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YouTube helps second-generation Finnish immigrants find their voice

Luyeye Konssi and his friend Hanad Hassan started making humorous videos about immigrant life in Finland in 2012. Their Finnish-language YouTube channel now has close to 40,000 subscribers.

Seksikäs-Suklaa
Luyeye Konssi Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

The first thing nine-year-old Luyeye Konssi noticed when he arrived in Finland was how dark it was. Finland granted Konssi's family asylum in the early 2000s after they had fled the civil war in Angola, which had been ravaging their home country since 1975. The family chose to make their home in the smaller community of southwest Salo, where they would be safe.

Konssi's new classmates assumed that he would be good at basketball and rap, but they were soon disappointed. The only dark-skinned boy in the classroom was teased and threatened with violence on a near daily basis.

"You had to be able to run fast and talk a good game," he remembers.

The taunting continued for several years, but eventually Konssi became friends with some of his former persecutors.

"I decided not to let my life be filled with hate. To let bygones be bygones," he says

Sexy Chocolate and Dosdela

After Konssi finished school, he moved to Helsinki and studied hospitality and tourism. Upon graduation, he was unable to find a job – a common phenomenon among foreigners in Finland.

As a cure for his boredom, in 2012 he started making humorous YouTube videos with his friend Hanad Hassan about everyday life as an immigrant in Finland. Konssi became "Seksikäs-Suklaa" (Sexy Chocolate) and Hassan took the YouTube name of "Dosdela".

Today their YouTube account boasts close to 40,000 followers. The success of their video series even led to a TV series for telecom operator Elisa's Viihde streaming service called Supisuomalaiset (roughly translated as 'Finnish to the Core').

Their work examines the contradictions and challenges newcomers to the country – or even different-looking Finnish citizens for that matter – have in their day-to-day life. Many of the topics explore stereotypes.

"Things are hard day-to-day when you can't get a job or a girlfriend," Konssi says.

Finnish YouTube celebrities with African roots

"Seksikäs-Suklaa" and "Dosdela" are often mixed up with their friends, "Musta Barbaari" (The Black Barbarian) and "Prinssi Jusuf" (Prince Yusuf). Although Konssi says the four don't work together that often, the budding YouTube celebrities have collaborated on hip hop music and other projects from time to time.

They are the brave faces of Finland's second-generation black immigrants. Having been born or grown up in Finland, they speak Finnish well and identify Finland as their home country.

Konssi's family spoke Portuguese when they moved to Finland, and his inability to express himself in Finnish was a major roadblock.

"I was annoyed for so long that I couldn't find the right words for what I wanted to say. I felt as if I had no hands. It was the most frustrating feeling ever!" he says.

Now he speaks Finnish well, and both his YouTube series and television show take place in Finnish.

Learning how to speak properly works both ways

Among other things, Konssi and Hassan's Elisa series looks at the racism that he and his co-stars have encountered in Finland.

“In Salo, I was called a n*gger every day: 'Hey you fat-ass n*gger!' When I was in the shower, someone would yell 'Why is your ass so black?'" he remembers.

For Konssi, the use of the word n*gger in Finland is a red line. He is comfortable with being called black, but he would prefer to be called an African-Finn, because that is how he sees himself.

Last week "Seksikäs-Suklaa" joined "Musta Barbaari" on a Goom student cruise. Suddenly someone behind them yelled "n*gger".

"I turned and said that we don't know each other, so why would you say that? The person just stared at us, said 'sorry' and left," he said.

A rising presence in the country's media

Konssi said he was proud of how he responded to the insult. In the past, he would have stayed silent, but lately he has started to engage people calmly, asking them to explain their actions.

He says Finland's younger generation is ushering in a new age of lesser racism in Finland, as they are more accepting and understanding of black culture, thanks in part to the popularity of rap music.

This new appreciation means that more foreigners are making their way into the Finnish entertainment business. Popular TV personality Arman Alizad has now been joined by actor Ernest Lawson and a growing field of YouTube stars like Konssi.

"It really helps that there are different kinds of people on television and in advertising. It helps Finns to notice that we are decent people," Konssi says.

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