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Home / Journal / ‘We Are Many’

Ami Weickaane reflects on the lived experience of being ‘Euro but not European’ and presents a manifesto for change. 

All stills from Ami Weickaane’s video installation and film work “Vague á l‘âme, a black woman tale “ which has been recently exhibited during the Southnord Triennale at Kulturehuset  in Stockholm from October 2023 to January 2024. The installation explores the journey of black women migration across Africa and Europe focusing on mental health to question the “Strong Black Woman Myth”. © Ami Weickaane

The article tells the story of an Afro-European woman who has lived in Europe for over two decades and highlights the issue of exclusion despite significant contributions to her adopted country’s cultural and economic life.  The woman in question is excluded from the political process – unable to vote or influence policies that affect her daily life and community. 

Her story raises essential questions about belonging and inclusion in modern Europe. Despite living, working, raising a family, and paying taxes in a European country, she needs to gain the legal recognition that comes with nationality, preventing her from fully embodying what it means to be European. This exclusion extends to one of the most fundamental rights in a democratic society: the right to vote. As the European elections approach, she and many others in similar situations find themselves voiceless, unable to influence decisions that affect their lives and the communities they have grown to love.

The predicament of non-EU nationals like her is a personal issue and reflects broader legal and political dynamics within Europe. The criteria for naturalisation are strict, and policies often reflect the continent’s struggle with questions of identity and acceptance. As a result, many long-term residents are left in limbo. They are Europeans in every sense except legally, contributing to their communities, economies, and social fabric, yet excluded from the democratic processes that shape the continent’s future. It is crucial to ensure that these individuals are not left behind.

‘The criteria for naturalisation are strict, and policies often reflect the continent’s struggle with questions of identity and acceptance.’ 

Moreover, the challenges faced by these communities have intensified due to the rise of extreme right-wing politics in Europe. Xenophobic rhetoric and policies not only make their situation worse but also contribute to a hostile environment.

The story of this Afro-European woman prompts us to consider the meaning of citizenship and belonging in a changing Europe. It challenges us to reflect on how inclusive our definitions of democracy and participation truly are. 

A critical gap in the European Union’s approach to inclusion and democracy

 This story is not only about an Afro-European woman who faces many complexities and challenges. ‘We Are Many’ is a testament, a manifesto, and a wake-up call as she represents a diverse group of people, including doctors, neighbours, hairdressers, students, journalists, and many others. Despite being deeply integrated into her host country, her journey highlights a critical gap in the European Union’s approach to inclusion and democracy. As of early 2019, approximately 21.8 million non-EU nationals lived in the EU, making her situation far from unique.  These individuals contribute to their communities and the economy daily. However, they often have little say in shaping policies that affect their lives.

‘As we approach 2024, a year marked by global elections, let us find the courage to become the protagonists of our own stories.’

The experience raises critical questions about identity and social cohesion. The status of long-term residency without citizenship can impact one’s identity and the broader social fabric of Europe. The absence of a legal pathway to complete belonging challenges the notion of a unified European identity and risks creating divides within societies.

Balancing these two priorities is crucial. European immigration and naturalisation policies are at a crossroads between ensuring national security and upholding human rights and inclusion principles. How can we rethink these policies to protect both citizens and non-citizens’ dignity and rights without compromising either?

The exclusion of long-term, non-citizen residents from the electoral conversation raises questions about the representativeness of European democracies. It is vital to ensure that the diverse tapestry of European society is reflected in its political processes. Additionally, the increasing influence of right-wing nationalism across Europe poses significant challenges for immigrants and minority communities. How can European societies promote an inclusive narrative that embraces diversity and counteract divisive forces?

‘The exclusion of long-term, non-citizen residents from the electoral conversation raises questions about the representativeness of European democracies.’

‘One way is by fostering a European identity transcending national borders and legal statuses, recognizing all residents as integral parts of the European community.’

An urgent need for activism and policy reform in Europe

Additionally, the story of this Afro-European woman highlights the urgent need for activism and policy reform. Organisations and associations that advocate for immigrant rights are crucial in promoting more inclusive policies. Their efforts, combined with concerned citizens’ activism, are essential in bridging the gap between those who contribute to European societies and those who are acknowledged with full rights and privileges.

The upcoming European elections present a critical opportunity for reflection and action as a catalyst for change. EU citizens are offered a moment to reflect on the type of continent they want to create. Will it value diversity and inclusion or  give in to exclusion and division? This is a call to action for voters to consider the impact of their choices in the broader community, particularly those who contribute to the European project without recognition.

Can we, who have invested our lives, talents, and dreams in this continent, be counted and heard? 

As a 46-year-old Senegalese woman who has woven the fabric of my life into European culture, I find myself at a crossroads.  Europe, the backdrop of my growth and maturity and the birthplace of my entirely European children, presents a paradox of belonging that is both enriching and isolating. As a militant for human rights, voices, and mobility in the creative industry, I am deeply embedded in Europe’s cultural and socio-political landscape. However, my lack of European nationality makes it difficult for my voice to be heard in the corridors of power where decisions that shape our collective future are made.

The upcoming elections hold personal significance for me. They prompt me to question whether Europe can be home for someone like me, who has contributed to its culture, diversity, and vibrancy yet remains on the periphery of its civic life. My daily reality highlights the silent challenges faced by those of us who live in Europe but are not considered European in the eyes of the law.

During this moment of reflection, I am speaking out for myself and all who share my story. Can we, who have invested our lives, talents, and dreams in this continent, be counted and heard? 

To conclude this manifesto

This narrative, while based on the personal experience of one individual, highlights a broader systemic issue facing the European Union. A collective effort is needed to address the challenges of acceptance, representation, and identity while respecting the rights and contributions of all residents who call it home, now and in the future.

With over two decades working in creative industries, Bluu is known for her work as a visual poet, artist-activist, curator, and content producer who has been delving into her art creations and installations since 2019. She is also an independent researcher and lecturer, focusing on subjects like arts, heritage, gender, ecology, and African descendants. Ami is on the transnational board of European Alternatives.

Ami Weickaane, known by her alias Bluuu, is a versatile creative professional with a rich and diverse background who defies classification. Born in Dakar in 1978, she has spent much of her life in Paris, where she earned degrees in Language and Foreign Civilization studies, as well as Corporate Communication and Strategic Marketing.