Activist magazine Desde el Margen has featured an article on The Uprising and has asked me to write a reflection piece to introduce the film. The publication is in Spanish, click here for the original article. Check out the English version of my contribution below.
Two years ago I made a decision. I wanted to express my unapologetic voice in service of the decolonial struggle. As a musician I was used to using my voice. But I always felt the constraints of navigating white spaces as a woman of color when it comes to this topic. I was born and raised The Netherlands, where I currently live, as a daughter of Indo-Caribbean parents, Suriname (a former colony of The Netherlands) to be specific. Growing up as a minority in the west, I always had to make white people feel comfortable to get my message across. It meant I had to limit myself in expressing my authentic thoughts. Freedom of expression is a privilege of the colonizer.
But art is liberating. Music has always been a tool for me to evolve as a person. Through art I felt the courage to express my true voice. It was my artistic vision that led to The Uprising, a music documentary on resistance against racism in Europe. A story told by the colonized with a decolonial perspective on struggle, strategy and strength. I wanted to use music and film to contribute to educating and empowering people in the decolonial movement.
How to achieve this vision? Initially I had applied for funding, since one of the most important factors in realizing such a production is money. But the funding was denied. The establishment did not recognize the added value of this story from the margins. Or maybe it did and it made an intentional effort to keep this story from being heard. Either way, I had two options. One was to quit and let money stop me from telling this story. Or two, find other resources to proceed with this project. I chose the second option. I relied on the experience and knowledge I had developed throughout the years as an independent artist, which meant I could take on the role of producer, director and editor. Things I didn’t know yet, I decided to learn so I could realize this project. I also relied on the network I had built in the social movement, from creative minds to academics and activists willing to contribute. In addition I was able to rely on some of my savings to cover necessary expenses. But most importantly, I believed in this project and I knew I had to tell this story. I knew for every challenge, I would find a solution. And believe me, many challenges we encountered indeed. But step by step the film came together.
In April 2019 The Uprising was officially released. Since then it has been shown in 8 different countries at over 40 venues, ranging from educational institutions to cultural venues to grassroots organizations. When I made the film I had hoped for this impact, but I could never have imagined the film would reach people outside of the Netherlands in Venezuela, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the United States, Scotland and England. Through the film screenings I connected with so many people and organizations active in the decolonial movement, it has empowered me knowing the strength of the movement, even if it’s not always visible on mainstream platforms.
Following up on the questions expressed by the audience to use the film as an educational resource, I also developed an educational toolkit based on the film with exercises and activities for decolonizing the mind. In 2020 I made both the film and educational toolkit available for free online. I wanted these resources to be accessible to everyone, without limitations.
It shows the margin is relative. It depends on who’s in power and to what extent we allow that power to be exerted over us. Economic capital can be substituted by social and cultural capital. We can create our own center stage, at our own terms, in our own ways. I hope The Uprising, both the process and the outcomes, can serve as inspiration.