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Safeguarding African heritage in the heart of Europe

Brussels, Aug 31 (EFE).- Just a few streets from the heart of Brussels and its European Union institutions lies Matonge, a vibrant neighbourhood characterised by its bustling Afro-Belgian  population.

Living side-by-side with Europe’s power brokers, this African diaspora, one of the largest in Europe, maintains and honors its heritage in everyday life.

Born and raised in Belgium to African parents, many of Matonge’s residents, especially the youth, face identity issues between their African origins and European upbringing.

“We have seen that if a person does not have a balanced identity, they can develop personality and integration problems. As an Afro-European they must be balanced and assume their Western European side as well as their past, customs and culture of their parents,” coordinator of Change ASBL association, Dido Lakama, told Efe.

Change ASBL is an association of young Afropeans seeking to promote and share the culture and history of Africa with Afro-descendants and the rest of the world.

According to Lakama, there are three types of Black Europeans of African ancestry. Those who renounce their African origins to integrate into European society, those who never find their place in Europe so suffer from discrimation and racism, or those who embrace their identity as Afro-Europeans.

“We try to teach them their history and their customs and also to rebalance their double culture because they are first of all Belgians,” Lakama said.

Endambela was born in Belgium, but identifies strongly with his African roots.

“I was born here but when I return to my country I feel at home. I was not born there but still I feel at home, whether with my family or with the citizens of the city I feel at home,” she told Efe.

Kadiatou is determined to make sure her daughter, who was born in Belgium, doesn’t forget her origins.

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