The Narrative Change Academy: Aminata Bouaré

What will narratives of post-migrant Muslim life in Europe look like if we choose new ways of thinking and stop (re)producing stereotypes? A project by the Young Islam Conference (JIK) provides opportunities to answer that question. Read the blog by Aminata Bouaré, participant of the Academy.

A group of people is sitting on a wooden structure.

Narrative Change Academy Fellows © Schore Mehrdju

Project description

Narrative Change Academy

The Narrative Change Academy offers a space for young Europeans to envision, create, and tell post-migrant stories of the variety and complexity of Muslim life throughout Europe. Twelve young people from different backgrounds and experiences between the ages of 18 and 27 from France, the United Kingdom, and Germany develop a digital campaign to broaden the presence of nuanced inclusive narratives to shape a post-migrant European society. The campaign is accompanied by evaluations, publications, and roundtables with decision-makers.

The first academy year started in May 2023 and will run until February 2024. The program will also prepare the participants, through targeted mentorship and a workshop series, to present their findings at a final event in Brussels with European stakeholders. Allianz Foundation supports the project.

“Would you sell your soul for the world of your dreams? Could you even imagine what this world or this life could look like?  ”
Aminata Bouaré, Participant Narrative Change Academy

Dreaming, as a path towards progress and liberation

Narrative Change Academy participant Aminata Bouaré has written a riveting text for the #NarrativeChangeAcademyJournal on utopias and the power of dreaming, on Nahel Merzouk, Omar Sy and on how we have to go beyond discussing whether or not racism exists in our societies.

Would you sell your soul for the world of your dreams? Could you even imagine what this world or this life could look like? Or do you already see your shortcomings, apprehend the fallout? What if you did dare to fantasize? What if reverie, humility and pragmatism were not contradictory? Does it still feel overwhelming, confusing, perhaps dangerous? After all, the Devil is known for their mastery of trickery. What if someone showed you the way? Would you take this leap of faith to think and craft your very own happy ending?

These reflections and interrogations have arisen in my mind since the second workshop of the Narrative Change Academy, that happened in Berlin at the end of June. If you’re intrigued, troubled, dubious, or even worried, I can definitely relate. I’ve had all sorts of thoughts and feelings, and yes, thinking about the future is scary. Dreaming? Even scarier. Yet, as social fractures grow, we cannot stay idle. We are in this together, and we need a better tomorrow. So, how to move forward?

Dreamers: naïve or radical?

I like to call myself a dreamer. Why? Well, our reality used to seem very dull to me. No superpowers, no time travel, no aliens. Jokes aside, I’ve always felt that I had to accept this world, even though reluctantly. In my youth, I could hear commonplaces like “this is how things work” or “this is the only way”. In our rigid system of beliefs, utopias are underrated. They’re often portrayed as dystopias in disguise, only leaving us distraught and disheartened, with an urge to stop yearning for more. Hence, better stick to the current system since this is the best we’ve got. Consequently, dreamers are often depicted in a poor light. At best, they could be thought naïve and disconnected from reality. A tad passionate? Portray them as cult leaders or tyrants in the making to definitely discredit them. Regardless, what if we let go of fear-based prejudices and gave it an actual shot, and try to imagine how things could be like?

“In our rigid system of beliefs, utopias are under­rated”

That was the aim of our second in-person workshop: identifying our values and priorities, thinking about the narratives we wished to leave behind, detaching ourselves from those towards a Dream of Togetherness, Inclusion, Fairness, and Freedom for our society.

Days later, the case of Nahel, a French teenager of Arab descent, reminds us why articulating the changes and the world we long for matters now more than ever.

The story of Nahel Merzouk: how we never talk about the real issue

Nahel, 17, was an only child raised by his mother in Nanterre, a working-class suburb in the Greater Paris area. He was known to love mechanics, cars, and motorbikes. He played in a local rugby team and studied to become an electrician. 27 June 2023, early in the morning, Nahel embraces his mum, tells her he loves her, before setting off for school. Around 8:30 am, Nahel ends up fatally shot by the police, as he attempted to drive away during a traffic stop.

After Michel Zecler, Adama Traoré, Theo Luhaka, Zyed Benna, Bouna Traoré, Malik Oussekine, a new name is added to the long list of police violence victims in France. This time, the perpetrator is charged with voluntary manslaughter and remanded in custody.

The brutal killing has ignited weeks of protests throughout the country. In the streets, thousands of demonstrators grieve the boy and demand justice. Abroad, international newspapers wonder what the issue is with France and its numerous racist police incidents. Even the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights states that it is the “moment for [France] to seriously address the deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement”.


The text was originally published on the Narrative Change Academy Website in August 2023.

Aminata Bouaré

Aminata (27), FR, is an Narrative Change Academy participant and advocate for climate justice and social equity. Whether it’s circular construction or vegan cuisine, she’s always after the next life hack for people and the planet. In Berlin or Paris, you’ll find her browsing books and feminist games.

A portraait of Aminata Bouaré

Aminata Bouaré © Schore Mehrdju