After the disaster of last year’s parade in Rotterdam, when a number of protesters were arrested during the festivities, this year, the Municipality asked SNIC to meet with members of Platform Rutu, the organisation representing Rotterdam’s Afro-communities.
In consultation with this platform, the committee decided that in three years’ time, at least 90% of Sinterklaas’s companions will be so-called ‘roetpieten’ (with soot on their faces). This year’s ratio of ‘roetpieten’ and ‘Zwarte Pieten’ will be 50-50.
“Of course, this decision met with a lot of criticism,” says SNIC member Laurence Bixner. “You can find a ton of angry responses to the press release on Facebook. But that was to be expected. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone all the time.” To ease the pain for die-hard fans of the traditional version, the number of ‘Zwarte Pieten’ will be reduced a bit further every year, leaving some 10 percent made up in black greasepaint in three years’ time.
The consultations with Platform Rutu were an eye-opener for the three students. They became aware of how painful the period around 5 December can be every year for many members of the Afro-communities. “It was the first time we actually heard these personal stories first-hand. A children’s feast shouldn’t make people feel subjected to racism,” says Bixner.
The RSC member expects that this year’s entry parade will be ‘just as nice’ as previous editions. “I don’t expect any demonstrations this time round, and I hope that this year we can once again enjoy a peaceful parade.”