On July 1st, we’re closing the Neighborhood Feminists office and pausing our social media to observe Keti Koti (or Dia di Abolishon), marking the abolition of slavery. It took until 1863 before the Netherlands officially ended slavery in Suriname and the former Antilles. The horror continued, however, as enslaved people were forced to work another 10 years, until 1873, making next year’s Keti Koti the 150th.
Despite the importance many people place on Keti Koti commemorations and celebrations of freedom, it’s still not officially a national Dutch holiday.
Last July, within a matter of days, over 60,000 Dutch citizens signed a petition launched by the radio station FunX, the Nederland Wordt Beter foundation, and The Black Archives. They delivered the petition to the Tweede Kamer; unfortunately, there wasn’t enough political support for the measure.
So the push continues. We join many in the call to make this a permanent, official day of remembrance. You may have already seen this call, as editorials are showing up across the media. Like organizations such as Pakhuis de Zwijger, Het ActieFonds, Lush and Tony Chocoloney, we’re taking initiative in already making it our holiday. You can, too. Spread the word in real life and online. Talk to your employer. They can sign up here.
The impact of the transatlantic slave trade is still very much felt in daily life today, in ways large and small, including highly damaging institutional racism such as the ethnic profiling of the still unresolved Dutch tax authority’s childcare benefits scandal. One important early step in addressing today’s inequalities is to more fully acknowledge the weight of our shared colonial past–in classrooms certainly but also on the day itself.
So what happens on July 1? All across Amsterdam and the country, there’ll be a number of Keti Koti rituals open to all. One example is heri heri, which is a traditional meal intended to be shared with others, in order to honor ancestors. You can find a heri heri distribution location near you here. There’s also a commemorative parade, the Bigi Spikri, which features folks in traditional costume. You’re welcome to watch, and if you’d like to join in, you can sign up for the (Amsterdam) Bigi Spikri here; it starts at the Stopera at 11 am and finishes at Oosterpark by noon. The formal remembrance ceremony will take place at 1 pm in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark, and will be nationally televised live by NOS, as well as NPO 2 and AT5. After the ceremony, the Keti Koti festivities kick off, with food stalls, informational stands, and music throughout the park.
Join us! Spread the word: #1JuliVrij