Belgium is the last stop on the formal program of my Churchill tour. Of the countries visited during this fellowship, Belgium seems to have the most complexity in terms of racism and antiracism. Entire books have been written about this so I won’t attempt to delve into the details here!
However it is important to point out that there are two major language and cultural groups in Belgium: Flanders which represents around 60% of the population, and French which comprises Brussels and Wallonia. In addition to these populations there are also many newer immigrant groups.
Given the cultural differences between Flanders and the French areas of Belgium, it is difficult for an antiracism organization to cover the whole Belgium population. This is why I met with Kif Kif and Hand in Hand (both located in Antwerp – in the Flemish part of Belgium) and MRAX (which is located in Brussels – in the French part of Belgium).
In both the Flemish and French parts of Belgium there are government subsidies available for not-for-profit advocacy organisations, so the three organisations I met with are government-funded.
The first organisation I met with was Kif Kif. This organisation trains its 100+ volunteers to write journalistic pieces for the Kif Kif website with an intercultural lens. Journalists write analyses of media reporting, reviews of arts and culture, opinion pieces and investigative journalism. In this way the organization gives a voice to new writers, as well as building debate as an independent media outlet with 10,000 daily readers. The organisation prides itself on working directly with migrant communities.
Afterwards I met with Hand in Hand. It is a smaller organisation with volunteers across the Flemish region of Belgium. Hand in Hand has worked on a range of antiracism projects and its current focus is on racism in employment recruitment. It works in partnership with a range of civil society organisations (including Kif Kif) to raise awareness about issues of racism.
Finally, I travelled to Brussels to meet with MRAX which stands for Movement Against Racism, Antisemitism and Xenophobia. It is a grassroots organisation which, similarly to Kif Kif, takes its cue from people at the community level to create projects resulting in institutional change.
MRAX works to educate people about their rights by giving talks in schools, businesses and community organisations about racism, discrimination and the law. It provides information directly to new migrants or people seeking information about their rights in relation to racism and racial discrimination – including institutional racism.
MRAX also provides legal advice and legal support for people to seek reparations. They often work directly on issues that affect their clients such as asylum and immigration law.
So, that’s all for the formal part of the ATNxChurchill tour! However I’m taking another few days to travel to Sweden and meet with some very interesting organisations there. Last stop: Stockholm!