Rosa Emilia Clay Challenge

For this years “Week Against Racism” Rasmus Ry together with AfroFinns Ry, Sahwira Africa Ry, Liikkukaa Ry, Pacunet Ry and African Fashion Week Helsinki Ry is challenging municipal councils in Finland, to name or rename a representative, street, square, park, bridge or similar in the name of Rosa Emilia Clay. Specially the Cities of Turku, Tampere, Joensuu, Vihti, Kuopio and Helsinki, where Rosa Emilia Clay has lived, worked and studied during her time in Finland.

Sign the petition: Anti-racism week, Rosa Emilia Clay

Rosa Clay

Rosa Emilia Clay had been born in Omamuru, Namibia on August 31st 1875 and moved to Finland in 1887 as a 13 year old, adopted by a family of Finnish missionaries. Her childhood was reportedly not a very happy one, since she was used to do a lot of labor for the family and as a showpiece at church charity events. She went to school in Sortavala, Vihti and Helsinki and graduated as a teacher. She was also very musical and engaged in several choirs. Sadly she also experienced racist attacks because of her skin color during 1898. Still in 1899 she accepted Finnish nationality and is thus the first black person with Finnish citizenship.
Together with 300.000 other Finns, she later emigrated to the United States, where she remained an active member of the Finnish immigrant community until her death in 1959, both as a teacher and as being active in the Finnish cultural life in the USA as a singer and actor.
Her story connects culture and society in Namibia, Finland and the USA. It may serve to change the narrow narrative of an isolated or monocultural Finland in the late 19th and early 20thcentury. Remembering her also offers a new perception of Finnish society and help young people in Finland to identify themselves with the history of the country.
Most of all, since many Finnish streets and squares already carry the names of foreign nobles, as the Czar of Russia and the King of Sweden, Rosa Emilia Clay deserves to be remembered just as much for her pioneering life, her stamina, her resilience and her contributions to Finnish culture and society, both in Finland and the USA.



Rasmus RY, together with partners Liikkukaa Ry and Our Finland is International Ry have already promoted Rosa Emilia Clays memory in our 2012-2014 educational “Kaamos”-camapign. In the same vein we also recommend to look into the history of Rudolf Prüss, a volunteer in the Winter-War, who fell i as a corporal and leader of a Finnish skiing unit in 1940, aged 37.
Together with our partners in AfroFinns Ry, Sahwira Africa Ry, Liikkukaa Ry, PacuNet Ry and African Fashion Week Helsinki Ry we in Rasmus Ry now challenge the municipalities of Turku, Tampere, Joensuu, Vihti, Kuopio and Helsinki as well as all others to name a representative location in memory of Rosa Emilia Clay.

We invite all individuals and organisations to join us in this effort. Please share and contact your local city council.

Sign the petition:
Anti-racism week, Rosa Emilia Clay