Updated: Jul 27, 2021
A Valentine evening with 'refugees’
Whilst most people celebrated a romantic Valentines Day with their partners, around a hundred people gathered at the event ‘Refugee Valentine’ on the evening of February 14th in Brighton. The event was organised by Sussex Refugee and Migrant Self Support Group, a group led by migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, to celebrate love and embrace diversity.
Walking into an independent, artist-led bar called Rose Hall, I could sense its rich cultural dynamics and warm hospitality. A rainbow-background stage with a big sign ‘Love Refugees’, colorful balloons brightening up space, and several paintings done by a local migrant artist, displayed along the wall. Large bowls of home-cooked vegan soup and curry were served and shared among everyone in the spirit of the community. People are from various backgrounds and skin colors, with a wide range of ages and sexualities, together celebrating their differences.
A Queer Anarchist Feminist Band powered the Refugee Valentine’s night with punk attitude and fierce vocals combining with stunning lead hurdy-gurdy and industrial-rave beats. One of the highlights of the night was the auction to support a migrant artist, Momodou Saine, to go through a high-cost immigration battle. A British lady bid £110 to buy his works: The Village and the Baobab Groove. The works raised almost £400 in total and Momodou’ satisfied with a grateful smile.
(Momodoy Saine is standing on the right.)
West African Fusion band, Bakk Lamp Fall, a local international band sparked vibes in the air and brought the night to its peak, singing harmony and resilience with participants dancing without division. Such a beautiful scene provoked the thoughts about the very soul of humanity: we are different, so we are together.
‘Who are refugees? How many refugees are here today?’ I asked myself at the end of the event. And I suddenly realised: ‘does it matter? ‘There were some refugees and migrants, but also some homeless and disabled, some homosexual and heterosexual, some elderly and some youths, does this difference matter?
The categorization of migrants and refugees has separated communities into ‘us’ and ‘them’ and has marginalized the ‘unwanted’. On the night of ‘Refugee Valentine’, we blurred the lines between a foreigner and a local. Instead, we let music, art and love bring us ways to cross borders among people and to enhance inclusion within the society.
Love is political; love is powerful. It can strengthen our agencies and break down segregation as well as bring us beyond hostile political systems to begin rebuilding a community that embraces difference.