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June 20 2020
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No justice, no peace: protesting in Amsterdam’s Dam Square earlier this month.

As I stood in the crowded Black Lives Matter protest in Amsterdam’s Dam Square, I was flooded with memories of being a small girl in the Philadelphia of the 1960s, sitting in a starchy Sunday dress in the pews of the First African Baptist Church as I listened to my father, Reverend Charles Sumner Lee, preach about civil rights.

I now live abroad, dividing my life between Italy and the Netherlands, and I’ve long known that these gusts of nostalgia are part of the expatriate experience, proof of the paradoxical fact that distance from your native country only strengthens the attachment. I know, too, that being a black expatriate amps up this attachment, adding to thoughts of the place that is always home a burning, obsessive focus that relentlessly illuminates African-Americans’ peculiar historical intimacy with tragedy. This bitter legacy, a torturous mixture of love and rage, is almost impossible to explain to those who do not live with it.

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