Div’Apéro #5: A Bout in Aloft!
By Jamaar Powe-Fischetti
In addition to our re-occurring cast of Pascal (Director of the ENAR Foundation) and myself (ENAR Foundation Project Coordinator), we also counted on the support of Anne-Sophie (Administrative Assistant for ENAR) Natalie (our new intern), Claire Fernandez (ENAR Policy Officer), and Oceans Network alongside Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association—our two main collaborators for this Div’Apéro.
Div’Apéro #5 took place at WXYZ Bar, a chic, lounge-style bar located on the ground floor of Aloft Brussels Schuman, a trendy hotel. Most people arrived about 20 minutes after Registration opened (18:45), and many new people joined without registering beforehand. Even though things started late, Pascal was not only able to set things back on track during his welcome speech, but also got the Discussion rolling even earlier than scheduled, giving people even more time to talk and network!
Debate / Discussion
Changing things up, Claire gave Michaël (Director of ENAR) the night off and served as Facilitator for the Discussion with Yahia Zaïdi (Co-chair of Pan-African ILGA) as our guest speaker. Topic for the night: "LGBTQI and Anti-Racist Activists Joining Forces: Could Transversal Alliances Be the Key to Defeating the Extreme Right?" Claire asked a few questions on LGBTQI rights and other forms of discrimination.
When asked to elaborate on alliances between different groups, Zaïdi mentioned a recent conference in which all minority groups, including LGBTQI groups, got together with the aim of bringing people together—from migrant workers to religiously discriminated groups. The conference also connected different ethnic groups in the region. He stated that people are more likely to be discriminated against under Islamic religions. He also mentioned that when they opened registration for the conference that most applicants were from English-speaking African countries and not from Francophone, or other linguistic regions. They are still looking for ways to reach out to more people and empower them. In Zaïdi’s own words, "If people are left behind, it is our responsibility..."
Claire then asked about how hate speech should be dealt with.
Zaidi: Conditions are complicated in Africa and the Middle East, the latter being worse. There is a lack of freedom of expression. There is hate speech from the actual governments. There are laws that prevent sanctions against violation. The problem in the EU is that the government didn’t prevent such hate speech by politicians. We need regulations to stop such actions, and to promote freedom of expression.
The floor then opened for questions from the audience. One gentleman commented that every person is to some extent racist, and it is too difficult for any of us to be purely neutral to other people who are different from ourselves. He also stated that we should bring awareness to the public to let them know that it is wrong to discriminate against other people.
Happy (Half) Hour!
The debate ended just in time for attendees to partake in Aloft’s second segment of their split Happy Hour. The venue fills with the sound of glasses, a pool table, foosball, and networking—Div’Apéro at its peak.
Thanks to our collaborators, we boasted a total of 8 prizes: international adapters, "space-age" water bottles, and Friend of ENAR memberships. As last call for tickets ended, the commotion dies down as everyone pulls out their tickets in hopes of winning such wonderful prizes—myself included! As tradition would hold, Ivica, Claire’s husband, has added yet another prize to their collection. I repeat numbers as Pascal calls them out, still clinging on to the hope that I would get a water bottle. The last water bottle is on the table, and Pascal calls out, "345." Instead of repeating, I simply cry out "YES!!!" I have won a really cool water bottle. All is now right and good in the world—in my world of thirst, that is!
Although the agenda began earlier than scheduled, it is no surprise that people stayed on well after the Div’Apéro officially ended. With such an engaging debate, dynamic cast of collaborators, and a list of attendees that were just as diverse, it is a miracle that people left! We at the ENAR Foundation are grateful to all those who attended and played their part in making the evening a success, as well as our interns—the unsung heros. Half of the ladies below have finished their terms, but demonstrate their dedication to the cause by still supporting our events. By the time some of you read this report, the other half may have finished as well. Nonetheless, we thank and appreciate their spirit! We also thank you for joining our network, and hope that yours have expanded as well. Stay tuned, and mark you calendars for our next Div’Apéro on 20 June, 2014!!
all photos by Giancarlo Rocconi