Black Lives Matter Gathering in Bratislava

Kunta J performing during Black Lives Matter protest

We’re together. Why? Because Black Lives matter!

On Saturday, 13.6.2020, a historical thing happened in Bratislava, Slovakia. Thanks to enthusiasm and effort of a few volunteers, a protest was organised on the Hviezdoslav square. Now, maybe the word „protest“ does not actually define it properly.

A crowd of cca. 500 people gathered on the Square of Slovak National Uprising (almost symbolic). The atmosphere was charged with expectations and will to speak up for the right cause. We felt like we need to show solidarity with the African-American minority and the issues they go through in their daily life – from discrimination, through ignorance, to police brutality at its rawest. Hundreds of thousands of people protested against the treatment of George Floyd, who died while being arrested for a crime we are yet to get to know. That was the last drop. The jar was full.

The unrests spread through the whole United States of America, but it did not stop there. People all over the world felt the urge to step up and demonstrate that they see it, that they feel it and that they do not like it. London, Sydney, Berlin. And Bratislava. You could see many young people in the crowd. There were members of the Slovak African Community, who permanently live here. There were Slovaks with African origin. There were African university students. And there was the future generation – not black, not white, but standing up against injustice. I was shocked when I realised how many people came to support the cause. And at one moment, all of them were marching down the street behind Martin Mayanja, a Ugandan married to a Slovak woman and soon to be Slovak too, who could not help but voice his plea through the megaphone. Originally he had chosen not to speak publicly, but the atmosphere was so vibrant, that he did not resist. With assistance of police, the crowd moved to the Hviezdoslav square and stopped in front of a stage. The protest against violence turned into a cheerful event with a unique vibe, nonetheless the message was clearly heard. „Black lives matter“ and „Silence kills“ echoed many times. Young artists took the stage by storm, such as Hoda Jahanpour, Irani chelist born in Slovakia, Milan Andre, Slovak-African-American singer and Kunta J, Gabonese-Slovak rapper with his crew.

Organizers talked about daily struggles of the minorities, about the latest victims of police brutality in the USA and about the importance of people´s voice. At one point, a Hungarian spectator got unexpectedly to the stage and shared his message with the audience – only the Hungarian speaking part understood, however the message was clear. „Black Lives Matter!“ And goosebumps were inevitable. After Ibi Maiga, the first publicly known black artist in Slovakia, shared his view with the crowd, two hours full of energy, good vibes and fellowship were almost over. Organizers called for a minute of silence and the crowd observed. It was not spoiled by the few far-right members standing in the distance who had nothing creative to say. It was not spoiled by the disinterest of the young generation who will shape this country in the years to come. It was not spoiled by the weather.

On the contrary – the picture of two small white Slovak girls, who probably just started elementary and who held their banners proudly up high, will not easily fade away from my head and that, just like all the other gestures of solidarity, just like the peace, fun and resolution that such a gathering brought, gives me hope that my own children will not have to feel like outsiders in their own country just because of their skin color.

Compiled by Martina Prelovska – Member of African-Slovak Union