Alternatives have been introduced over the years as a suggestion to disrupt or remove the identity of Black Pete. Anti-racist imagery and narratives are increasingly being developed by authors, artists, scholars and educators. Take for example children’s book author Sjoerd Kuyper who configurated Sinterklaas as a Turkish man with helpers who were not in blackface [ii]. Or actor Patrick Mathurin who performs as The New Sinterklaas, assisted by many little Sint’s instead of Pete’s [iii]. In my college days I celebrated Emancipete: an anti-capitalist celebration where we claimed freedom of Pete as a servant and exchanged gifts from black-owned businesses. But a most notable imagination of Sinterklaas I found on Statia as part of the annual Xmas-celebration: there were no Pete’s, but yet a lone Sinterklaas among a Santa and Mrs Claus, a bunch of Disney characters and teenagers dressed up as wax crayons. Everyone danced Zumba together .
Fundamentally, all the above remakings are similar in the sense that they are not so much attempting to change what they deem wrong, as they are doing something else. In the United States similar examples of doing something else are known, such as Kwanzaa as a rejection of Christmas, or Familyday as a re-imagination of Thanksgiving.
This rejection or re-imagination is more fugitive than responsive and aligns with what authors Harney and Moten call for when stating that what we should want is not to repair what has been broken, or ask for recognition: “[…] instead we want to take apart, dismantle, tear down the structure that, right now, limits our ability to find each other, to see beyond it and to access the places that we know lie outside its walls.”[iv] It is the doing of something else that leaves me with the hopeful question: might we have a kingdom one day that functions as a place where we can find each other?
[i] For an explanation of the meaning behind Sinterklaas and Black Pete, read Becky Little’s article: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/12/black-pete-christmas-zwarte-piet-dutch/
[iv] Harney, S., & Moten, F. (2013:6). The undercommons: Fugitive planning and black study.
 see picture above.
A version of this post was previously featured in the december 2019 issue of the newsletter of the Caribbean Studies Association.