The photo above I took Saturday June 1st at the Sofielund Festival in a part of the Southern Inner City called Sofielund/Sophie’s Grove, more precisely in southern Sofielund at a small square named Seveds Plan/Seved’s Plaza. Between 1999 and 2008 I was working as a teacher in Sofielund and was very dedicated. During those years I experienced many things both good and bad. Because of my dedication, and the fact that I encouraged, helped and supported many youngsters and their families I still to some extent have a good relation to some of those now young adults in the area whom I used to teach a few years ago. Of course not to all, but to quite a number of them.
In May I got an invitation from a couple of my former pupils via Facebook to the Sofielund Festival/Sofielundsfestivalen 2013 in Seved, southern Sofielund. Seved is an area that often has been mentioned in the media because of problems in the suburb: the selling of drugs, crime, kids who behave like small-time gangsters and tiny maffiosos, social problems, attitude problems among some of them, vandalization, extreme poverty, some neglected houses by landlords and rather high unemployment. It’s described as one of the poorest areas in the country. This area in southern Sofielund, and especially around Seveds Plan/Seved’s Plaza is mostly inhabited by people from Iraq, by Somalians, Hispanics, Romany families and some Swedish families mainly with working class background. The problems that exist here are part of the truth, but there is also another much finer, warmer and more dignified side to the truth that seldom make headlines in newspapers, on TV News, on American Fox News, or on racist web sites like Avpixlat and National.nu. It’s that warmer and finer side of reality that I intend to describe in this text.
I know that many people on and around Seved also are fed up with being described like problems, but instead do what they can to work for a positive self-esteem, encouraging each other to do good things, work for the community, being proud of who they are. From my experience I’ve learned that if someone always and often enough is described as a problem already as a kid, as a criminal or suspected criminal, if someone is described as hopeless, as a looser or scum-bag, then that person will have a higher risk of actually being drawn into a life of crime or other bad things. This is not the only reason. Another reason is social injustice, poverty, and demands from the surrounding society, media, commercials, celebrity sites etc, of what is seen as high status or not. Many want to reach that, but forget the human dignity and care on the way because of all the shallowness. We humans are mainly pack creatures, we hunt in packs and we are social beings. We all want acceptance from the group that we identify us with. How do we get that? And more importantly in this case…How do we get it in a sound way? How do we encourage and support positive role models in an area such as Sofielund and Seved? How do we encourage a balance between individual progress, ambition and wish for success with a care for each other and the inner development for human dignity? How do make the general view among “ordinary Swedes” less judgemental and prejudiced? How do we encourage the landlords to take care of their buildings? How do we encourage the grown-ups to foster their kids not to commit crimes in an area like Seved? How do we create a deeper trust between the good forces at Seved and the Malmoe Police for example? How do we solve the social problems, the attitude problems and create foundations for a calmer, nicer and more secure Malmoe? A situation where we might feel an even greater pride for the city, for Sweden as a country, Scania as a region, but also for our individual pride and group pride?
When I came to Seveds Plan around noon on June 1st the festival had just started. Tables were placed in the middle of the plaza, a stage, a police van was parked nearby when I came surveiling the event, but that van soon disappeared. Malmoe Against Discrimination had an information table there, different ethnic food tables, mainly Somalian and Arabic ones, but also “ordinary” Swedes selling hot dogs, mustard and ketchup. I walked into the house where the Somalian culture club Hidde iyo Dhaqan has its premises and talked to the people there. Lasse Flygare who’s working at Hidde iyo Dhaqan gave me a small sign with the text Sofielundsfestivalen VÄN/The Sofielund Festival FRIEND.
Outside I was talking to my former pupils Absame and Ahmed who I’m glad and proud to say have developed into two fine young men. They are now as young men youth leaders and have started an association called Seveds Förening/Seved’s Association. They are working for lifting the area and pinpoint the positive forces instead of the negative ones: A will for positive change, for self-pride, a sound life style, against crime, encourage entrepreneurship, dialogue etc. I also got a t-shirt with the text “We stand up for multicultuarism – Together we make a difference. Seved’s Association”.
On stage different artists appeared and Gonza from Advance Patrol was presenting them. Some of the artists were local talents like the young men and the young woman who were dancing hip hop and street dance with such acrobatic skills that it was amazing. Really high class talents. There was African music, drums played, dancing groups, children appearing on stage and a choire singing.
The fire-brigade appeared and fire-men stood there in the sun-shine talking relaxed with the gathered people while small kids curiously wanted to see the fire-brigades vehicle. The sun was shining most of the time and the atmosphere was as welcoming as the sun. Down-to-earth, relaxed, warm, accepting, loving and casual, but also high quality entertainment and really good food. Ahmed and Absame took me to the grass behind the houses behind Seveds Plan where the kids had a little football tournament. Even if some houses are neglected and in bad shape which often is mentioned in media since it suits the media picture, not all houses are bad but actually nice ones. It was enjoyable seing the kids playing and the young adults lead them. After a while dark clouds appeared on the sky and when I was back on the plaza near the stage talking with Mattias Gardell, Professor of Comparative Religion at Uppsala University, the first rain drops appeared. Even if the rain came that afternoon the sun was still shining on the event as such and the wonderful strength of the local people. Seveds Förening and Hidde iyo Dhaqan are two local forces that, given the respect and possibilities, might help turning the negative trend at least to some extent. I hope so anyway.
Anders Moberg, June 19th 2013