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LUND SLAVE AUCTION FALLOUT

RACISM

Jesse Jackson: Swedes are better than this

Reverend Jesse Jackson called for global unity in a speech in Lund on Wednesday night, telling students “it is in your interest to fight for multiculturalism,” in a visit prompted by the slave auction controversy in April.

Jesse Jackson: Swedes are better than this

The veteran civil rights campaigner arrived to give his lecture at Lund University in true American political fashion. As he walked down the centre aisle of the large auditorium he grinned, shook hands and waved to the large crowd.

“When you step forward, the whole world stands with you,” Jackson said as he opened his speech.

“One light is enough to challenge darkness.”

Jackson’s interest in the small university city of Lund stems from the “slave auction” incident in April, which garnered international attention.

During a party thrown by two student-run organizations, three students in blackface and ropes were “auctioned off”.

When the incident reached the attention of Jallow Momodou at National Afro-Swedish Association (Afrosvenskarnas riksförbund), a police report was filed. A few days later, Momodou went to work to find a poster of him caricatured as a slave was hung throughout both Lund and nearby Malmö.

The incident prompted Jackson to write a letter to the Swedish government calling for a national response to the incident.

In his address to the Lund student body, Jackson pointed to the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements as evidence that change is in the air and stressed that multiculturalism and global unity are inseparable.

During his address, Jackson did not specifically mention the “slave auction” incident.

But he did answer questions about the event during a subsequent Q&A session and elaborated further on the incident at a later press conference.

Jackson explained part of his reason for writing a letter to the Swedish government was to show global unity with Momodou in Lund and felt the incident was a good example of when speaking out is a necessary course of action.

Describing the event itself as “a very distasteful, harmful and hurtful act”, he warned that “there are no slave trade jokes, there is too much hurt”.

According to Jackson, the lesson which can be learned from this incident is to take action. Swedes need to show the society does not accept and tolerate this type of behavior by speaking out.

“It goes against the reputation of Sweden. Swedish people are better than this.” Jackson said.

“People here do care, and caring matters.”

Jackson warned however that the incident indicated that “something beneath the surface is unsettled,”.

“This is symptomatic of a deeper malady,” he said.

During his three-day visit to Lund, Jackson is scheduled to participate in a series of educational workshops and speeches.

His talk on Wednesday night, at Studentafton, was his first formal introduction to the public and press.

Studentafton is a Lund tradition in which noted speakers from around the world address Swedish students. Previous speakers have included Nobel laureates, comedian Will Ferell and Swedish diplomat Hans Blix.

The speakers are, according to the Studentafton website, not compensated.

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RACISM

Black Lives Matter wins Swedish rights prize

The international civil rights movement Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation on Friday won Sweden's Olof Palme human rights prize for 2020.

Black Lives Matter wins Swedish rights prize
A Black Lives Matter protest in Malmö, June 2020. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The foundation was honoured for its work promoting “peaceful civil disobedience against police brutality and racial violence all over the world,” prize organisers said in a statement.

The Black Lives Matter movement, founded in 2013 in the United States, has “in a unique way exposed the hardship, pain, and wrath of the African-American minority at not being valued equal to people of a different colour,” the statement said.

The movement had its major international breakthrough in the summer of 2020 following several cases of extreme brutality in the US, including the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

READ MORE: INTERVIEW: Sweden's anti-racism protests aren't just about what's happening in other countries

Prize organisers noted that an estimated 20 million people have taken part in Black Lives Matter protests in the US alone, and millions more around the world.

“This illustrates that racism and racist violence is not just a problem in American society, but a global problem.”

The Olof Palme Prize is an annual prize worth $100,000 awarded by the Olof Palme Memorial Fund.

It commemorates the memory of Sweden's Social Democratic prime minister Olof Palme, an outspoken international human rights advocate — and vehement opponent of US involvement in the Vietnam War — who was assassinated in Stockholm in 1986.

Since 1987 the award has honoured human rights defenders around the world including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

An online prize ceremony will take place in Stockholm on Saturday.

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