Afropean Book Summary - Afropean Book explained in key points
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Afropean summary

Johny Pitts

Notes From Black Europe

4.5 (35 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

'Afropean' by Johny Pitts is a non-fiction book that documents the experiences of black Europeans and explores the intersection of their culture with wider European society. Through personal accounts and historical analysis, it sheds light on a complex and often overlooked aspect of European identity and history.

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    In Sheffield, Johny witnessed his multicultural neighborhood crumble under socioeconomic pressures.

    As a kid, author Johny Pitts didn’t think too much about what it meant to be Black in Europe. 

    His dad was a Black American singer from Brooklyn, and his mom came from a white, working-class British family with Irish roots. The two had met in the 1960s, when Johny’s father was touring Britain with his bootleg band, The Fantastic Temptations. They eventually settled down in Sheffield, where Johny was born. 

    But in Firth Park, the area where Johny grew up, his mixed heritage wasn’t all that unusual.

    The key message here is: In Sheffield, Johny witnessed his multicultural neighborhood crumble under socioeconomic pressures.

    Firth Park is a working-class district in Sheffield. It started as a housing project for immigrant workers from British colonies in the late nineteenth century. Today, it’s made up of a mix of those workers’ descendants; white working-class families; second-generation immigrants from Yemen, India, and Jamaica; and, more recently, refugees from Syria, Somalia, and Kosovo. 

    Johny remembers Firth Park as a rough but vibrant, dynamic, and racially tolerant neighborhood. From the window of his childhood bedroom, he observed many of the multicultural dramas and comedies that played out on the streets below – from Yemeni weddings and reggae parties to gang shootings and drug deals.

    It was this atmosphere that, from the 1970s to the 1990s, made Firth Park a hot spot for one of the most important Black cultural movements: hip-hop. His white friend Leon and his Yemeni friend Mohammed introduced Johny to the Black underground hip-hop culture of Sheffield, which included illegal block parties and the pirate radio station SCR. 

    But by the mid-1990s, when Johny was a teen, the vibrant social and cultural life in Firth Park had begun to crumble. Globalization and free trade had eroded many of the local industries that the working-class and immigrant communities relied on. Under this increasing socioeconomic pressure, an air of depression and desperation began to creep into life at Firth Park. Many of the friends Johny grew up with found themselves trapped in debilitating poverty and turned to alcohol, drugs, and crime. 

    Sheffield had once provided Johny with a proud, multicultural working-class identity. This changed after his studies in London. He increasingly felt that he had neither a place in the Black and Brown communities he’d grown up in, nor in the majority-white country that rejected them. 

    He began to wonder what it meant to be Black and European – and especially what it meant to be both at the same time. He decided that the only way to answer these questions was to go backpacking across the continent and find out for himself. 

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    What is Afropean about?

    Afropean (2020) is a travelogue tracing the hidden history and culture of Black people in Europe. Exploring cities such as Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, author Johny Pitts reveals the diversity of African-descendent communities in Europe – and shows how they are forging new identities for themselves beyond the continent’s colonialist legacy.

    Afropean Review

    Afropean (2019) by Johny Pitts is an eye-opening exploration of the experiences and identities of people of African descent in Europe. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a fresh perspective on the African diaspora, delving into the complexities of Afro-European culture and identity.
    • Through powerful storytelling and personal narratives, it sheds light on the challenges faced by Afropeans, while also celebrating their diversity and resilience.
    • Goes beyond stereotypes to present a nuanced and thought-provoking portrait of a continent grappling with issues of race, belonging, and cultural hybridity.

    Best quote from Afropean

    I felt I wasnt black enough for my old black friends, not white enough for my old white friends.

    —Johny Pitts
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    Who should read Afropean?

    • Young Europeans navigating questions of nationality, identity, and community
    • Backpackers, wanderers, and other travel addicts
    • People interested in Europe’s hidden Black history and culture

    About the Author

    Johny Pitts is a British writer, photographer, and journalist. His online journal, Afropean, which highlights art, literature, and events from the Afro-European diaspora, has become a network for Black Europeans across the continent. Before the eponymous book, he collaborated with author Caryl Phillips on a photo essay about London's immigrant communities for the BBC.

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    Afropean FAQs 

    What is the main message of Afropean?

    The main message of Afropean is a personal exploration of the Afro-European identity and the complexity of black culture in Europe.

    How long does it take to read Afropean?

    The reading time for Afropean varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Afropean a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Afropean is a captivating read that offers a unique perspective on the Afro-European experience, making it a valuable and worthwhile book.

    Who is the author of Afropean?

    The author of Afropean is Johny Pitts.

    What to read after Afropean?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Afropean, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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