Amsterdam’s Black Archives Icons
Do you know the stories behind the defaced images?
The Black Archives sits between a busy Amsterdam street and a peaceful canal by a windmill, which feels appropriate to a city that combines modern-city hustle with pockets of stillness straight out of a 17th-century landscape painting. The mural on its wall filled me with joy whenever I saw it. Beautifully colored portraits guide you along the side of a red-brick building to a stenciled couple of Jazz-Age revolutionaries.
The recent vandalizing of the mural was devastating. I found it particularly painful because the people depicted in the mural give me hope. If we ever find our way towards a peaceful and just society, it will be through heroes like them.
The seven people on that wall are beacons lighting the way towards what we can become. As a history storyteller, I’m inspired by them because they worked in different ways to bring the dark parts of our past into the light. They spoke the history that is still shaping us despite being smothered in silence.
More people should know their stories, both in Amsterdam and around the world. They are icons, literally as well as figuratively. The word originally referred to images of ancestors whose good deeds could inspire and whose steadfastness could bring hope. That’s what this mural was.
You can find out more about what happened to the mural and contribute to the fund to refurbish it at The Black Archives’ article here (scroll down for the English version).
It’s difficult to find all of their stories in one place and in English, so I’m going to publish them every week for the next seven weeks. You can find them here on Medium, on your socials under #BlackArchivesIcons or by tuning into Broadcast Amsterdam Thursday mornings to the excellent Dam Daily program.
To help broadcast these stories, there’s something you can do in addition to reposting. The City of Amsterdam has announced that it will soon be open to ideas for new street names (under its Diverse Stad, Diverse Straatnamen initiative). We can suggest the people honored by The Black Archives: Anton de Kom, Cindy Kerseborn, Dr. Sophie Redmond, Hugo Kooks, Perez Jong Loy, Otto Huiswoud and Hermina Huiswoud. In the meantime, I noticed that the bridge leading to the street with Anton de Kom’s Amsterdam home is unnamed and the Committee for Naming Public Spaces accepts suggestions by email.