The black rooster crows

Long ago, as legend would have it, in the town of Barcelos in northwest Portugal, a man was accused of stealing silver.

The man was innocent of the crime, but the sentiment of the town stood against him. Unjustly accused but sentenced to death, he stood before the magistrate. Pointing to a roasted chicken on a plate nearby, he cried out, “Let this rooster stand up and crow to prove my innocence!”

As legend would have it, the roasted rooster stood up from its plate and crowed, and the man was acquitted. Over time the black rooster of Barcelos became the unofficial motif of Portugal.

The story I’m about to tell is not a legend. It’s the truth of what has happened to my travel family, and that makes it both easier and more difficult to write.

This story is about a hate crime.

I’m one of the group of almost 50 digital nomads called “Remote Year Earhart.” As participants in the Remote Year program, we are taking our jobs to the corners of the globe together. Over the course of a year, we will spend one month in each of 12 cities around the world. We are from many different walks of life, and at the start of the trip there were barely two things we knew we had in common with each other: a desire to see the world, and a job that could be performed anywhere with a good enough internet connection.

For the month of August, me and my fellow Earhart members were in Lisbon, Portugal. It was our third month together.

On the weekdays, we work. Quite a lot of us do, at any rate. Some of our jobs have office hours. Most of our jobs require us to put in a certain amount of effort in order to keep getting paid.

On the weekends, we vacation. It’s what you do when you’re traveling around the world, right? If you’re in a country you’ve never been in before, you explore. You see the sights. You visit the beaches; the mountains; the castles; the monuments; the museums.

If you’re like me, you party from time to time!

Most in our group, though not all, are single. Most in our group, though not all, are under the age of 40. Most in our group, though not all, are entirely amenable to some amount of music, drinking, and/or dancing.

This night, I’d had a few beers, but I ended up deciding to go home early. This night, I left the group for my apartment, feeling just buzzed enough to wax philosophical as I walked home with one of the other girls who decided to leave for the night.

On this night, of all nights, I wasn’t with the group when it happened. I saw the messages in our group chat on my phone the following morning.

A group of Earharts had been assaulted at the entrance of the K Urban Beach club.

We sit on the couches and the chairs and the floor of an upstairs apartment in Lisbon. It’s the home of four Earharts for the month. Almost everyone who was physically assaulted or present during the attack is here. One of the men who was assaulted is not. He chooses to forget and move forward, not dwelling on the situation. He says that the less he talks about it and dwells on it, the better; and I respect his decision.

The rest want the incident to be a call to action; a call to change.

Those who were present tell the rest of the group the details of what happened, straightforwardly. They had tried to enter K Urban Beach on a recommendation from several other people. When they reached the door, the doormen told them they couldn’t get in, unless they wanted to pay €1000.

“Okay, just put it on my credit card,” mocked one of the group. Clearly they weren’t going to get in.

As they turned to go, the doormen started to attack one of the Earhart group with his fists and his feet. As others of the group moved to shield him, they came under attack as well.

“If you say anything to defy them, it’s pretty much a hit to the face,” recalled one of the group.

The violence was unprovoked. Two Earharts were admitted to the hospital; but nobody other than the doormen threw a single punch or kick.

The man who was attacked first is black.

As the story unfolds, we discover that others have been attacked at K Urban Beach. Moreover, one of our group makes a visit to the club in the days following and converses with the doorman. He presses the question of how to know whether he can bring a group of friends and get into the club on a given evening. The doorman says that he would need to see the people before he lets them in.

“What do you mean, you need to see the people? You mean you need to see their color?” asks my friend.

“I can’t promise everybody gets in,” states the doorman in response.

We’re in a unique position as digital nomads. In order to press charges or take any sort of legal action, if that was what those who were assaulted wanted, the legal process would be so drawn out that it would never be able to catch up with our month-to-month itinerary.

What can we do to make a difference? What can we do to make things better? We discuss writing articles; spreading the word. We’re children of the information era; clearly, we’re also in a unique position to bring our varying skills, jobs, and connections to bear on the situation.

“Let’s do a thunderclap on an article. Build some social media buzz and get everyone ready to promote it as soon as it comes out,” suggests one.

What surprises me is how very little anger and hate there is in the room. There is sorrow, and confusion. There is the desire for change. We want the things that happened that night never to happen again.

“I don’t want to promote myself. I want to promote someone else.”

It’s not about me, it’s about making things better. This sentiment is echoed time and again.

“It’s a real thing. You all saw. You all experienced it. It would be a shame for us to leave tonight without ever doing anything about it. I didn’t know what to do.”

These are the bonds of family forming. We started the year not knowing each other; now we’ve learned in some of the hardest possible ways that we are ready to help and protect each other.

I’m writing this story because I want you to know what happened. I want you to know that racial violence is real and personal. As a white male, I will probably never be a victim of a hate crime like this. But a good friend of mine was.

He was attacked and he chose to forget and move on. All of us have moved on from Lisbon physically, now. The memories will fade and hopefully there will be no physical scars.

But before that, there needs to be a call to action. I want to spread the word of what happened, and help make sure it never happens again.

If you research K Urban Beach club in Lisbon, you’ll see that this wasn’t the first time an incident like this has happened. This is a place where the employees can repeatedly assault people without consequence.

This is a place where someone attacked these members of my travel family for no reason other than that one of them has skin of a different color.

Let’s fix that.

Long ago in Portugal, as legend would have it, a rooster crowed to save an innocent man from hanging. Let our words save the innocent and shed a light on injustice in Portugal today.

You can help spread the word by giving this article applause here on Medium.