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By forming a new association, a collective of Fuengirola residents is aiming to encourage greater understanding between the numerous nationalities and religions found on the Costa del Sol
24.01.12 - 21:48 -
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On a mission to promote greater social harmony
Committee. Nasser, Jones, Van der Veen, Ganet and Thompson. G.P
The Costa del Sol community is often described as a “melting pot of cultures” and many people would have perhaps used the expression to depict this week’s Black & White Association committee meeting, to which SUR in English was in invited.
In attendance were the Association’s president, Nigerian-born former missionary, Francis Jones; the vice-president, British businesswoman, Jennie Thompson; ex-professional footballer, Pablo Ganet, who is the Sports Director and originally from Ghana; the legal advisor, the Lebanese-Jordanian-born lawyer, Jouseph Nasser; and the Secretary-General, Wendy Van der Veen, a Fuengirola-based Dutch businesswoman.
“We’re certainly eclectic at the Black and White Association. But that’s the point. Our mission is to promote and motivate understanding and appreciation of different peoples through art, music, culture sport and supporting charities,” explains Jennie Thompson.
President
The not-for-profit, non-political and non-religious Black & White Association is the brainchild of its president, Francis Jones, who states that he had wanted to establish a project of this nature for more than 15 years. Francis says: “I had the fortune of meeting Wendy van der Veen, who has helped me collaborate with a very talented group of individuals, all with a different skill set and fantastic contacts, to push the project forward.
“I had been to many parts of Europe and, whilst I enjoyed my time, I felt that people would often overlook me or disregard what I had to say because of the colour of my skin. It wasn’t until people got to know me better that all that changed.”
Widespread problem
Xenophobic or racist attitudes are not exclusively a black/white issue, according to Pablo Ganet. The former Atlético de Madrid player says: “For instance, everyone has seen or heard of the racist chants directed at black footballers from white fans. And thankfully, the authorities are now taking this more and more seriously. But there is also, in society at large, ongoing racism between black people of differing skin tones, as there is between white people from different countries too. We need to educate both children and adults that we all deserve to be respected and that we’re all individuals with equal rights.”
Successful beginnings
The Black & White Association is yet to have its official launch, something that is slated for the beginning of March, but it has already been actively fulfilling its mission statement of supporting charitable causes. Wendy van der Veen tells SUR in English: “Last November we held an African gala event in Marbella’s Hotel Puente Romano to raise funds and awareness for the Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project (BBALP), an international organisation that promotes literacy in Africa by building libraries with the aim of sharing the gift of education.
“And since the gala, under the campaign ‘Old books create new libraries’, we have been collecting books in English, Spanish and French, as they’re the most used languages in Africa.”
The Association’s General-Secretary says it has not only been the public who have been supportive of the organisation. “Schools throughout the Costa del Sol have welcomed us in and this is a vital part of our work, as children, of course, are the future of our society.”
She adds: “Also the Fuengirola Town Hall has supported us 100 per cent and they’re set to back us in various initiatives throughout 2012,” confirms Wendy. Indeed, there is a full programme of activities scheduled including football tournaments, concerts, art exhibitions and charitable projects, details of which can be found on the group’s official Facebook page.
It is still early days for the Association, but there are already plans afoot to take it worldwide. “The issues that we want to address are global ones so we will expand into other areas and other countries. For this reason, with the help of Jouseph Nasser we’ve established a fully legal committee,” explains Francis.
In addition to being the Association’s consultant, Nasser says he is to provide free legal advice to locally-based immigrants. He tells this newspaper: “It is a project close to my heart because, as I found out, there is a lack of information and support and this can cause greater segregation in the community.”
As the world becomes an increasingly global village, the Black & White Association, it seems, is determined to make 2012 the year that the Costa del Sol ditches the ‘melting pot’ tag and adopts the ‘Salad Bowl Concept’, in which different cultures are fully integrated and equally valued, but remain distinct and individual.

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