Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Afro-Vikings? The Black-Danish Experience Invades My World



I can honestly say, before I met author, Heidi Durrow, in 2007, I'd never, ever truly contemplated the pairing of Blacks and Danes. Never. Durrow, the child of a Danish mother and an African-American father, obviously has and pointed out to me that the famed author, Nella Larsen, was also a Mixie with Black Danish ancestry. I thanked Heidi for the information but still considered the cultural mix of Danish and Black to be a coincidence and nothing else. I mean really, I reasoned, how many Afro-Vikings could there really be?

Fast forward to last week, when Heidi posted on her blog about a rather famous Afro-Viking named Casper Holstein. A patron of the arts during the Harlem Renaissance, a bit of a gambler, and a philanthropist, Holstein made Durrow's list of prominent Mixies for Mixed Experience History Month.

I tweeted about Holstein and posted on facebook that Afro-Vikings were truly a new mix for me to contemplate, and then guess what happens to me on Monday morning? Yes, just two days ago. I receive an email from a journalist in Denmark who has a Black African mother and a Danish father and wanted to write a story explaining the politics of Black hair to her mostly White countrymen. You could have slapped me silly with a feather. I mean, really. I feel the universe is trying to tell me something about opening my eyes to the Black Danish experience. By the way, I had a great conversation with the Danish journalist and she shared a lot about how she grew up feeling like she had to hide her curly hair in Denmark.

So, as the ever curious Meltingpot journalist, I am now trying to find out just where and when Blacks and Danes collide. Throughout history and today. For example, here's a link to an article on Denmark's slaving history. And here's a link to a recent story about St. Croix's ( a former Danish colony) African roots and influences.

So what about you Meltingpot readers. What or whom do you think about when you hear Afro-Vikings or the Black/Danish experience? I'm so listening.

Peace.

9 comments:

Heidi Durrow said...

Yay Lori! Thanks for hipping more folks to the Afro-Viking experience. The connections are deep and varied from the Danish West Indies and to the black jazz musicians who moved to Denmark to escape America's racial intolerance creating a whole new wave of amazing Danish jazz music.

LT said...

Heidi,
Thanks for chiming in. BTW, I gave the journalist your info so she might be a callin.'

Ernessa T. Carter said...
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Ernessa T. Carter said...

This is so strange, b/c I began reading Heidi's novel last year and then lost it in a freak Kindle accident. Now, I've picked up the audiobook and am really enjoying it. I especially love that the mom is Danish, and I can't wait to have all these mysteries solved. I'm sad every time I have to turn it off and do my own writing. If only I could find a way to get paid to read all day. Now that would be nice...

Anonymous said...

When I first read this post, I did not think I knew any “Afro-Vikings” because, I thought, in order to be considered a Viking, one would have to have lived in 10th century. Besides H├Ągar the Horrible, I did not think I knew a Viking let alone an "Afro-Viking".

Upon examination of my own family, I realized half of my maternal family has settled in Scandinavia more than two decades ago; all my cousins (twelve and counting) who were born and raised there could be described as “Afro-Vikings”. It would be interesting to see if any would marry a “real” Scandinavian since their parents (my uncles and aunts) opted for arranged marriages despite immigrating there in their twenties.

I understand this corner of the blogosphere is dedicated to melting pot stories and I love it for that… However, I find stories of people who are transplanted from their place of origin and who somehow try to reclaim their culture, their roots and their history equally fascinating. Another example of an “Afro-Viking” who has beautifully demonstrated just that is Chef Marcus Samuelsson who was raised by a Swedish family and then reclaimed his roots and even married a compatriot. Of course, part of the credit goes to his adopted Swedish family… who, as Oprah would say, “liberated” him to be whatever he wants to be…

P.S.: Part of your affinity to the Danes may be due to your genes. If my memory serves me well (I read Kinky Gazpacho last December), don’t you have a paternal ancestor who is Danish?

-Mi

soy yo said...
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Che Coker said...

My biological father was of Danish descent and my biological mother was of African descent. This is America after all; and they say opposites attract! I was born in Los Angeles in 1969. Crazy story; not enough time to elaborate; but I think more of us should tell our stories! Much love, Che

Sandra said...

My mother is Danish and my father is African American. When I'm asked my ethinicity and I tell people my mother is Danish...they are clueless..much less not aware Denmark is a country. It's a very rare mixture indeed.

Angie said...

I take pride in knowing that my ancestory involves what my grandmother calls the "touch." Appareantly my family line is from Denmark with African ancestory mixed in. I don't personally know anyone else besides my immediate family that can say this! I love this rare fact about myself. :)