Black History 365: Asaari Bibang, Frank T, and Lamine Thior
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Three Black Spanish podcasters find humor as they deal with prejudice and stereotypes
When Spanish rapper Frank T heard a quip from Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, it stuck in his mind.
The comedian brings an audience member on stage for a rap battle, and the person was wearing a shirt that said “Free Tibet,” to which Chappell said, “ain’t no n—– in Tibet!”
And for Frank T,he knew he would use that somehow.
“I told myself if I ever started something, I’d name it ‘there are no Black people in Tibet,’ ” he told NPR’s Michel Martin.
Of the many challenges facing immigrants in Spain, especially those who arrive from sub-Saharan Africa, he is among three comedians are taking on one — the lack of visibility in Spain’s media for Black people.
And they’re doing it with a podcast that launched this yearand with a title that plays with Chappelle’s line: No hay negros en el Tíbet.
It means “There are no Black people in Tibet” in Spanish.
Frank T — along with his co-hosts, comedians Asaari Bibang and Lamine Thior — want to put the issues facing Black Spaniards front and center.
“For the first time, we have the space to talk about what we want and what we’re going through and what we are concerned with as Black people,” Bibang, who is also a writer, told NPR during a group interview.
One of the ways they’re doing this is merely by talking about their lived experience of growing up Black in Spain.
“There was a time where [the police] stopped me four times in a day, and it was always for different things,” said Thior. “[The police would say] ‘there was a car robbery somewhere around here, and you fit the profile.’ The Black profile.”
Thior, who also posts comedy videos on Instagram, and Frank T exchange stories about who has gotten profiled more.
“There comes a time where it’s so absurd that it makes you laugh. When they stopped me for the 29th time, I’m just like ‘what do you need from me? You want me to pat myself down?'” added Thior. “At the end of the day, it’s the only way [to deal].”
For Bibang, the discrimination takes a different form, through people assuming that she’s either a maid or a sex worker. She says this is a common occurrence in Spain.
“A lot of the time, when you watch TV or movies, the Black women are generally vulnerable and at the mercy of someone who’s acting as a white savior, or they’re prostitutes. I’ve done five films in my career as an actress. And in four of them, I’ve been a prostitute.”
The hosts said comedy is cathartic and helps them deal with the challenges they face in a society where they ebb between invisibility and discrimination.
Frank T adds that it’s helped deliver their message, too: “Humor allows us to bring these issues up to the audience and show them how absurd it is.”
The trio said they hope No hay negros en el Tíbet will bring a more nuanced conversation about race to Spain. They want to add to the conversation in a more profound way and to create a space where Black people’s concerns are central to the discussion and treated with respect.
So far, the reception has been mostly positive.
Bibang said the podcast has opened up conversations about race in her own life — and she now engages with listeners via social media on the topics they discuss on the podcast. And those interactions are helping to create change.
“I think No hay negros en el Tíbet is adding to conversations [about race]. It’s true that things are changing,” she said. “We now have colleagues who are doing roles that have nothing to do with the color of their skin.”
And — Bibang noted — there could be drawbacks for her personal career.
“It’s true that talking about issues of race doesn’t [always] open doors for us, it closes them,” she said. “But for me its worth it.”