about how Afropeans in Lisbon have built tight-knit villages where they can celebrate their culture without fear of judgement or marginalization.

Discover the hidden narratives behind Black Europe when you follow Johny on his transformative journey through our continent.

Johny Pitts Uncovers an Identity Crisis at the Crossroads of Blackness and European-ness

In Sheffield, Johny Pitts had grown up in a neighborhood that was incredibly diverse from the viewpoint of both race and class.

This vibrant, multicultural atmosphere reflected the city’s history of attracting immigrants from colonies and drawing in migrant workers who could bring back economic benefits to their families.

However, as time passed and globalization began to take hold, this dynamic started to crumble due to increasing socioeconomic pressures.

Industries that local communities relied on were eroded by free trade and many people were left in poverty or turned to damaging activities such as drugs, alcohol, and crime.

In addition, Sheffield became a place where prejudice against minority groups prevailed and Johny began to feel pushed away from both his Black and Brown roots on one side and his European identity on the other.

Black Europeans Ignored No More: The Rise of Afropeans, From the Paris Streets to World Prominence

Paris Streets

The Parisian cityscape features a diverse mix of African cultures, from Senegalese restaurants to Moroccan shops and Pan-African art galleries.

This is the result of deep historical connections between Europe, Africa, and Black America that have been in existence for hundreds of years.

Alexandre Dumas, the famous French author who wrote The Three Musketeers and other works of literature, was himself Afropean.

His grandmother was an enslaved woman from the former French colony of Haiti which his father had bought in the late eighteenth century.

Double consciousness—the ability to be conscious of one’s Blackness and European status—is a powerful concept here.

In the early twentieth century, US Army African American soldiers were stationed in France and brought their culture over with them–most importantly jazz music which made its way into Paris where it was embraced by locals who soon developed a taste for African American culture.

This created strong ties between European and African diasporic cultures, becoming known as “Afropean Revolutionaries” as exemplified by writers Aimé Césaire from Martinique and Léopold Sédar Senghor from Senegal who aimed to celebrate blackness as being beautiful and worthy of appreciation among Europeans.

Though racism persists throughout Europe today, Parisians are giving renewed energy to combatting its effects; news headlines around Johny’s visit tell us how this city stood up against a recently offensive comment made by a French parfumier on national TV that sought to dehumanise Black Parisians.

This is just one small incident that highlights a much bigger problem that exists today- but history has shown us repeatedly how powerful transformation can be when people come together and recognize both our unique differences with shared values that unite us all regardless of race or background.

Exploring the History and Cultural Flux of Afropean Identity in Brussels

The contemporary notion of “Afropeanism” emerged from the colonialist legacy of Belgium, thanks in large part to the pioneering efforts of Brussels’ Black community.

Marie Daulne was the first to coin the term Afropeanism when she collaborated with Talking Heads singer David Byrne on a project combining African and European influences.

According to Byrne, this combination of elements became “a subtle manifesto” for a new holistic Black European identity.

This concept was further conveyed by Johny’s visit to Brussels’ Royal Museum of Central Africa, which opened with an exhibition of 267 Congolese people and still houses relics from Belgium’s colonial rule.

Additionally, Belgian cartoonist Hergé’s comic book Tintin in the Congo embodies how colonialist propaganda checkered Europe’s touristy city centers.

From these components arose another reminder: Despite violent exploitation, including ivory and rubber harvesting, Afropeans had found place in Brussels, such as in the districts of Matongé where Congolese, Rwandese and Sengalese restaurants and shops distinguish a landscape now proud of its Afropean identity crafted by determined locals.

The Legacy of Dutch-American Revolutionaries Preserved in Amsterdam’s Black Community


When traveling to Amsterdam, one might not expect to find a vibrant community of African American revolutionaries.

However, thanks to the efforts of young Afro-Surinamese activists, this is indeed the case!

In Amsterdam’s red light district lies the Hugo Olijfveld House – home of Ons Suriname, Dutch Guianas oldest activist organization.

This multifunctional facility serves as grassroots organizing space and creative studio for eager youth of color.

It was ‘adopted’ by Ons Suriname in the 70’s where they opened up their Black Archives which contains various writings from black thinkers such as Jamaican poet Claude McKay and civil rights leader W.E.B du Bois.

The Black archives also contain information about a pair of revolutionaries named Otto and Hermina Huiswoud who met in Harlem before travelling to Amsterdam using Otto’s Dutch passport where they quickly assumed leadership roles in Ons Suriname and advocate for socialist politics.

Recent protests and rise in awareness around sensitive topics like ‘Zwarte Piet’- a children’s Christmas story character that people use for festive celebrations by dressing up in blackface- have been spearheaded by members of New Urban Collective (NUC).

NUC is a queer feminist network of Afro-Dutch students set on preserving black history; educating communities about it and providing an opportunity for discourse on current race relations that focuses on anti-racism/oppression measures which will benefit minorities as a whole.

It is because of these youthful activists that African American legacy lives on now more than ever throughout the Netherlands!

The Beauty of Cultural Intersection in Berlin: Celebrating a Rainbow of Identities

Berlin is home to a unique combination of cultures, including a white-washed anti-fascist movement and the thriving Rastafarian community that Johny encountered at Nil in Berlin-Friedrichshain.

When Johny joined an anti-fascist demonstration in the city, he was surprised by how many people were attending—4,000 strong.

It wasn’t until he got close that he could tell they were members of the Antifa, an international anti-fascist organization with roots in Nazi resistance movements.

Established in response to racism and fascist violence affecting Germany’s minority communities, this march was meant to commemorate Silvio Meier—a member of their community who was killed by a Nazi gang in 1992.

Still, most attendees were young, white Germans.

The underlying message remains the same: racism is a prevalent, and even deadly problem in Germany.

Sweden’s Façade of Racial Inclusion Masks Its History of Imperialism and Inequality

Stockholm appears to be a progressive and tolerant city with many diverse Afropean success stories, from TV hosts to chefs to musicians.

But beneath this carefully crafted image is an uncomfortable truth: the roots of racial injustice are deeply entrenched in Sweden.

At its core, Sweden’s socialist philosophy of folkhemmet promotes inclusion and social justice, but there exists a double standard.

For example, some of the well-educated Swedish Afropeans harshly criticize more recent migrants for not embracing traditional Swedish culture and customs.

On top of that, Sweden is one of the world’s largest arms exporters – supplying weapons to countries they have a long history of oppressing.

The disregard for centuries-old colonization continues in cities like Rinkeby where immigrants were once provided housing, public spaces and educational resources but after global corporatism took over, these plans were ultimately abandoned.

The Diminishing Multicultural Ideals of a 21st Century Moscow


Modern Moscow has become a distant echo of its former self, bearing little representation of the Soviet Union’s ideals for multiculturalism.

During the era of Soviet rule, communism provided solidarity between Russia’s white working-class and Black resistance movements around the world.

The USSR also encouraged African students to study at Russian universities, developing many meaningful connections between African leaders and socialist/communist ideologies in other countries.

However, Western powers were driven by their own interests to undermine these ideals.

American intelligence agencies committed assassinations against Black and socialist leaders worldwide in an effort to curb the spread of communism.

Eventually, the West successfully quashed these efforts, leading to the collapse of the USSR and consequently a decrease in multicultural values across Russia.

Not only have racial tensions increased since then, but African students studying at The People’s Friendship University of Moscow today lead isolating lives surrounded by drug addicts and alcoholics on the outskirts city limits.

The stark contrast between modern Russian culture and its previous communist principles are clear reminders that Modern Moscow bears little trace of the Soviet Union’s old multicultural ideals.

Johny Finds Utopia in Marseille: How a City with a Troubled History Can Embrace Multiculturalism and Diversity


Johny’s journey on his exploration of Afropean culture across Europe had come full circle and he ultimately made his way to Marseille, France.

This Mediterranean city was the perfect example of what Johny wanted to find – a little Afropean utopia where North Africans from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia peacefully coexist with a large white working class as well as immigrants from Romania.

Johny found plenty of inspiration throughout Marseille with its industrial harbor city connecting Europe to North Africa which has been home to multiculturalism and working-class politics for years.

Many renowned works such as The Three Musketeers by Dumas were set in this very city and Claude McKay’s 1929 classic Banjo offers readers an insightful look into the debauchery found here throughAfronici narrator.

Additionally, Marseille is also home to the infamous Villa Leopolda built by Belgian King Leopold II (paid for with Congolese blood money) and the Villa del Mare belonging former military official Joseph Mobutu who conspired to assassinate Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

But perhaps no other villa makes such a statement like James Baldwin’s old home – a true Black icon who achieved an incredible feat during his time living in it: living the French dream despite being a poor, gay, Black man from New York.

Marseille was everything that Johny has been looking for on his journey around Europe; truly embodying what it means to be Afropean and creating his own little utopia.

The Wonders of Afropea – from the Multi-Cultural Streets of Marseille to Lisbon’s Little World, Europe’s African Communities Show Us a Glittering Future

The Afropean community in Lisbon is unlike any other in Europe.

It’s a unique place where people from former Portuguese colonies – Mozambique, Cape Verde and Angola – have come together to create their own little world.

This multicultural working class neighbourhood is known as Cova de Moura and it’s not just a haven of social activity but also a sanctuary from racism and oppression.

At the heart of this bustling district lies the Associação Cultural de Juventude – a community centre dedicated to promoting equality and fighting economic exploitation.

There are libraries, educational programmes, charity drives and many artist studios; as well as places of leisure – such as live music venues playing Afrobeat tunes whilst residents dance enthusiastically!

This vibrant street culture is the embodiment of an entire generation of Africans in Europe – one that wants to make its voice heard against injustices while still celebrating their roots and preserving the identity they share across cultures.

Many families living in Cova de Moura have ties to both Africa and Europe going back generations – something that has left an indelible mark on the area.

Wrap Up

The final summary from Afropeans can be summed up in one word: resilience.

Despite the many obstacles faced by black communities in Europe, including being left out of European national narratives, disadvantaged by socioeconomic pressures and rendered invisible in gentrified cities, Afropean cultures have still flourished and become incredibly dynamic.

Organizations like activist groups in Amsterdam, Rastafari clubs in Berlin and community centers in Lisbon show that black Europeans are not letting their history or current affairs hinder them from creating meaningful communities all throughout the continent.

It is this resilience that provides an important reminder of the power Africa has over her story and her destiny.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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