Happy Black History Month! For this edition of my ‘People of Copenhagen’ series, I wanted to highlight a local Dane from the black community and also talk a little about my experience living as an African-American woman here in Copenhagen. I hope this is an informative blog and also challenges you to broaden your thinking and ways of meeting and interacting with others!
Meet Bru! Yes, that is actually his name and it is actually spelled like that! I was coming outside of a café and I saw him and absolutely loved his look. He walked by me and I was so hesitant in stopping his hurried stride to whatever destination he was headed to. Nevertheless, I took courage and ran after him. I yelled “excuse me sir!” He turned around and looked to see if I was talking to him but kept walking. I yelled again and said “yes, you!” He stopped and I ran up to him and said “hi, I’m doing a photojournalism project and I REALLY love your style, can I take a picture of you?” He paused, smiling nervously and asked, “right now?” then looked at his phone clearly in a rush. I begged and had him stand right where he was at in the midst of all the beautiful colors and I took about six shots of him as he posed. CLEARLY this was not his first time taking a picture! I asked if he wanted to see the pictures as my intro into a conversation with him. I showed him and then introduced myself and he did as well. He told me about himself and that he is actually from Paris, but he owns a store here in Copenhagen! The store is called, “Axel Arigato” and he told me they sell shoes and high end streetwear which also makes sense as to why he was dressed so fashionable! We talked for about five to ten minutes and I wished him well and told him I would visit the shop sometime. The shop is AMAZING and I encourage you to visit as well, in support of Bru and cool fashion! These photos with no preparation and random intervention have probably become some of my favorites in my catalog of pictures. I really wanted to capture minorities and the diverse aspect of Denmark, so I am glad I got to do that and meet a genuinely nice person.
I’m not going to lie, upon coming to Denmark, I was a little fearful of how I would be perceived as a black woman in a new country, with a predominantly white population. I didn’t know what I would encounter, endure, or enjoy entering into this completely new space. However, I can happily and truthfully say that my experience thus far has been pretty positive. I won’t sugarcoat it and act like everything has been super easy and utopian. There have been a few struggles. For example, the main one being, the STARES! Now, Danes in general are pretty big starers, but you definitely get a heck of a lot more being a minority. I don’t take it personal as much as I just take it as the fact that they probably don’t see that many people that look like me, and sometimes…I just stare back and smile! That usually stops the awkward interaction lol! Another struggle about being black in Copenhagen, is the nightmare of WHERE DO I GET MY HAIR DONE/PRODUCTS? African-American hair is a little different…ok a lot different actually…and there are a lack of shops/salons that cater to our needs of haircare. But don’t worry, I’ll give you some resources at the end of this blog to help with that! In addition to this hair crisis, don’t be surprised if people ask the infamous “can I touch your hair?” question or… if they just decide to do it, it’s quite intriguing to them. I try not to take offense to most things because I know that there is just a lack of cultural knowledge for some of the locals here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t express how you feel. I have encountered one racist incident, done to my friend, and I immediately spoke up and told him off. Nevertheless, the purpose of me writing this is not supposed to discourage you, because I will tell you, the good people very much so outweigh the bad here. I can’t speak for all minorities in saying this, but as for me, I most times feel safer and more free to be myself here than I do some places in America. I have met some of the sweetest, most endearing and accepting Danes that treated me just like everyone else and sometimes nicer. Some of those people being my host family, who I am truly grateful for and who really act as if I was their daughter. There are definitely many types of people here, and difficulties are inevitable, but try to find the good in everything and you’ll see how great people can be! I challenge you to meet someone that doesn’t look like you. Remember that everyone has a story.
Below are some resources that I’ve accessed and used since coming to Copenhagen that truly help and enhance others and me to have an exceptional experience here.
- Diverse Identities Social Club: This community has been absolutely amazing and it welcomes all! It is for ALL people of color, LGBTQIA+ community, First-Gen students etc. I have met some of the greatest people in this group and we have a lot of fun together! DIS does a great job at inclusion and all of the staff are incredible!
- DIS POC What’s App: This was actually started by me! I started this group as a forum for whatever we as students of color want to talk about, go to, engage in, etc. It is pretty useful, and I hope it is a group that continues to thrive even past this semester.
- Black Womxn and Black Non-Binary People in Copenhagen: I just joined this group but I have already felt such a strong community with these women. I have even been able to grab lunch with some and hear their stories and encouragements living here. They also provide a lot of events/information to go to for community.
- The Melanin Corner: I actually know the creator of this group and it’s awesome! If you are looking for makeup products for darker skin, hair care, salons, or anything else, this is the place to go ask! There are plenty of MUA’s, Braiders, Stylist, etc. in this group that are there to help!
- Yema Ferreira: Specializing in spiritual liberation of Black and African people. https://www.yemaferreira.com/about-me/
- Diana Kamure: Specializing in psychotherapy, narrative, Mentalization. https://psykologkamure.com/
- Ahmed Faiz Abdirahman: Specializing in student counseling. https://www.srg.dk/en
- Marjan Shahmir: Specializing in crises, trauma, PTSD, stress etc. http://www.psykologmarjan.dk/
- Naderah Parwani: Specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology. https://www.naderahparwani.com/om-naderah-parwani