THANK YOU FOR TAKING US OVER THAT LINE
“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’ That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. These words of Harriet which I had read sometime back was given a new thinking and perspective when recited by Viola Davies in her acceptance speech for winning the “Emmy Award” for outstanding actress in a drama series. She actually made history on the night becoming the first woman of color to ever win in the category. She went ahead to say something which I would like to paraphrase- “The only thing that separates people of color from anyone else is opportunity”. The statement might not be so right in its entirety but it has some truths.
In all of my four years stay in Joensuu, I never felt this down and dejected to be a colored person. I remember during my earlier days hearing numerous stories about Joensuu not being a very welcoming place for especially colored some years ago. But over the years, I have made a wonderful life here, Joensuu feels like home. I enjoyed an amazing time at Karelia AMK, and my first employer in Finland – Iivari Mononen Group is a dream work place everyone could crave for. Now studying at University of Eastern Finland and hope the wonderful experience continues. Over the past few weeks however, news and reports about acts fellow colored people have been very hurtful. And the current migrant crisis has made things even murkier.
I will not go into the details of those incidents, rather what is worthy of mention is the gloominess and disappointment on the faces of friends who get to hear about these acts. One Ghanaian proverb says that “if someone helps grow your teeth, it is expected that you help them remove theirs”- simply meaning one good turn deserves another. I agree very much when Viola mentions opportunity as distinguishing factor. Most of my colored friends all over Finland, who are students, are forever grateful for the opportunity to acquire good education for free. In my own case, these opportunity would have been a reserve for kids of affluent families. But here I am, granted equal opportunity and right on a foreign land, something which I would have never attained in my own land. So the big question remains, why someone would go to the extent of committing such grave offence in a society that has granted opportunities?
Two years ago, I was in Israel with Tikva, a Finnish youth choir I used to be part of. My wish is that every Finn could visit that part of Israel to experience the pride and respect granted Finns because of the single act of a Finnish man. History has is that, this Finnish man in atonement for the acts of Finland against Nazi’s during the world war decided to do something. He was given a site, where it has now developed to become a home to Messianic Jews in Israel. Yad-Hashmona has so much respect and honor for Finns. Come to think of it that each time the story of the growth of Messianic Jews is mentioned, credence is given to the impacts of a Finnish man as a result of actions made many years ago.
At this time that the Finnish economy seem not to be doing so well, the influx of more refugees and it’s attending short term financial impacts can be expected. My greatest respect and salute to Prime Minister Sipilä for offering his home to help support. The world is now a current state of mess all over which has given rise to conflicts and wars. Governments and leaders have failed to make lives better for their own citizens and what they might need is the Finnish experience. Hopefully if people who come here, would learn the Finnish way of doing things report back to our home countries, things might probably change. President Sauli Niinisto once said “societal integrity and moving ahead together were always our greatest strength after the wars”. If societies can be honest and develop together, rather than widening the gap between the rich and poor as mentioned by President Sauli Niinisto, then societies all over the world can experience some peace. These are strong values that makes the Finnish society very different and I pray these values do not disappear with time.
Last month I was in Tornio and had a very pleasant experience. I had visited a karaoke place, and the nice ambience urged me on to try one of my all-time favorite Finnish songs- Oikeesti by Finlanders. As I began to sing, some took to the dancing floor, my eyes were on a couple who were so in love dancing as I sang on. I understand the song has so many admirers and so the laud applause after my rendition was kind of a reflex action. Two guys, walked up to me, one asked if he could give me a hug, I did and he whispered thank you into my ears. The second guy gave a high five and said ”Suomi rakastan sinua”. My eyes were filled with tears, as I pondered over what reaction I might get prior singing, especially with Tornio been the main place where refugees entered Finland. I could have easily been classified as one. But no, it was rather a great response.
Each time that experience crosses my mind, I become more satisfied of the opportunity that this country has given to people like me. All I want to say is thank you for helping us cross that line. I know there are much more colored people living not only here in Joensuu but all over Finland that are willing to give back to the society for helping us cross the line. In as much as we are downhearted by the unfortunate acts of fellow colored people, we do not lose sight of the good things this society offers. We are willing to give back to society and hope that these acts do not become hindrances. God bless Finland.
By Isaac Adaam
This story has been published in Karjalainen newspaper and produced by JoMoni