The city council of the German city of Potsdam, near the capital Berlin, has decided to cut the funding for the annual Saint Nicolas parade after protests from action groups European Network for People of African Descent (ENPAD) and Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP). Potsdam is a “Dutch Quarter” which arose in 1730 as a housing project for Dutch workers. Dutch people have been celebrating the controversial Dutch tradition in the city for years but Germans people of African who felt offended by the Dutch blackfacing tradition protested againt the racist caricature.
ENPAD is a European network of people of African background with members in Germany, Sweden, England, Belgium and the Netherlands. Members from Germany and the Dutch action group Kick Out Zwarte Piet and Stop Blackface organized a protest at the Sinterklaasintocht in Potsdam last year. They also with with the Dutch Embassy in Germany.
The Association of Dutch culture in Potsdam “Jan Bouman Haus” is disappointed that the municipality withdrew its subsidy, they argue that the tradition is not offensive or racist. Instead they said the tradition is fun for all children from and it’s an age-old Dutch tradition. Marketing manager of the municipality referred to the recent UN report on the Netherlands which stated the following about the Dutch tradition:
“While the Committee understands that the tradition of Sinterklaas and Black Pete is enjoyed by many persons in Dutch society, the Committee notes with concern that the character of Black Pete is sometimes portrayed in a manner that reflects negative stereotypes of people of African descent and is experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery, which is injurious to the dignity and self-esteem of children and adults of African descent. The Committee is concerned about the discriminatory effect of such portrayals, which may convey a conception at odds with the Convention. The Committee is furthermore concerned at reports that citizens seeking to peacefully protest against such portrayals have been denied authorization to conduct such protests at a meaningful time and place and have been subjected to violent attacks and other forms of intimidation, which have not been adequately investigated.”
Check out the video of the protest in Potsdam
On November 14 Kick Out Black Peter is organizing a nationwide protest during Sinterklaasintocht in Meppel “Freedom Ride to Meppelr”. Register via the website!
Read the press release about the protest in Potsdam here.