Meet Zang Atangana, or as everyone here knows him – Freddy – a passionate social worker, a “militant” for a cause and most importantly – a human.
I met Freddy few times during my stay in Nevers – at the radio, at the Human Library or other events concerning youth or mobility. When I actually talked to him I found out that he was fun, intelligent and with this kind of inner power that attracts you and makes you feel at ease.
I was slighly worried before the interview, but Freddy made it very easy, sharing openly with me his thoughts and ideas. I discovered a lot about the social centres and about a very important person for African people – Cheick Anta Diop.
When he arrived for the interview, first thing he did was he took my notebook and asked if he could take a photo of the sketches I’ve drawn while waiting for him. He said that he likes the idea of being “mécéne”.
“When people do art it doesn’t belong just to them. They should share it. And others should help them”
He likes music and dancing (“dancing is like talking”). He is also thinking about trying theater classes, as his work with kids as a social animator often requires some acting and games.
“I am passionate about a lot of things, but I have to be disciplined to have time for all of them. I’m trying to follow my feelings so that’s how I choose what to do in the moment”.
He also mentioned few times that most of all he is interested in people.
“People are amazing. I am fascinated by them”.
Freddy has a rap group called KMT CLAN together with his younger brother Yann.
« That means Kamit Clan, “kamit” is a black excellence.”
Currently they are in a middle of recording an EP. They initially chose a local producer from Nevers called Planete Zic.
“I like all kind of music but through rap I can express my feelings the best. We are also thinking about making a video clip, maybe even 3 to kick off from the start.”
I asked him to send me a link where I can listen it but he said that they have never published it before. “We have hidden it; we want to show it in good time in a good quality”.
His career as a social worker started as “service civic” at Pac des Ouches, and as he said – this experience changed him.
“I discovered who I am. During this time at Pac des Ouches and also with Amnesty International, I traveled to Romania, Greece, Germany. I visited Calais – it is a city between France and England where refugees are trapped. It is like a ghetto. These travels changed me a lot. I learned that problems are not just far away, in Africa, Romania or somewhere else – they are here too. Certain media and politicians try to separate us and make someone who’s different – our enemies. We all do things in our own way, but in a good way. We don’t have to blame each other for being different. Hate is destructive, most of all for ourself”.
The next day, we went to the city center to take some pictures for this article. Afterwards, he invited me to his current work place to show me around.
Freddy is working as a social animator at a social center Vertpré Médio, that is responsible for the public who live in the city center of Nevers.
“Right now I’m working with “enfance-jeunesse” 6-10 and 11-25 years old. One of our tasks is to motivate people to come to the center. We ask them – what they want to do. We have a budget so we can create something together. It is bad when they have nothing to do during their free time. We help them to find themselves”.
As he explained to me, right now there are some problems with financing the social centers, so a lot of things changed regarding his job. Soon, he’s going to work at ESGO – social center of Grand Pature quarter.
With passion burning in his eyes he was showing me one room after another, telling me about his job, showing me pictures that the kids drew and the presents that they gave to him.
“Kids give me a lot of presents, unfortunately sometimes I have to throw them out, it’s not possible to keep them all” – he laughs.
“The last activity I made was for small kids. There were few short tubes, you put ball inside of one and while it’s rolling inside you should catch it with other tube. Kids should work together so they learn not only about competition but also co-operation.”
This is a scale of kids’ emotions – “Emotion d’enfant ”.
“Kids can put the numbers in regards to how they feel. They should express their emotions, not keep them bottled up, it’s very important.”
Freddie also introduced me to the director of Vertpré Médio – Sébastien Lemaire.
“People who come to the social center are very different, from kids to adults. There are different activities for everyone. We want to mix the public, let them talk and make connections. That’s how also we can break the stereotypes”.
Freddy also created the NGO called “Action Jeune” together with the other co-founder. The organization is very young, just 3 months old. One of their objectives is international mobility of youth. He said that it is important for young people to travel.
“Other people are a mirror of ourselves. The best way to learn who we are – it is to learn about others. It is to see other things, other countries, other people and compare. After, you’re going to have a desire to do the best for you, your society, your country or your nation. When you see something good in others, you try to adopt it. It is in our nature.”
What would you change in the world?
“Communication, promotion of good qualities of people, putting down the labels”.
How would you describe France in 3 words?
“Social, diverse, hypocritical”
With whom you would like to drink coffee with?
“Cheick Anta Diop – historian, anthropologist, scientist , linguist. He brought Africans back to their souls.”
“Any story about Africans always starts about slavery or colonization. Cheick Anta Diop discovered that before slavery – we were powerful. Big part of his research is about ancient Egypt – he explored that Ancient Egyptians were black and they have built Egyptian Pyramids. His research has changed our mentality and made us believe that we can have an impact as well. In the western world our history is viewed in this order – first we were monkeys, after – slaves and then we were colonized. Because of him, we became humans again.
He also explained to me, that even though Africa is not colonized anymore, there are a lot of French and American influences. After French authorities left Africa, they put their dictators in the position of President, so they still can control the land which is rich with petrolium and other minerals. French and American troops are still located in Africa to protect the current regime. Secret services kill each new liberal candidate for a President, they create civil wars – all to keep their power and get more money from the countries.
“Following Cheick Anta Diop, a lot of other people who started to research African culture discover about African history. Big empires, ancient castles were found in Africa. Not a lot of people know this, but that’s why we Africans, have to promote it. We have to be proud of ourselves. But we have been traumatized, alienated”.
“I am not only an activist for black rights – I am open, I see more things – I am activists for all human rights.”
Thanks , Freddy for your time and for letting me interview you. I wish you never stop, always hear and follow your feelings and light up everyone around with your unstoppable energy.
Photos by Olesia Yanenko