To the Mayor and Aldermen,
As Rotterdammers, we stand in solidarity with national and local organizations fighting for a radical overhaul of how the Netherlands educates, takes responsibility, and makes reparations for its colonial past and present.
With this letter we want to point out that Delfshaven400/Pilgrim Harbour festival is a pro-colonial celebration, subsidised by the gemeente Rotterdam and their partners. The wealth of the Netherlands is anchored in Dutch imperialism, the VOC and the WIC. The Netherlands still retains colonial power in Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba – as “constituent countries” within the Kingdom of the Netherlands or as “special municipalities”. How can we begin to decolonize Dutch institutions when the Dutch state is still a colonial power? There is no valid excuse for how far behind this country is in addressing its racism, acknowledging white supremacy and telling the complete story of colonisation.
Delfshaven is the target of gentrification and has historical ties with the VOC, the WIC and the so called Pilgrim Fathers. The ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ used Christianity as justification for stealing, colonizing and looting of Indigenous land and the destruction of Indigenous cultures. Instead of acknowledging these heinous crimes, a festival is arranged that romanticizes and glorifies colonialism.
Delfshaven400/Pilgrim Harbour and structural racism
Stichting Pilgrim Harbour is an organization that promotes Delfshaven as a leisure and tourism destination. It was established in 2017 and is working in partnership with Delfshaven400 for the festival and related activities. Delfshaven400 is a 2020 summer festival that marks the Christian, colonial occupation by the Pilgrim Fathers 400 years since their departure to the Americas. The festival has received € 350.000 in funding from Gemeente Rotterdam, Rotterdam Festivals, and Rotterdam Make It Happen.
Stichting Pilgrim Harbour and Delfshaven400 collaborated to bring De Halve Maen, a replica VOC ship of similar style to the boat used by the “Pilgrim Fathers”, to Delfshaven as a centerpiece of the festival. The original De Halve Maen was sailed by Henry Hudson in one of the key voyages that formed part of the creation of the settler colonial empire of the New Netherlands and New Amsterdam. The replica ship symbolizes, embodies and glorifies the Dutch and English colonialism, imperialism, and Christianity.
Both organization’s websites are full of intentional historical erasure and minimization of Dutch and European colonialism and imperialism. There is no mention of the genocides that took place as the Americas were colonized, nor is there any connection made to Dutch colonial history in the Americas and our current society. Colonialism is treated as a theme, despite it being the very core of the Pilgrim Fathers establishing a settlement in the Americas as colonial Christian terrorists.
According to Delfshaven400 the intention of the festival is to “celebrate and commemorate” the journey of the Pilgrim Fathers. This statement shows that the critical voices of the African, East-Indian and Indigenous diaspora have not been taken into account. For example, the hoisting of the Prinsenvlag on De Halve Maen – a case indicating the deeply rooted problem. The festival therefore abuses Rotterdam’s “diversity” as a theme. The comparisons that the festival organisers make with current flows of migration are inherently racist – and performatively inclusive. Contemporary migration is a result of colonial expansion; war, ecological devastation, economic and social degradation; all products of colonial expansion. How can an organisation that compares colonialzational genocide with the struggles of migrant workers and refugees be supported by the Rotterdam muncipality?.
We write in support of recent actions and demands by Gebiedscommissie Delfshaven, BIJ1, NIDA, Helden van Nooit, and Doorbraak who are pushing for immediate change in Rotterdam as a city and in the area of Delfshaven specifically.
• Prioritise the voices of Black, Indigenous and non-Black people of colour led organizations in policy against racism and discrimination.
• Support grassroots initiatives that serve as cultural centres and knowledge institutes – led by Black, Indigenous and non-Black people of colour focussed on the local, national and international history and consequences of slavery and colonialism.
• Decolonize street names, public art, cultural heritage information and institutions. This includes the continuous pressure to keep Rotterdam Zwarte Piet (and Black Face) free.
• Start a public consultation about the impacts of the HVV-system, which plays a central role in the gentrification in parts of the city.
• Create – in collaboration with the diasporic community – a public strategy for structural changes regarding cultural heritage in relation to tourism, the funds and the means.
• Shift the awarding of cultural, heritage, and tourism funds to projects that benefit local communities which centre decolonization using a model grounded in reparational justice and led by Black people, Indigenous People and People of Colour.
With this letter we call upon the Gemeente Rotterdam to take ACTIVE and URGENT steps to address these demands. As long as that is not being done, we have no other we see no other way than to continue to support groups that put pressure for structural changes in the city.
Citizens of Rotterdam
- Gebiedscommissie Delfshaven: “Advies”
- Rotterdam BIJ1: “Keti Koti Herdenking 2020”
- Doorbraak: Letter to Delfshaven400:“You can’t commemmorate the Pilgrims without reference to colonisation”
- NIDA persbericht “Van VOC naar dialoog”
This letter is signed by Helden van Nooit, Doorbraak, Verbalism, Cultural Workers Unite, niet normaal*, Rotterdam BIJ1, Resist Their Reignbow and by more than 100 individuals. If you support this action as well, please sign this form.
Onze artikelen over #mayflower400
1. Kritiek op het Pilgrim-herdenkingsjaar in Leiden (overzicht)
2. Enkele kritische vragen bij de Pilgrim-citymarketing in Leiden (Tweets)
3. #Mayflower400: Leiden kiest de kant van de kolonisator
Our articles on #mayflower400
1. Criticism on the Mayflower400 commemoration year in Leiden
2. #Mayflower400: Leiden chooses side of the coloniser
3. Leiden Pilgrim commemoration changes, but is still colonial
4. Letter to Delfshaven400: “You can’t commemmorate the Pilgrims without reference to colonisation”