Bruno Gheerbrant, American Renaissance, June 2005
Like the rest of Europe, Belgium is in the process of transforming itself. In Brussels, the symbol of this transformation is a neighborhood not far from a big downtown intersection called Porte de Namur. Long ago, the neighborhood had a Belgian name, which no one can remember. Now it is known as Matongé, a street name in Kinshasa, in the Congo. Over the last several decades, Africans have gradually taken over.
Until the early 1990s, Matongé was a pleasant place to visit. African students — mostly from the former Belgian Congo — gathered to socialize, and African shops seemed as welcoming to Belgians as they were exotic. No one was afraid of blacks. Later, Belgium, like so many other Western countries, put out the welcome mat for refugees from the civil wars, genocides, and tribal massacres that are tearing Africa apart. The change in population led to changes in behavior. Matongé has become an outpost of Africa, and the most dangerous part of Brussels. Crime has spread throughout the city to the point that some inhabitants now jokingly refer to their city as “Bronxelles.”
About half the population of Matongé are now foreigners: Mostly Congolese, but also Senegalese, Rwandans, Burundians, Malians, etc. They hang about on the streets in such numbers that they no longer feel constrained to adopt the manners and customs of the country in which they live. Matongé has lost what remained of its Belgian soul, and is now an overseas suburb of some African metropolis, complete with petty hustles, violence, and a constant state of semi-anarchy. Belgians are leaving the area, and few whites venture in as visitors.
If you visit Matongé you will find a gigantic outdoor mural. Its style is reminiscent of the propaganda posters Communists and other dictators used to put up to celebrate their dogmas. This bit of Belgian propaganda celebrates friendship between peoples, and especially between Belgians and Africans.
The Galerie d’Ixelles, a little covered street off the main thoroughfare, has gradually become the headquarters for African crime. Here was born an African gang that took an American name, and for which brutality has been its watchword. Here was born Black Démolition.
It was on Galerie d’Ixelles that on June 19, 2001, the police carried out what they called Operation Alpha, an attempt to bring a little order to the area. For some weeks, African gangs had been fighting for control of the drug trade, first with fists, then with knives and even with guns. (For Belgians knifings are practically unheard of; shootings happen only in the movies.) Two weeks earlier a colored gentleman by the name of Pitchoun had been stabbed in a gang rivalry. The next week violence had spilled out onto Rue Saint Josse and Rue Verbist, and the police picked up a collection of machetes, knives, and box cutters. A few days later, a few of Mr. Pitchoun’s friends came across members of the other gang; the altercation ended in yet another stabbing. The next day there were more reprisals, when persons unknown lobbed two Molotov cocktails into a bar called Magritte, headquarters of one of the gangs. This sort of thing had to stop.
The very day before Operation Alpha, police noticed Africans loitering in a local park, who fled at the sight of the authorities. A quick check of the bushes turned up tear gas grenades, knives, and eight folding hand saws. Hand saws? The police had not forgotten an earlier incident in which seven members of one gang pounced on a rival in a streetcar and, before the eyes of the dumb-founded passengers, nearly sawed off his hand.
Operation Alpha proceeded without incident but without much success: The police issued a dozen summonses that went nowhere, and seized a few knives and a small amount of drugs. Still, it was a sign of the times. By 2001, Congolese criminals were beginning to make a name for themselves. The police and even the public were beginning to notice.
A special police report published that year revealed that many gang members had come to Belgium as children in the early 1990s, accompanied by various “aunts” or “uncles” who were soon out of their depth in the complexities of an industrial society. Many left school, where they could not keep up, and since they had no one looking after them, ended up on the streets. Many were criminals by the time they were age 12 or 13.
The report continued: “They will steal a VW Golf in Brussels and drive it to Holland to buy hashish. They will steal a Ford Fiesta in Amsterdam for the drive back to Belgium, and if they find a girl hitchhiking they will pick her up and gang rape her. They have no sense of guilt. If you try to explain to them it is wrong to attack an 89-year-old woman they will tell you there is nothing they can do about it if the old broad won’t let go of her handbag and has to be knocked down. They are predators, true predators.”
The report also quoted officers who complained of the constraints under which they had to work because these criminals are so young:
I recall one youngster who had been involved in 18 crimes including a holdup at Ixelles, two thefts from vehicles, a home invasion in Liège, and a car-jacking in a discotheque parking lot between Brussels and Anvers. It took us a year to nab him. The very next day, he was back on the street . . .
Another complaint: “There are thugs the court protects from being photographed and put into our files, so we can’t show their pictures to victims or witnesses.”
The report noted that Congolese who arrived in Belgium after about the age of eight or ten grew up with an African state of mind. Some fought in the civil and tribal wars in Congo, Rwanda, and Angola. Some were boy soldiers. Others were born in Belgium, but that seems to make little difference. As Frédéric Van Leeuw, family court judge and expert on youth gangs explains, “For all of them, gangs are an identity, a chance to live a life that is authentically black.” (Mr. Van Leeuw used the English word “black,” as do many Africans living in Europe. It is a sign of the extent to which aggressive American expressions of blackness influence how Africans view themselves.)
These young immigrants conformed to a kind of ethnic constant: They quickly established social structures like those of an American black ghetto or African slum, forming gangs in which violence is the primary means of self-expression. They live by what appears to be instinct: muggings, attacks on the weak and elderly, car-jackings, rape.
As Judge Van Leeuw puts it: “Groups like this are almost exclusively African. There are similar groups of young African girls. All are characterized by extreme violence. Individually, these young people can show extraordinary acts of kindness. Nevertheless, they are almost all armed with knives or even folding garden saws. Joining a group requires some demonstration of qualifications, usually an act of violence.”
The first gangs appeared in the early 1990s and can be traced to gatherings at which young Congolese met in the evenings to dance and socialize. These parties quickly jumped the tracks. Fascinated by violence and looking for ways to express themselves as racial minorities, they looked to America. In 1991, inspired by an American movie about New York gang wars called New Jack City, a Brussels gang started calling itself New Jack.
Other gang names came from more prosaic sources. Les Finest came from “Finest Gordon,” a beer of high alcohol content sold in half-liter bottles that Africans drink in great quantity. Today there are many gangs with colorful names: Kung Fu Klan, Black Wolves, Azewa, Black Faces, and Black Démolition. These are not translations — they are the actual names of African gangs, and show the cachet of sounding American. Influence does not flow the other way; no black American gang would call itself Les Serpents Noirs, for example.
In 2001, a gang with the unlikely name of Les Japonais (The Japanese) made a brief bid for power. Two of its members made a spectacular haul when they grabbed a briefcase with more than three million Euros from a businessman who had just made a bank withdrawal. They pulled off the job right under a security camera, so were quickly identified and caught. No one seems to know why they called themselves Les Japonais, and they were soon eclipsed.
The gangs tend to be organized around an individual strong man who recruits members from ages 13 to 20. As in the mafia, when the head of a gang is arrested, an underage member comes forward to take the rap, because a minor will not see much jail time. Often the youngest gang members are the most reckless.
The true record of the havoc Black Démolition and other Congolese gangs have wreaked on Belgian society lies somewhere in the confidential records of the police. Occasionally, if the victim is elderly or treated in a particularly horrible way, the crime may make its way into the papers, but the names of the perpetrators are generally left out. Obviously African names would give the wrong impression, after all, so it takes some sleuthing for outsiders to get a grasp of the extent of black crime.
Gang violence is by no means limited to attacks on hapless Belgians who are at the wrong place at the wrong time, that is to say when a Congolese decides he wants to make a few Euros without having to work for them. Among themselves, and especially with rival gang members, these African predators show little sentiment. Punishment of traitors and settling of scores can lead to spectacular and bloody encounters. Here are some of the incidents from about a six-month period that did manage to make the papers.
One evening in October 2001, Andy Djimbo gets off the streetcar at Berchem-Staine-Agathe and sights a few members of Black Démolition. This is a worry because his people — he is a New Jack — have already had some warm encounters with Black Démolition. He makes a quick call on his cell phone to a buddy who promises to come for him right away. He takes off down Avenue des Myrthes, but his enemies catch up with him. They have sticks and knives, and proceed to beat him. For extra fun, one takes out a gun and holds it to his head. His friend shows up in a car just in time, and Mr. Djimbo makes a break for it. He jumps into the car, which takes off like a shot, but Black Démolition is not to be left empty-handed. The men chase the car all the way to Rue Potaerdegat, and one fires three shots, hitting Mr. Djimbo in the leg and shoulder.
The Black Démolition contingent — all 18 of them — hop on a passing bus in the hope of making a getaway, but the police are already after them. A quick search turns up chains and baseball bats. The firearm is found under the seat of Fabrice Dimbala. It is not to be forgotten that this is Belgium, where no one is allowed to own a handgun, and people do not spray city streets with bullets.
Just a few weeks later, on Jan. 11, 2002, there is another revenge attack, this time by Les Black Wolves,a juvenile gang that is a kind of subcontractor for Black Démolition. Some of its boys attack 16-year-old Cedric, a member of a rival gang called Black Pite. They stab him at Galerie d’Ixelles, and leave him for dead in a pool of blood.
The next month Black Démolition pulls off a particularly rococo stunt. On a late afternoon, six of its members show up at number 196 Avenue Dailly and go up to an apartment on the fourth floor. They persuade 20-year-old Christophe to open the door (he is to this day close-mouthed about why Black Démolition sought his society that day), whereupon they tie him up and beat him with an iron rod. It appears that they are seeking information. They threaten to kill him, and finally drag him out to the balcony of the apartment. The downstairs neighbor hears screaming and opens the shutters. There, before his astonished eyes, is young Christophe, hanging from a rope in mid air.
That same month, the wife of the president of Central African Republic pays a visit to Galerie d’Ixelles in the company of the wife of the Central African ambassador. A Black Démolitionstalwart takes a swing at them with a sword. As it happens, the ladies have a body guard, who puts up a stiff resistance, but the brouhaha brings out about 10 members of Black Démolitionwho give chase. The three Central Africans manage to take refuge in the Hotel Conrad. The police make one arrest.
There is more to come at Galerie d’Ixelles. On March 22, 2002, Black Démolition rubs out one of its own members suspected of being a spy for a rival gang. The murder weapon is a fondue fork. The police pick up one of the killers two months later. They are already acquainted with Yannick, also known as Erwynn, who likes to spook the police by removing his glass eye and leering at them with an empty socket. Another killer happens to be the swordsman who attacked the ladies, but he is not caught until September, when he shows up in Switzerland. A third stays on the lam until December when he, too, is rounded up in Switzerland.
But Black Démolition really makes a name for itself on May 16. That day, thousands of Belgians throng Rue Neuve, the busiest shopping street in the capital. Unbeknownst to them, Black Démolition and New Jack are fighting over who will control the drug trade in the area. Alain Ndakoze and Lutahe Okundji, both of Black Démolition, are killing time on Rue Neuve when they catch sight of several New Jacks. Mr. Ndakoze decides to set up an ambush for them, but the New Jacks are too quick for him. Andy Djimbo, the gentleman who just a few months before stopped two Black Démolition bullets, pulls out a .32 caliber pistol and shoots Mr. Okundji in the leg. He then empties his pistol wildly into the crowd. Susan McDonald, a 24-year-old British tourist is hit in the leg. Panayotis D., a 21-year-old Greek living in Brussels, is seriously wounded, also in the leg, and is rushed to the hospital. Twenty-four-year-old Bechir D., visiting from Schaerbeek, is grazed by a bullet, and Andres B. from Anderlecht, age 29, is hit in the thigh. Miraculously, no one is killed.
In the panic that ensues, Mr. Ndakoze leaps on Mr. Djimbo and takes his weapon, then hustles off with his bleeding comrade, Mr. Okundji. The police show up promptly, however, so he ditches the gun. The gunman is quickly taken into custody. The very next day, Congolese are out in force on the Rue Neuve, but so are the police. There is no more gunplay.
Back in the Congo
One is struck by certain similarities between the behavior of African gangs and that of the armed gangs devastating the Eastern Congo. Particuarly in the province of Iturie, killers give themselves fancy names, and it is the Effaceurs (Obliterators) who run things. Although they pretend to give it some kind of vague political justification, they have a habit of indiscriminate rape: men, women, children, grandmothers, babies. Anyone who makes it though the hair-raising reports Amnesty International sends back from the Congo begins to wonder why the militias bother to wear trousers when they are on maneuvers.
Black Démolition has something of a reputation in this line, too. On the night of November 16, 2001 — during the same period discussed previously — Augustin Pasi, Trésor Mutamba and Philippe Nguwa Wukendi sidled up to a girl of 16 (race unspecified) waiting for the train at the Louvain la Neuve Station. They talked her into following them to student quarters where they put a knife to her throat and proceeded to spend the night raping her. Mr. Pasi is something of a serial rapist. On the night of Nov. 18, 2000, he and three other Africans met three girls (again, race unspecified) at a snack bar, and managed to get them into an apartment. Once inside, all four systematiclly raped all three. This was not long after a group of nine Black Démolition members talked a girl of 15 off the streets of Antwerp, and took turns raping and sodomizing her.
All is fair in love and war. In February 2002, a girl who was having a drink with Black Démolition suddenly lost consciousness — knock-out drops in her drink — and came to only to find herself tied to a kitchen table in a strange apartment, where several Africans had their way with her.
Being the girlfriend of a gang member is no protection. On the night of March 2, 2002, Fabrice Dimbala left the Gala discotheque with his 18-year-old companion. She had had enough for the evening and wanted to go home. This infuriated Mr. Dimbala, who decided to teach her a lesson. He invited Magatte Kobi, David Bakupa and Bayazi Mbuyi to come along with him to help mete out discipline, which he began by breaking one of her teeth with a vodka bottle. They spent the rest of the evening beating and raping her.
For Black Démolition, 2002 was The Year of the Woman. On August 13, seven members abducted a woman and spirited her off to an apartment in Rue Fontaine in Brussels, where they spent the night raping her. The next morning, when the young victim thought her tortures were over, the men bundled her into a car, drove her to the town of Charleroi, and started on her again. The woman did not manage to escape until three days later. This is not unusual. Black Démolition likes to keep women for days on end, and makes them do the cleaning when they are not otherwise occupied.
Belgian women are sadly ignorant of what they are up against. On April 19, 2003, our friend Fabrice Dimbala was out with pals in the Porte de Hal area and decided to snatch a handbag. The young owner, hoping to get her things back, followed them into a side street where they turned on her, dragged her into an apartment, and raped her.
It was around the same time that Black Démolition began branching out from rape and street crime, and started to ply its trade outside the capital. In December, Bely Tshimanga, Fabrice Okitundu and Luc Gillissen went to the town of Machelen where they visited a Pizza Hut. They helped themselves to the contents of the cash register and quickly disappeared. By the time the employees realized what had happened, Black Démolition was already on the road to Evère, where they arrived 40 minutes later and knocked over another Pizza Hut.
Later that month, four gang members cruised into the town of Nivelle in a stolen automobile. They were broke and needed cash. About noon, armed and hooded, they burst into an electronics store called Draime Electronic. One gang member held a knife to the throat of the store manager while another kicked a customer violently in the stomach. The gang dragged the two to the back of the store and tied them up, while they brandished weapons at the other customers. Black Démolition collected wallets, cell phones, car radios, DVD readers, and 2,055 Euros from the cash registers, and roared off in the store manger’s Ford.
Still in December, the day after Christmas, six or seven members attacked a take-out restaurant in Waterloo. They beat the woman behind the counter, emptied the till, and tried to make her open the safe. She stalled for time and they panicked, leaving with only the 650 Euros from the cash register.
The next day, December 27, Black Démolition arrived at Berchem-Sainte-Agathe. Two members reached into a car at a stop light, and stole purses from two women. An auxiliary police officer witnessed the crime and put out an alert. The next day, police saw the perpetrators back in Brussels in a car with French plates and went after them. Black Démolition escaped after a wild, high-speed chase through the streets of Brussels in which, miraculously, no one was hurt. Once again, Belgians were treated to sights heretofore seen only in American movies. On January 9, 2003, the gang robbed a gas station in the town of Lasne, drove to Overijse and hit another gas station.
In April of 2004, Black Démolition moved on to bigger things when two of its members abducted an executive in the Brussels office of the Congolese diamond mining company, Minière de Bakwanga. They were acting on orders of Jean-Charles Otoko, a former Congolese foreign minister and former officer of the company. He is suspected of having stolen $80 million from the firm, $20 million of which he spent on weapons in Ukraine and the Czech Republic to get around the arms embargo on the Congo. The remaining $60 million are thought to have come to rest in private Congolese hands. The abduction appears to have been some murky score-settling.
The petty thugs from Galerie d’Ixelles had, it seemed, come to the attention of highly-placed Congolese officials who seem to have discovered kindred spirits on whom they could rely for certain delicate operations.
The police are finally putting some of these criminals behind bars. In February 2004 they caught up with the men who went on the year-end tear in 2002, in which they hit Pizza Huts and gas stations all over Belgium. Sentencing standards are far different in Belgium than in the United States: Of the seven defendants, one got seven years, but several got off with just three.
In March 23, 2004, it was Bely Tshimanga-Kazadi’s turn. This 20-year-old Black Démolitionveteran, in the dock in Brussels along with a dozen confederates, was charged with seven rapes. Six of his victims were minors; one was just 13. He was also up for a car-jacking and several holdups. When the time came for the accused, in accordance with Belgian law, to speak for himself, Mr. Tshimanga glared at the judge, a woman, and explained:
The police are always coming around Porte de Namur looking for blacks. But it’s not just blacks who like group sex. Whites and Asians do too, and in my case it was all consensual. Group sex may seem strange to you, Your Honor, but you’re just too old to understand. Anyway, I don’t have to rape to have sex. I’m plenty good-looking enough to find a woman.
As the judge begins to read the sentence, Mr. Tshimanga exploded. He shot out of his chair screaming, and threw himself at the judge. The police were on him in an instant, but it took a ferocious struggle to control him. Everyone in the courtroom thought peace had been restored, but at the first opportunity, Mr. Tshimanga went on the offensive again. This time all the other Black Démolition members erupted with him, lashing out at whoever was handy. The women in the courtroom were frozen in terror — they had heard what these men were capable of — while the defense lawyers, who had spent enough time with their clients to get to know them, fled for safety. The blacks started swinging chairs and benches. Fifteen more officers rushed to the courtroom, where there was a general melee. Order was finally restored, and Black Démolition got its sentences: ten years for Bely Tshimanga and Magatte Kobi, eight for Stefan Ngueudong, Guélor Litanda, Andry Bandazio, David Bakupa, and Bazayi Mbuyi, seven years for Lutahe Okundji, Frederic Kani, and Yves Mbena, six years for Prince Lusungi and Fabrice Okitundu, five years for Frederic Kani and Kaseba Kabamba.
As they are marched out of court, one of the men shouted, “We’ll see you in hell and then you’ll pay!”
Fabrice Dimbala, who was finally sentenced in January 2005, has been part of our story from the beginning. He was the Black Démolition member under whose seat on the bus was found the pistol used to blaze away at the unfortunate Mr. Djimbo. It was he who decided to teach his girlfriend a lesson when she wanted to go home rather than keep the party going, and he was also one of the purse-snatchers who raped the victim when she tried to get her property back. He was up for two gang rapes and three attempted murders, and got 13 years in prison. His lawyers were shocked. “A jail sentence must have some meaning and must lead to rehabilitation, but in this case the punishment is incomprehensible,” said one. “This is why we will undoubtedly appeal.”
Mr. Dimbala is one of these black criminals who fascinate liberal journalists, Belgian and American alike. The young thug was apparently a first-rate soccer player. He had already made a name for himself in a first-division amateur league, and was a sure bet for spot on a pro team. “Only 19 and facing 13 years in prison,” moaned the press. “What a waste. What could have driven him to crime?” What, indeed?
In May 2004, no less a personage than Nicole Maréchal, Belgian cabinet minister for Aid to Youth, was at Galerie d’Ixelles to hear young Congolese speak for themselves. She heard that Congolese parents don’t do enough for their children, but that ultimately the fault lies with the Belgians. There are no positive black role models in Belgium as there are in France or the United States, and blacks are society’s chosen victims. “Most of us,” said one Congolese, “feel that whichever way this country is going, it is going without us. We are the fall guys in this country, and the government doesn’t do for us the things it does for other immigrant groups.” And that, the young Congolese explained, was why they join gangs. They crave a thousand things they cannot afford, and fall under the influence of Africans older than themselves who are already completely alienated from Belgian society.
It would be a mistake, of course, to suppose that Black Démolition is a problem unique to Brussels. There have been extremely violent gangs in France for more than a decade, and they have appeared whenever immigration from Africa reached a certain level. In Switzerland, where the murderers of Okito Djunga took refuge, Africans are heavily involved in the drug trade. In Quebec, increasingly active gangs of blacks terrorize the population. Nor is the problem limited to French-speaking countries. In London, black gangs are such a problem that Trevor Phillips, the black head of the Commission for Racial Equality, recently suggested that black boys be put in separate classes.
In the United States, of course, the theory has always been that black gangs of super-predators were the fruit of centuries of slavery and prejudice, but 40 years of racial preferences have not brought notable improvement. In Europe, where blacks have immigrated voluntarily, they find themselves in exactly the same situation and are clamoring for the full panoply of quotas and preferences.
In Africa itself one finds even worse gangs. Contrary to all predictions, the end of Apartheid in South Africa has not led to peace but to an explosion of violence of all kinds. In Congo, Liberia, Angola, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda, armed gangs in a state of alleged civil war prey on civilians as much as they fight each other. The black gangs in Belgium, with their violence and sadism, are a kind of social constant independent of geography or social or historical circumstances. It could have been predicted with complete confidence that they would appear once the African population reached a certain number.
Why, then, have Belgian politicians — like politicians in all European countries — been unable to take the bull by the horns, to stop this immigration, and protect their populations from predation? At least in the case of Muslims, the events of September 11 forced even the most deluded optimists to see that throughout Europe, these people do not want to assimilate; they want to rule.
It is perhaps with blacks that the European elite maintains, to some degree, a genuinely colonialist mentality. Our rulers came of age when there were still African empires, and when Europeans still claimed their goal was to civilize the savage. Politicians today seem to think they can go the previous generation one better: If civilization could not be brought to Africa, they can bring Africans to Europe and make them into good little Belgians and Frenchmen. What we now see before our eyes — in the streets, on public transport, in the crime figures — is proof that Africans do not become Belgians or Frenchmen. It is when they are in gangs that they most brutally assert their differences from us, but the gangs themselves are only the tip of a huge iceberg of irreconcilable differences that our elites — blinded by Eurocentrism — are determined to ignore.
Of course, our elites, just like the Communist nomenklatura who insulated themselves from the realities of the worker’s paradise, are indifferent to the destruction of European society because they can escape its consequences. The French Socialist politician Lionel Jospin is a perfect example. For years, he preached multiculturalism and promoted full-bore immigration. When he finally withdrew from politics in 2002 after an unsuccessful run for the presidency, he did not retire to a mixed-race neighborhood of the kind he did so much to bring about. He doesn’t even live on the French mainland, but on a chic little island called Ile de Ré off the coast, in the Bay of Biscay. No non-white neighbors for him.
The Africans of Black Démolition are responsible for their crimes, but they are not responsible for having committed them in Belgium. Others — Belgians — are responsible for that. It is the politicians, the intellectuals, and the media personalities who are to blame. They are members of a far more dangerous gang: White Démolition.
The Belgian authorities do not seem to have noticed that what they are going through very much resembles the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. That was when crime rates — among blacks in particular — began to soar, and there was no shortage of theories about how society was to blame. Jail sentences were short because prison was for rehabilitation. It took 20 years before Americans learned that the only thing that rehabilitates career criminals is old age, and that the best thing to do is simply keep them away from the rest of us. Now that most states have stiff sentencing guidelines, we have a larger prison population, but crime rates have been dropping for a decade.
The sentences the Belgian courts have handed out to Black Démolition thugs are jokes by American standards. The lawyers for Mr. Dimbala, the soccer prodigy, were shocked when their client got 13 years for two gang rapes and three attempted murders. An American court would probably have given him 30 years to life. We are certainly capable of unlearning our lessons, but Americans have had their fill of catch-and-release.
The Belgian view of crime is typical of all-white, European societies. The country has traditionally had violent crime rates one third to one quarter of those in the United States. It has had the occasional sensational crime, but is not accustomed to the casual brutality and indifference to suffering that characterize many black criminals. It is only now discovering the horrible things of which certain 12 and 13-year-olds are capable, and has not yet adjusted its juvenile code. Many American states now prosecute child-pimps and child-murderers as adults.
If Belgians do not stop the flow of immigrants, they will be forced through the same, painful adjustment as the United States. It remains to be seen whether they will recognize in time that Black Démolition does not reflect inadequacies of Belgian society but results from the presence of Africans in a civilization built by Europeans.