Illustration by Robin Carnilius/The TRiiBE

The People is our section for all opinions concerning Black Chicago. Classical singer and musicologist Kameron Locke talks about the anxiety, anger and sadness he feels while watching the uprisings against police brutality from abroad.

My country is imploding. Police brutality and killings, along with racial discrimination and violence against Black people continues — all in the name of white supremacy and capitalism. An American dictator continues to rise. The world is watching — and I am thousands of miles away, watching on my phone.

I was born and raised in the South Side of Chicago, where I lived my childhood and teenage years in Beverly, a predominantly Irish-American community. If you know Chicago, you know that it’s one of the best cities in the world, and in this metropolis you can find your community, your support network and feel a definite sense of belonging. 

Chicago is also home to social disparities that disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities. Living in Beverly made me very aware that my Blackness caused white people discomfort and fear. Seared in my memory was a sidewalk carving on the cross streets of Prospect and Beverly Glen Parkway that read “Keep this neighborhood white.” 

This city is where I gained first-hand experience of what it meant to be Black in America, and it’s also where I’ve made most of my lifelong bonds. 

I moved to the UK in 2018 to attend Goldsmiths University, where I recently received my Masters in Musicology. While in Europe, I’ve traveled and sang in spaces I never saw myself in, including singing in the London Symphony Chorus. In mid-March 2020, I moved to Germany. I moved just as COVID-19 began dismantling our capitalist ways of commodity, travel and excess. During the past few months, I’ve had to adjust to this cultural shift, reimagine prospective career options, mourn that my chosen path in music will be much different going forward and acclimatize to my new reality — all while being cautious of this mysterious virus. 

Over the past two weeks, I’ve experienced the same trauma and violence that I and my community have faced for centuries. However, this time I am dealt these painful blows from far away.  Processing this hurt far-removed from Chicago is more difficult than expected. Daily, I’m overflowing with anxiety, anger, and sadness for what is and has been happening and guilt for my physical absence from this. 

I now live in Berlin with my partner, a white German man far detached from my life experience as a Black American. He’s empathetic and supportive, but he’s completely unfamiliar with my reality. My lived experience of navigating my Blackness in America feels wholly singular three months into living here. I haven’t found my community yet – but I’m desperately yearning for one. Witnessing this revolutionary togetherness as an Ausländer (foreigner) in Germany is almost as difficult to watch as the trauma.

Photo by Kameron Locke: "I recently came across this discarded sign, placed near the sidewalk for pedestrians to read."

As a Black Chicagoan living in Europe right now, I’ve heard opinions from white Europeans that “this only happens in America,” as well as acknowledgements from my friend Zoe — who lives in Greece, where they have a racist and conservative government — that similar issues exist here. Friends throughout Europe, white and BIPOC, and even in India, have contacted me to show solidarity, inform me of Black Lives Matter protests in their own cities and to understand my pain. Only a handful of friends in America – Ashley, Edna, and Tiffany – have been in frequent contact, showing solidarity, listening and exchanging. 

I’ve heard from my mother and my sisters, but that’s about it from my American connections. I’m not going to lie —  I was hurt by this, but I understand it. My family and many of my friends in America are going through it. They’re protesting, they’re feeling and connecting with those around them, they’re overwhelmed by this constant terror, they’re taking it day by day, and they’re just trying to live. And I am, too.

While I have few white American friends, about half of them have been uncomfortably silent or shown minimal engagement with confronting their and their families’ internalized racism. White supremacy is a societal disease that we all have been poisoned by. But my white friends are seemingly ready to move on with life – something that Black people have never had the luxury to do. 

While walking around Berlin, I’ve seen the occasional sign or graffiti sketched onto a building that reads “I Can’t Breathe” (the last words of Eric Garner, and most recently, George Floyd). These words have become a rallying cry in America to protest the race-based violence against my community. A few days ago I came upon something that deeply affected me. My eyes welled with tears as I stared in disbelief at a large mural painted on the side of a building. This mural firmly announces, in bold, block, white letters against a solid black background, that “Black Lives Matter.”

From my vantage point, I see how hugely impactful these protests have been for Europe, and why they must continue. I’m understanding more and more how racism manifests beyond America. Protests and marches decrying racial and institutionalized violence and oppression against Black lives have spurred as a result of the movement in America.

Photo by Kameron Locke: "Mural at Oranienstrasse, near Moritzplatz."

Deutsche Welle, a news and media broadcaster, has begun a segment where viewers hear from Black Germans about their experiences with racism and discrimination in Germany. Race-related conversations are happening in Europe due to America’s revolutionary protests. However, these conversations are truly not at the degree to which they need to be. 

Police brutality and deaths in custody occur throughout the UK, with statistics showing that Black lives are taken at a higher rate than other races. According to The Guardian, Black people only make up 3% of the British population but 8% of deaths in police custody. Berlin has, as of last week, passed an anti-discrimination law to protect against discrimination by state authorities (police, governmental, social assistance, etc.). Even still, Germany’s Anti-Discrimination Agency acknowledged on June 9 that “Germany is not doing enough against racism,” as reports show that racial discrimination has increased over the past year. 

It’s clear that Blackness, in all its vastness, is criminalized beyond the borders of America that is institutionalized at a level that has been widely ignored. These past two weeks have been so significant for the world to understand how white supremacy has affected so many Black and Brown communities outside of America. Because of these reasons, and many more, “Black Lives Matter” should not be centered solely on Black American lives, as these issues reach in every direction. 

So, from all of this you can certainly understand my anxiety, anger and sadness. In America and throughout the world, Black people have been and are being traumatized, persecuted, and killed. Except now our circumstances have visibility and we have visible allies. Despite the racism and inequalities that exist in my current home country, I still feel guilty and disconnected. 

As I look on from my iPhone 7 and see my beloved Chicago come together in solidarity and fight for a better life for Black communities – free of racism, inequality, injustice, and violence, and full of liberation, freedom, opportunities, and equality – I can’t help but feel disconnected from this spirit of unity. 

For Black Americans, it’s a struggle to see our country shift from our screens. We want to help. We want to protest. We want to rally and empower. We want to be involved. We want to feel with and within our community. We want to be there. But, we literally cannot. 

COVID-19 has made this so. Travel is impossible. So, how do I and other Black Americans living abroad process this from so far? How can I process this? I recently found a Black Lives Matter chapter in Berlin. I’m now assisting with their initiatives, although meeting in person is challenging for obvious reasons. 

While these two weeks have been difficult and lonely, I now understand that I’m not alone. Belonging to a community is possible because we are diasporic. I’m longing to do more – to shout, scream, cry and laugh, and feel with my community – and I will with my brothers and sisters here, and in spirit and virtually in America.

In power and unity,


BIO: Kameron Locke is a European-based Chicagoan, classical music singer, and musicologist committed to decolonizing and reimagining performance and creative spaces that have been considered “white-only” zones. He approaches this with a combination of his lived experience, expertise, advocacy, and a need to create change.

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