“Strolling” by Cecile Emeke is a series filmed in European countries such as France, Italy, the UK, and the Netherlands to the United States, and Jamaica. It is an intriguing web series that focuses on the unheard stories of the African diaspora.
Who is Cecile Emeke?
Cecile Emeke is a Jamaican-British filmmaker, writer, and artist from London. She is well known for the online documentary ‘strolling’ and the web series ‘Ackee and Saltfish’. Cecile has received attention from the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, BBC, and many other news outlets. She has also spoken and showcased her work at Oxbridge, LSE, Kings College, and many other academic institutions.
I would just like to take the opportunity to share some of my favorite episodes from Emeke’s ‘strolling’ documentary.
1. “FLANER” | EPISODE 2 | On construction of truth, emotional labor, French slavery, working in fast food & more.
In this episode of “strolling”, Fanta Sylla, discusses the construction of truth in France, French colonialism, islamophobia, etc. Fanta says that in France, a common practice is to deny the wrong things that France has done in history. For example, the deportation of Jews during World War II, and French colonialism. Fanta admits to knowing more about slavery in the U.S than French slavery. Children of immigrants in France want to know what happened during slavery and colonialism because that is their history. “If we don’t know what happened, then we don’t know why we’re here.” Fanta says. Since French people deny their history, it is easier to push the narrative of “Immigrants! They are here, they are like parasites and we don’t know why they’re here.” She adds. Fanta moves on to islamophobia in France and how policies have been created in France such as the ‘veil ban’ that mainly targets Muslims. Later, she talks about language. Language appears to be a barrier for her to talk about race because there aren’t the right words in the French language. Terms like ‘people of color’ simply don’t exist in French. She finds talking about racial issues in English much easier and even though she enjoys English literature about race, she wishes that there was French literature that existed. “Because the black French experience is different from the black American experience, it’s different from the black British experience, etc.” She says. All in all, the rest of the episode proves to be very intriguing and is probably one of my favorite episodes from Emeke’s strolling series.
2. “WANDELEN” | EPISODE 1 | On black dutch culture, dutch caribbean, citizenship, mental health & more.
“Wandelen”, which is the Dutch translation for “strolling” is the first episode of the series filmed in the Netherlands. Meet Ramona, a Dutch Caribbean woman living in Amsterdam. Ramona discusses Dutch tolerance (or intolerance). The Netherlands is known for being an egalitarian society which is welcoming of people of all cultures and backgrounds. Ramona proceeds to shut that down. “Yes, but we’re tolerant” is a common response from Dutch people when the topic of racism, sexism, ableism, etc. comes up and Ramona says that the phrase is a way to end conversations about these issues. Ramona examines what it means to be ‘tolerant’, what it means in a Dutch context, and why it is important for Dutch people and the Dutch government to hold on to this ‘tolerant’ narrative’. Ramona proceeds to talk about racism in the Netherlands and the framework of the Dutch media. They try to portray that the ‘real’ racism is in the US and there is no racism in the Netherlands. Lack of resources for learning about race in the context of x European country seems to be a common problem because Fanta Sylla mentioned having the same issues as Ramona in regards to Dutch history. The topic of citizenship is included in this episode. People are on the streets of Amsterdam without a place to stay and Ramona expresses her sentiments. In this episode, you can see Ramona’s passion shine through her words and hopefully you can come to know this passion about these issues if you take the time to listen to these wonderful human beings talk about their experiences.
3. “STROLLING ” | EPISODE 9 | On identity, black pseudo-science, uni, gentrification of black europe & more.
Cecile Emeke took a stroll with Johny Pitts in Rotherhithe, London. Johny, is a mixed-race man with an African-American father and a British mother. He talks about his black identity and how people are unaware of more complex identities. “My black identity is something that I feel like I’m constantly, sort of, in the process of inventing.” He says. The concept of the ‘Afropean’ is discussed in this episode where black people in Europe feel European, but also something else. There is a quote by Hanif Kureishi in the book called “The Budda of Suburbia” and it says “I was born and raised an Englishman, almost.” The ‘almost’ is the part of Johny’s identity that he is trying to explore. Johny describes himself as a ‘black northerner’, as he is from Sheffield. He talks about how black culture gets homogenized. “It’s almost like to be black in this country is to be from London.” Johny says. There are definitely more complex identities out there. Pitts talks about crime and terrorism and on how ‘blackness’ or race in general is mentioned when talking about issues like this. ‘White on white’ crime is unheard of but ‘black on black crime’ is what is broadcasted in the news. “I feel like whiteness is invisible and in a way, that makes it really powerful.” Is Johny’s final comment on the matter. Johny Pitts provides more insightful messages throughout the rest of the episode. I think it is worth checking out if you too are a person who is unsure of their identity (maybe on a philosophical, or maybe even on a racial/ethnic level).
I hope that you have found some of the profiles presented somewhat intriguing, and you will consider supporting Cecile Emeke by watching her documentary series, and possibly other projects that she releases. Personally, I think that watching this series will give you a more global perspective and will help you become a more empathetic and knowledgeable individual since this series focuses on so many different experiences and perspectives. Each person has a unique message and I think Emeke does a good job showing that in this series.