Remembering Afro-German Intellectual May Ayim

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2017-09-08 15:10Z by Steven

Remembering Afro-German Intellectual May Ayim

Black Perspectives
2017-09-06

Tiffany Florvil, Assistant Professor of History
University of New Mexico


May Ayim (Photo: Orlanda Frauenverlag)

It has been almost twenty-one years since Black German activist, educator, writer, and public intellectual May Ayim died on August 9, 1996 at the age of 36. After facing some personal setbacks and a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Ayim committed suicide by jumping from her apartment building in Berlin-Kreuzberg. She also suffered from depression, which was often exacerbated by the psychological toil that everyday German racism had on her. Even though Ayim was born and raised by adoptive parents in Germany, some white Germans, including her adoptive parents, continued to harbor racist views that denied her humanity as a Black German citizen in a post-Holocaust society.

Her death shocked her colleagues and friends near and far. From South Africa to the United States, people sent their tributes, in which they recognized how much she inspired them through her writing and spoken word performances. Much like her mentor Caribbean-American poet Audre Lorde, Ayim, too, believed in the “subversive power of lyrical language.”1 As a talented and well-known writer at home and abroad, her poetry and prose served as a form of intellectual activism and as a medium to incite socio-political change. In fact, Ayim derived a key source of political and emotional energy from her writing, which was a constitutive element of her activism.

May Ayim was not unlike other Black diasporic women such as Claudia Jones or the Nardal sisters, producing materials that shaped diasporic culture and politics and that promoted Black intellectualism and internationalism. She integrated diverse styles, such as the Blues, that reflected her wide-ranging interests in and ties to the transnational Black diaspora. Ayim even incorporated West African Adinkra symbols in her first poetry volume blues in schwarz weiss (Blues in Black White) – representing her Ghanaian roots. In the volume, poems such as “afro-deutsch I,” “afro-deutsch II,” “autumn in germany,” “community,” and “soul sister” tackled the themes of identity, difference, community, and marginalization, reflecting her (and other Black Germans’) experiences in Germany.2 She also used her writing to negotiate her Black Germanness and to write herself into German society and the Black diaspora…

Read the entire article here.

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The Fate of Afro Germans under Nazis

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2017-07-21 20:30Z by Steven

The Fate of Afro Germans under Nazis

CNN (Cable News Network)
2017-07-21

Nosmot Gbadamosi


Caption: Two survivors prepare food outside the barracks. The man on the right is thought to be Jean (Johnny) Voste, born in Belgian Congo — the only black prisoner in Dachau. Photo Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Frank Manucci Date: May 1945

A new film aims to highlight a Nazi “secret” mission to sterilize hundreds of Afro German children.

(CNN)In 1937, mixed race children living in the Rhineland were tracked down by the Gestapo and sterilized on “secret order.” Some were later the subject of medical experiments, while others vanished.

“There were known to be around 800 Rhineland children at the time,” says historian Eve Rosenhaft, professor of German Historical Studies, at the University of Liverpool.

It was a little known part of Holocaust history until Mo Abudu, chief executive of Nigerian media network EbonyLife TV, read an online article by Rosenhaft on the plight of these children.

“When I read about it [the article] I just thought we need to put this to screen,” says Abudu. “There are many children in that era born of African and German parentage and I felt what happened to those people. Their stories are totally untold.”

EbonyLife TV intends to tell their stories through a film called “Ava and Duante.” The film is set in an undisclosed location in Europe and will focus on the plight of Afro Germans who suffered persecution under Hitler

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Remapping Black Germany: New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2017-07-16 02:09Z by Steven

Remapping Black Germany: New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture

University of Massachusetts Press
December 2016
310 pages
16 b&w illustrations
6 x 9
Paper ISBN: 978-1-62534-231-7
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-62534-230-0

Edited by:

Sara Lennox, Professor Emerita of German Studies
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

A major contribution to Black-German studies

In 1984 at the Free University of Berlin, the African American poet Audre Lorde asked her Black, German-speaking women students about their identities. The women revealed that they had no common term to describe themselves and had until then lacked a way to identify their shared interests and concerns. Out of Lorde’s seminar emerged both the term “Afro-German” (or “Black German”) and the 1986 publication of the volume that appeared in English translation as Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out. The book launched a movement that has since catalyzed activism and scholarship in Germany.

Remapping Black Germany collects thirteen pieces that consider the wide array of issues facing Black German groups and individuals across turbulent periods, spanning the German colonial period, National Socialism, divided Germany, and the enormous outpouring of Black German creativity after 1986.

In addition to the editor, the contributors include Robert Bernasconi, Tina Campt, Maria I. Diedrich, Maureen Maisha Eggers, Fatima El-Tayeb, Heide Fehrenbach, Dirk Göttsche, Felicitas Jaima, Katja Kinder, Tobias Nagl, Katharina Oguntoye, Peggy Piesche, Christian Rogowski, and Nicola Lauré al-Samarai.

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From ADEFRA to Black Lives Matter: Black Women’s Activism in Germany

Posted in Articles, Europe, Media Archive, Social Justice, Women on 2017-07-16 00:18Z by Steven

From ADEFRA to Black Lives Matter: Black Women’s Activism in Germany

Black Perspectives
2017-07-05

Tiffany Florvil, Assistant Professor of History
University of New Mexico


Black Lives Matter activists in Berlin in July 2016 (WOLFRAM KASTL/AFP/Getty)

On Saturday, June 24, 2017 at 4:30pm, a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest took place in Berlin, Germany with thousands of people expressing solidarity and promoting awareness of racial injustice. The event built from the momentum of two BLM marches that occurred last summer. Initially meeting at the 2016 BLM marches, Mic Oala, Shaheen Wacker, Nela Biedermann, Josephine Apraku, Jacqueline Mayen, and Kristin Lein remained in contact and eventually established a Berlin-based multicultural German feminist collective. With their new group and local connections, they planned the 2017 demonstration as a part of a month-long series of events, which included film screenings, poetry readings, workshops, exhibitions, and more.

Taken together, these events highlight the diversity of Black protest and activism within the German context. Using these events, especially the protest, the organizers publicly drew attention to instances of racism and oppression and attempted to gain visibility for Black people in Germany and beyond. The different events as well as the BLM Movement in Berlin represent the conscious efforts of these feminist and anti-racist activists to not only engage in practices of resistance, but to create and own spaces of resistance, solidarity, and recognition within a majority white society. In this way, they demand their “right to the city” and continue to make Germany a critical site for blackness and the African diaspora.


Ika Hügel-Marshall and Audre Lorde (Feminist Wire, Image Credit: Dagmar Schultz)

[Audre] Lorde was a visiting professor teaching courses at the Free University of Berlin (FUB) in 1984, which a few of these women attended. Black German women also cultivated connections to her outside of the classroom. Lorde emboldened Black German women to write their stories and produce and disseminate knowledge about their experiences as women of the African diaspora in Germany. Inspired, Oguntoye, Ayim, and Dagmar Schultz, a white German feminist, produced the volume Farbe bekennen: Afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte in 1986 (later published in 1992 as Showing our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out). The volume helped Black German women and men connect and socialize with one another and forge a dynamic diasporic community after years of isolation in predominantly white settings…

Read the entire article here.

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The Erasure of People of African Descent in Nazi Germany

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2017-04-19 21:15Z by Steven

The Erasure of People of African Descent in Nazi Germany

Black Perspectives
2017-04-19

Jaimee A. Swift
Howard University, Washington, D.C.


Afro-German during the Third Reich. Photo: Propaganda-Pravada.

Recently, Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer made some peculiar and offensive comments comparing Syrian leader President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical attacks to those of Nazi Germany leader Adolf Hitler. In attempts to justify Trump’s random missile strikes against Assad, Spicer asserted that what Assad did was completely inhumane—so inhumane that he claimed not even Hitler used chemical weapons against his own people, when in fact he did. Spicer would later on apologize for his Hitler comparison.

His comments were met with much backlash, and many have claimed they were disrespectful to the Jewish community and therefore diminished the horrible plight of the millions of innocent Jewish lives lost at the hands of Hitler and the Nazi regime. What is critical in understanding Spicer’s offensive statement is assessing not only his erasure of the violence enacted on the Jewish community during the Holocaust, but also the effacing of the experiences of Afro-Germans, African-Americans, and persons of African descent during the Nazi era. Both national and global discourses have excluded the narratives about and perspectives on Afro-Germans in German society. While the German constitution forbids racism, prejudice, and other forms of discrimination, there lacks a substantive and stable legal reform on combatting racism, as a “generally accepted definition of racism does not exist in Germany.” The intentional void of state-sanctioned discourses on race in Germany because of the legacy of the Nazi era ignores the historical remnants and current manifestations of systemic racism against Afro-Germans, which is embedded in every facet of German society…

…In their article “Making the Black Experience Heard in Germany,” authors Jamie Schearer and Hadija Haruna detailed how during World War II, thousands of African-American GIs occupied Germany and had relationships with German women, thus producing bi-racial or multiracial children. German professor Maria Hoehn also discussed the percentage of Black children birthed to African-American GIs and white women in Germany and how animosity arose from many Euro-Germans surrounding the presence of Black children or Besatzungskinder (occupation children) or “Rhineland bastards” in the country. Hoehn explained:

“They would always identify them as ‘Black Occupation children.’ Or as mischling kinder, or mixed-race children. In the immediate postwar period, there were over 90,000 babies born of American soldiers, and about three-and-a-half thousands of them were African American. What is interesting is that almost the whole focus of the debate on occupation children was on those black children rather than the larger group of children.”…

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My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2017-04-02 14:38Z by Steven

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past

The Experiment
2016-04-05
240 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9781615192533
Paperback ISBN: 9781615193080

Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair
Translated by Carolin Sommer

At age 38, Jennifer Teege happened to pluck a library book from the shelf—and discovered a horrifying fact: Her grandfather was Amon Goeth, the vicious Nazi commandant depicted in Schindler’s List. Reviled as the “butcher of Płaszów,” Goeth was executed in 1946. The more Teege learned about him, the more certain she became: If her grandfather had met her—a black woman—he would have killed her.

Teege’s discovery sends her into a severe depression—and fills her with questions: Why did her birth mother withhold this chilling secret? How could her grandmother have loved a mass murderer? Can evil be inherited?

Teege’s story is cowritten by Nikola Sellmair, who also adds historical context and insight from Teege’s family and friends, in an interwoven narrative. Ultimately, Teege’s search for the truth leads her, step by step, to the possibility of her own liberation.

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DW launches new multimedia project ‘Afro.Germany’

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2017-03-24 17:36Z by Steven

DW launches new multimedia project ‘Afro.Germany’

Afro.Germany
DW (Deutsche Welle)
2017-03-10

Gaby Reucher

What is it like to be a Black person living in Germany? What does it mean to be excluded from your own society? Prominent guests met to discuss these questions and more, underlining the launch the new project.

I used to want to be white,” says Jana Pareigis, speaking with rapper Samy Deluxe.  She wanted to know if it was like that for him, as well. “As a child, yes,” he says. “But as a teen, I wanted to really be Black.”

The dialogue is a scene from the movie “Afro.Germany,” in which TV host Jana Pareigis traveled throughout Germany visiting Black people and hearing their stories about what it’s like to be Black in Germany. They shared stories from their childhoods, and explained how they identified themselves and why they are proud of their skin color.

Among those interviewed are prominent figures like football star Gerald Asamoahand artist Robin Rhode. Pareigis also spoke with refugee Issa Barra from Burkina Faso, as well as Indira Paarsch, who was given up for adoption by her white mother when she was a baby because she was “too black.”

Pareigis also shares anecdotes from her own life – she herself was adopted by white parents. As a child in kindergarten, her dark skin attracted attention. Even until today, people touch her hair without asking…

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News from our Graduate Students: PhD candidate Kristina Pilz

Posted in Articles, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2017-03-12 18:13Z by Steven

News from our Graduate Students: PhD candidate Kristina Pilz

University of Washington
Department of Germanics
2017-03-08

Kristina Pilz


Kristina Pilz

BlackWhite — Experiences and Writing Practices in Contemporary Afro-German Literature

I am excited to continue working on my dissertation that describes innovative writing practices in contemporary Afro-German literature. My project focuses on rhetorical, intertextual and aesthetic strategies as creative devices for a diasporic literary history. My analysis includes fictional/non-fictional texts comprised of Afro-German poetry and autobiographies…

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A history of Black people in Germany

Posted in Africa, Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2017-03-11 21:13Z by Steven

A history of Black people in Germany

The African Courier
2016-07-20

Gyavira Lasana


Portrait of the family of Mandenga Diek, Berlin, about 1920 – with his wife Emilie Diek (nee Wiedelinski) and daughters Erika and Doris. Many in today’s Black community have roots dating to more than 100 years ago │©SWF

The journey has been an arduous one. The historian Paulette Reed-Anderson informs us that in 1682, a ship bearing slaves from Africa docked in Hamburg. Twenty-five years later (1707), African musicians are employed in Prussian military units and Mohrenstrasse is christened in Berlin. By 1877, however, the first of the dreadful Völkerschauen (‘ethnographic exhibitions’) were staged in Hamburg and Berlin.  Seven years later, 1884, Germany was in full colonial mode, annexing Cameroon, Togo, South-West Africa and the so-called German East Africa. But by 1904, the colonies would revolt and Germany would respond with massacres against hundreds of thousands of Herero, Nama and other Africans…

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Black German: An Afro-German Life in the Twentieth Century

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2017-03-07 18:32Z by Steven

Black German: An Afro-German Life in the Twentieth Century

Liverpool University Press
2017-03-01
216 Pages
210 x 147 mm
29 B&W illustrations
Paperback ISBN: 9781781383117

Theodor Michael

Translated by:

Eve Rosenhaft, Professor of German Historical Studies
University of Liverpool

This is the first English translation of an important document in the history of the black presence in Germany and Europe: the autobiography of Theodor Michael. Theodor Michael is the last surviving member of the first generation of ‘Afro-Germans’: Born in Germany in 1925 to a Cameroonian father and a German mother, he grew up in Berlin in the last days of the Weimar Republic. As a child and teenager he worked in circuses and films and experienced the tightening knot of racial discrimination under the Nazis in the years before the Second World War. He survived the war as a forced labourer, founding a family and making a career as a journalist and actor in post-war West Germany. Since the 1980s he has become an important spokesman for the black German consciousness movement, acting as a human link between the first black German community of the inter-war period, the pan-Africanism of the 1950s and 1960s, and new generations of Germans of African descent.

Theodor Michael’s life story is a classic account of coming to consciousness of a man who understands himself as both black and German; accordingly, it illuminates key aspects of modern German social history as well as of the post-war history of the African diaspora. The text has been translated by Eve Rosenhaft, Professor of German Historical Studies at the University of Liverpool and an internationally acknowledged expert in black German studies. It is accompanied by a translator’s preface, explanatory notes, a chronology of historical events and a guide to further reading, so that the book will be accessible and useful both for general readers and for undergraduate students.

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