Racial Discrimination

Elimination of racial discrimination is not only about skin colour, is also descent, nacional origin, gender etc.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Today 21st of March, is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, established in 1966, by the United Nations after considering all the previous resolutions of discrimination and apartheid.

This day was chosen in memory of the 69 people (women, men, and children) killed outside the police station in Sharpeville, South Africa (1960), while they held a peaceful demonstration against apartheid law that required all black people to carry identity documentation, which was known as “pass book” at all times.

According to Article 1 of the International Convention of Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination describes it “as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal, footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.

I have a lot of experiences based on racial discrimination such as skin colour, gender, nationality, and ethnicity. I experienced discrimination in Cuba. I was painted on the wall for many since they thought I was a prostitute so; I didn’t have the right to ask or comment. It pissed me off a lot even though I knew it was a possible scenario. I got to admit it was annoying and frustrating. I remember that I had their attention when I got sick, and they realized that I was not a Cuban.

Every day we live racial discrimination because is it constructed by us; therefore, it can also be dismantling by us.

What racial discrimination have you experienced? Share it with us.

Fight for freedom

As we celebrate Black History Month I want to remember all those women and girls who were tortured, raped, killed, auctioned, and exploited to work on a plantation. Thousands were separated from their family, had their original names changed, gave birth to children products of rape, obligated to breastfeed the master’s children and many other inhumane acts. 

A lot of these women fought and died for slavery freedom. One of those women was Harriet Tubman, whose original name was Amarinta Harriet Ross, nicknamed by her parents “Minty”. She was one of the nine children of the marriage of Harriet Green and Ben Ross who were enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland.

Harriet was a leader in abolishing slavery in the United State of America. She escaped in 1849 to preside over 300 enslaved people and her family members (including her parents) to freedom along the route of the Underground Railroad. For this act, she received the name of ” Moses”. 

Photo: National Portrait Gallery /Photographer: Horatio Seymour Squyer, 1848 – 18 Dec 1905, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

She also participated in the Civil War by helping the Union Army as a spy, nurse, guerrilla soldier, and other roles. She is considered to be the first African from the United States of America to serve  in the military. Once the war ended, she devoted helping the impoverished former slaves and the elders.  

Tubman’s life was not painted in the colour pink. Three of her sisters were sold to a distant plantation and later the master also intended to do the same to her younger brother. 

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” Harriet Tubman 

Civil Rights Movement

Many women are pillar of the civil rights movement.

Today, (January, 18th.) is the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He was one of the main black activists in the United States of America who claimed equal rights for the black community. Besides him, there were lots of women who also played a crucial role as strategists and advocates in the Civil Rights Movement. Here is a list of 10 brave women:

Septima Clark (1898-1987)

She was an educator in South Carolina who evolved the Citizenship Schools, which taught and motivated Black Americans to learn literature, education, and citizenship rights to empower their communities. She also fought for equal pay for black teachers and was one of the persons who accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

Amelia Boyton (1911-2015 )

She was a key figure of the Civil Rights in Selma, Alabama and one of the leaders who convinced MLK Jr. to march in from Selma to Montgomery on March 7th, 1965. This is known also as “Bloody Sunday”. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, over the Alabama River in Selma, the protesters were attacked by policemen, Boyton was brutally beaten.

In 1964, she ran for a seat in Congress, being the first African American woman and first female Democratic candidate from Alabama to postulate for this position.

Dorothy Height ( 1912-2010)

She is known as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement”. Her activism started in the 1930s, which advocated for women’s rights such as unemployment, illiteracy and voter participation. For over 40 years, she was the president of the National Council for Negro Women and one of the organizers of the March on Washington. Moreover, she had a big influence on leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis.

Jo Ann Robinson (1912-1992)

She was a teacher who became an active member of the movement after having been attacked verbally by a bus driver in 1949. Disgusted by this action Ann led the Women’s Political Council, which focused their work on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Following the arrest of Rosa Parks (she refused to give her seat to a white man), Ann immediately acted by distributing over 50,000 flyers calling for a boycott on the 5th of December, which was a success. 

Daisy Bates(1914-1999)

Bates was an activist, journalist, and publisher in Arkansas. Together with her husband, she founded The Arkansas Press, which was published on May 9, 1941, and mainly supported African American stories and advocated civil rights. In 1954, the Supreme Court landmarked segregation as unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. Bates played a significant role in the desegregation at schools, after this decision by mentoring and organizing the “Little Rock Nine”students to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

Photo by Malu de Wit on Unsplash

Georgia Gilmore (1920-1990)

She was a cook at the National Lunch Company who was fire for participating in the bus boycott. She embraced her talent to cook from home and support the movement. She founded the Club From Nowhere, which motivated African women to cook and bake goods to be sold outside their houses and at protests gathering. The fund from this action was used to support the bus resistance.

Ruby Dee (1922-2014)

Dee was an actress who used her profession to outspeak the subservient roles given to African Americans in the film industry. Together with Ossie Davis, her husband supported the movement through the arts and demonstrated positive portraits of African Americans in their works. She also was one of the masters of  ceremony at the March on Washington.

Corretta Scott King (1927-2006)

While studying music at the Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, she experienced segregation, which motivated her to join the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). She married Martin Luther King Jr. in 1953, to whom she gave her support as a wife and mother. However, she continued her quest for civil rights in and out of the United States of America.

Claudette Colvin (1935-)

She was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Claudette’s parents didn’t own a car, so every day she depended on a bus to get to and from school. One day in 1955, at age 15, she resisted giving up her seat on a crowded Montgomery bus to a white woman who was standing ( by law, Claudette supposed to give her seat, even though she was sitting in the black section). For this act, she was forcibly removed from the bus and arrested.

A year later, she gave her testimony at the court case Gayle v. Browder, which, intended to end transportation segregation in the state.

Diane Nash (1938-)

Nash got involved in the civil movements in Nashville, Tennessee, while studying at the Fisk University. She was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organizer of the Freedom Rides where Martin Luther King Jr. participated.

Feature photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

My Colour Skin Talks

Sydney and I are aware of our skin colour, but we are also proud of it.

This article was published in the magazine Maailman Kuvalehti. This is the English version.

My skin is black. Therefore, it is broken down by society into stereotypes that I live daily. I have experienced racism in varied degrees and in different countries. 

I remember when I travelled to Saint Petersburg, Russia, years ago, by road from Finland. I was the only one (it was a group of us) detained by Russian immigration officers. They reviewed my passport carefully and asked me, ” Why were you in Brazil, Panama, USA, etc?”. “What was the reason for your trip to these countries?”. They went on and on for over 20 minutes before permitting me to enter the country. No explanation absolutely, was given to me. 

Another racist incident happened in 2018, at a supermarket in Helsinki while shopping with a friend from Irak. A man passed by us and said: “It smells like shit”. 

As a black woman, I live double or triple discrimination because of my skin colour, being a woman, or an immigrant. However, I am not giving up on this fight because I know there is a new generation that will continue it. 

One of those young people is my nephew, Sydney, who is an intelligent 12 year old in 7th grade, and lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. He is one of the many black boys and men in the United States of America who is a target by the racist system. 

One day, while riding with his dad, they were pulled over by the police. When he got home, he told his mom about the incident and the way he acted. “I put my hands on the car dashboard so it can be visible”, he said. 

Previous to this occurrence he had watched the movie “The Hate U Give” with his parents at which time he learned that his hands need to be visible; so that is what he did that night. 

This past summer the Black Lives Matter campaign was held in several countries, globally. I participated in the one organized in Helsinki, Finland, with my friend from Kenia. I got skin chill when I arrived at the Senator Square, saw and heard the thousands of voices shouting slogans like Black lives matter, I can’t breathe, etc. 

This protest was held during the pandemic and as result, most of us participants took the necessary precautions. When the manifestation was over, I saw a sign that  read: Racism = longest-running pandemic. Yes, it is because black people’s rights had been violated and minorized over centuries. This is not a new incident.

Many brave women and men before me and my nephew have also lived racisms, some even experienced worse situations than those today. They are our heroines and heroes. 

Sydney is aware of his skin colour and that the dramatic incident he went through can be repeated someday. I am also aware of this. Nevertheless, I am proud to be a black woman. I don’t like people to call me brown, chocolate, blackish, or woman of colour. I prefer to be called a black woman, just who I am. So please don’t try to wash away the colour of my skin that talks. 

Indigenous Women’s Day

Today on Indigenous Women’s Day I celebrate my ancestors.

My first knowledge of Miskito Indigenous culture was learned from my ancestors, Rosina Nelson, my great-grandmother who was a midwife; and from my grandmother, Mandy Lee Thompson Nelson, who worked with the Moravian missionaries in Bilwi. 

Both of them were from the indigenous community of Karata located in front of a lagoon by the same name, where you can sit and enjoy drinking and eating coconut as much as you want while talking to the people who are friendly, and tidy in the way they maintain their community clean. Fishing is the community’s main source of economical income. 

Today, I celebrate these two women, who are my role model of indigenous women. They were strong, brave, and never renounced their tasks. I am proud that they are part of my roots.  

I had the opportunity to meet many indigenous women from different countries and backgrounds while working as a journalist in places such as summits, remote places, and during my daily life. They all are full of energy and carefulness.

Since 1983, International Day of Indigenous Women is still celebrated today. It was established in Tihuanacu, Bolivia during the Second Meeting of Organizations and Movements of America. The main objective of this day is to remember all the brave indigenous women who had fought for their families and communities to preserve the experiences, values, languages, and heritage knowledge. 

Bartolina Sisa was an Aymaran woman from Peru, who fougth against the Spanish colony and participated in the siege of La Paz with her partner Túpac Katari, and other natives. She was captured and executed by her enemies on the 5th of September, 1972.

Indigenous women are often discriminated against for their gender, ethnicity, and poor condition. However, countless outstanding indigenous women shaped and are shaping the history of their community and the world. Here, Women Wheel names 5 figures fought or are fighting for native welfare.  

Shirley Colleen Smith ( 1924-1998), was a Wiradjuri woman, activist, and social worker who devoted her time for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in New South Wales. She was the one who created the aboriginal legal, medical, and children services, a housing company and a tent embassy. 

She was known as Mum Shirl, because while visiting her brother in prison she would talk to the other prisoners, so the guards asked what was her relationship with them. She replied, “I am their mum”.

Autumn Peltier (2004-), is a young water activist from Wikwemikong First Nation in northern Ontario, Canada, known as the “water warrior”. For years, she has been advocating for safe drinking water for indigenous people in Canada and other countries.  

In 2018, she spoke at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA, where she said: “Our water should not be for sale. We all have a right to this water as we need it”.

Peltier addressing the UN in 2018

Finnish Sami women,  Tiina Sanila-Aikio, Riikka Karppinen, Inka Saara Arttijeff, Anna Morottaja, Petra Laiti, and others are fighting to save their land, water, and animals ( reindeer-herding and fishing) that are threatened by climate change, the construction of an Arctic Railway, forestry, and mining. 

Brazil Indigenous girls and women activists, Rayanne Cristine Maximo Franca, Célia Xakriabá, Sônia Guajajara, and many others are campaigning under the slogan “Our land, our body, our spirit” to save the Amazon rainforest which is called the “lung of the Earth” from deforestation, climate change, and mining. 

My fifth figure of the list, but in no way the least,  is someone I know from my hometown and had the opportunity to work at moments with her. She is Lottie Cunningham Wren, an indigenous lawyer and human rights defender who has been fighting and working efficiently with the Miskitos, Mayangnas, and Afro-descendants communities in Nicaragua for many years. 

Do you know an indigenous woman in your community, who is changing history? Share your story!