photo: Sam Jones

After the King asked for forgiveness, the mayor of the Dutch city of Almere said sorry on June 30th, and the comma of Rutte in December last year, the question is: what now? What for instance is to happen in Almere where on Friday, June 30th a slavery monument by Patrick Mezas was unveiled?

Nationwide promises have been made by the Dutch government. 27 million euros is the amount available for a museum about slavery in Amsterdam. Another 200 million euros has been made available for projects that will raise awareness about the impact of slavery.

But there is no government funding for ‘reparations’, because that word meets with a lot of resistance. For most people, it’s not about the money. It is however about making positive changes in the position of the descendants of the enslaved.

Local politics have formulated no plans yet, but the Caribbean community will not leave it at that.

“I am not someone who hits. I talk”

People from the Caribbean community in Almere think it’s about time to take action themselves. A monument is a nice first step, but more than that is needed. “It’s about the conversation that we have to have ourselves,” says youth worker Romeo Lobo.

He comes from Curacao and works in Almere. He himself has experienced the impact of slavery. “The corrective tap I got from my mother, I think it is a remnant of that time. I am not a person who slaps, I prefer to talk.”

Lobo comes across as a man who isn’t a fan of quick and easy solutions. “It takes a village to raise a child”, he says.

Naïra Gomez who is also living in Almere takes inspiration from the apologies and from the monument made by fellow islander Patrick Mezas. “The Caribbean community needs to stand up and claim their place”, she says.

“You have to be part of the conversation, instead of being the subject”

But she also thinks that government authorities and institutions need to put effort into the elimination of the drawbacks that the Caribbean-Dutch are facing. “They have to conduct a search for key figures in the Caribbean community.”

Especially when formulating policies aimed at disadvantaged groups. “Talk to each other and reach a solution together.”

“Caribbean youth is an example”

Headway has been made in Almere because a few months ago youngsters made a request to Minister Hanke Bruins Slot (Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations) for a national knowledge center.

Anneke Dalger from the Committee June 30th/July 1st: “Everything one wants to know about slavery and Dutch history, should be available in that center. Caribbean and Surinamese youth can serve as an example for the rest of the country.”