The Welcome Table

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Afropean is a multidisciplinary online journal exploring the social, cultural and aesthetic aspects of black European cultures. Afropean and the Holland Festival are organizing an immersive symposium which will present performances, screenings, presentations and panel discussions on the topic of how knowledge is transmitted inter-generationally throughout the black diaspora in myriad ways. The day of events includes academics, poets, organizers and visual artists in discussion and creates a convivial space of knowledge production and sharing, in the heart of Amsterdam.  Featuring Johny Pitts, author of Afropean: Notes from Black Europe, Nat Illumine, scholar and co-founder of, award-winning journalist and blogger Minna Salami, award-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo and Fusion present BMT: a unique poetry experience with special guest: Umar Bin Hassan from the legendary The Last Poets.


12:00 introduction: ‘On the shoulders of invisible giants’ - Johny Pitts, author of Afropean: Notes from Black Europe


Co-Editor and founder at Afropean will present his research into the writing of Afropean: Notes from Black Europe (recently published by Penguin), an on-the-ground documentary of areas where Europeans of African descent are juggling their multiple allegiances and forging new identities. Here is an alternative map of the continent, taking the reader to places like Cova Da Moura, the Cape Verdean shantytown on the outskirts of Lisbon with its own underground economy, and Rinkeby, the area of Stockholm that is eighty per cent Muslim. Johny Pitts visits the former Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where West African students are still making the most of Cold War ties with the USSR, and Clichy Sous Bois in Paris, which gave birth to the 2005 riots, all the while presenting Afropeans as lead actors in their own story. He will discuss how he was guided by an ‘invisible hand’ throughout his travels; subaltern knowledge, casual encounters, translocal networks and abstract traditions that contained information about the black experience in Europe, ensuring its survival and preservation despite the hegemony of postcolonial European culture.


12:20 Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets – In Conversation with Christine Otten and Daniël Krikken


Legendary political poets from civil rights era America, who take part in the griot tradition, The Last Poets are known as the ‘Godfathers of Hip-Hop’. Umar Bin Hassan will join us for a discussion about the past, present and future of storytelling across changing political landscapes, alongside the author of The Last Poets’ biography Christine Otten, and her son Daniël Krikken, director of ‘Scared of Revolution’ - a portrait of Umar’s personal struggles as a Last Poet. Umar will also be performing one of his seminal poems.


13:30 lunch break


14:30 presentation and Q&A: ‘Mixed Race: Changing Dynamics in 21st Century Britain’ - Nat Illumine, Co-Editor of


Nat will present her research into the changing dynamics of what it means to be mixed race in 21st century Britain, based around the themes of identity, racism, racial literacy, and cultural capital. The focus of this research is on the development of racial literacy and new forms of cultural capital as well as the degree of racial fluidity that now exists beyond the black-white binary, in terms of the inter-generational lived experiences of multiracial families.


14:40 reading and Q&A: ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ - Bernadine Evaristo, author and Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London


British-Nigerian writer Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of eight books and numerous other published and produced works that span the genres of novels, poetry, verse fiction, short fiction, essays, literary criticism, and radio and theatre drama. Bernadine will be reading an excerpt from her most recent novel, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’, described as ‘fusion fiction’.


15:50 keynote speech: Minna Salami


The multi award-winning Nigerian-Finnish writer and lecturer behind the Ms. Afropolitan blog, Minna Salami will be delivering our 2019 keynote speech. Minna’s interests lie in connecting feminism with critical reflections on contemporary culture from an Africa-centred perspective, ranging from African feminist history to global feminism to popular culture to decolonisation to sexuality to feminist theory. Her debut book, Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Interpretation, will be published by Harper Collins and Zed in 2020.


16:40 Afropean presents BMT: The Last Shall Be The First


BMT brings together three highly regarded UK-based spoken word artists – I.AM.SHAHEED, Nate The Lyricist and Samuel King – to research and reimagine the work of The Last Poets. Together this new collective will create ensemble work exploring the political and social landscape for black men today across the diaspora. These new spoken word pieces will be developed through several reasoning and studio sessions with curator / producer Fusion and acclaimed musician and songwriter Spider J.


18:00 end of the programme


background information

The Welcome Table is an unfinished play by the American writer James Baldwin, a prominent anti-racism activist in his country. The play consists of two characters (based on the dancer Josephine

Baker and the American professor and critic Henry Louis Gates Jr.) at a set table. Incomplete freedom they discuss the condition of the Afro-American community. During the Holland Festival a contemporary version of The Welcome Table will be staged at various venues for a variety of conversations about festival artists’ work and themes. The topics covered will include literary and ideological movements like Négritude and the Harlem Renaissance, the films Échangeur and Touki Bouki, Martiniquan philosopher Édouard Glissant’s work and life, and of course James Baldwin.


This performance is made possible with support by