Royal Medals 2023: Amsterdam honors outstanding residents

In “Lintjesregen 2023: deze bekende en onbekende Amsterdammers kregen een onderscheiding,” Madelief van Dongen (Het Parool) announced that 38 well-known and lesser-known Amsterdam residents were honored by Mayor Femke Halsema during a celebratory ceremony at the end of April. Among these awardees are Mitchell Esajas, co-founder of The Black Archives, and Lucia Nankoe, expert in Caribbean literature and culture and curator of the exhibition Surinaamse trouwportretten [Surinamese Wedding Portraits]. Many thanks to Peter Jordens for his translation.

Mitchell Esajas, Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau
In 2018, Mitchell Esajas was one of the founders of The Black Archives, an archive containing thousands of books, documents and objects about the history of Black people, especially from the African diaspora and Afro-Caribbean communities in the Netherlands. Esajas also collaborated with the Stedelijk Museum on the exhibition called Surinaamse School [The Surinamese School of Painters], he advocated for an inclusive Saint Nic feast with Kick Out Zwarte Piet, and he was a co-organizer of the Black Lives Matter protests.

“I was surprised and very honored,” says 34-year-old Esajas. “But also, I must say that I have always had mixed feelings about Royal medals and the Royal family. Now my thinking is: I can use my knighthood and the extra recognition to help advance a certain message. It’s my hope that the Royal family will apologize for slavery.” He also hopes that there will be more Royal medals for people of color in the future.

Lucia Nankoe, Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau
For more than forty years, Lucia Nankoe has been an expert in Caribbean literature and culture, especially in relation to Black female authors. In 2022 she curated the exhibition called Surinaamse trouwportretten [Surinamese Wedding Portraits] in Foam. According to Het Parool, the exhibition was “of great significance not only to those whose family history it immortalized, but also for the embodiment of shared (inter)national history”.

Nankoe has also worked as a teacher at the School of Journalism and has been a publicist, essayist and interviewer on platforms and in community centers and libraries in the Netherlands and the Caribbean. “She ran away from school twice,” one of her friends says proudly, “only to now become a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau.”

Excerpts translated by Peter Jordens. For original, full article in Dutch, see

[Photos above by MARIET DINGEMANS.]

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