That was the Worst Day of My Life: Recrafting Family through Memory, Race, and Rejection in Post-WWII Germany

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive, Women on 2019-03-03 03:03Z by Steven

That was the Worst Day of My Life: Recrafting Family through Memory, Race, and Rejection in Post-WWII Germany

Genealogy
Volume 1, Issue 2 (2017)
25 pages
DOI: 10.3390/genealogy1020011

Tracey Owens Patton, Professor
Department of Communication & Journalism
University of Wyoming

Genealogy 01 00011 g001
Figure 1. Ebony October 1948 (on left); “Brown Babies Adopted by African American Families, Jet Magazine, 8 November 1951 (on right) (Jet Magazine 1951).

This research project is a historical and narrative study of cross-racial, international couplings between Black U.S. servicemen and White German women during WWII and the children who resulted from these relationships. Once pejoratively referred to as “Brown Babies,” or worse, often both the U.S. and German governments collaborated in the destruction of families through forbidding interracial coupling and encouraging White German women to either abort mixed raced babies or give up these children for international adoption in an effort to keep Germany White. Using my own family’s history to show that mixed race children are the dross that needed to be removed from Germany, I employed memory and post-memory as my theoretical framing, coupled with authoethnography, family interviews, and narratives as my methodological tools. Of primary concern is what place Black German children and their mothers were allowed to occupy in the German national imagination and to what extent their individual rights and interests were superseded by the assertion of state interest in managing the German citizenry. Ultimately, it is argued that different tactics of constituting Germanness as homogenously White comes at the expense German women’s rights over their bodies and the exclusion of mixed race Black German children.

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Overlooked No More: Mabel Grammer, Whose Brown Baby Plan Found Homes for Hundreds

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2019-02-09 02:33Z by Steven

Overlooked No More: Mabel Grammer, Whose Brown Baby Plan Found Homes for Hundreds

The New York Times
2019-02-06

Alexis Clark, Adjunct Faculty
Columbia Journalism School, New York, New York


Mabel Grammer, who started the Brown Baby Plan to help mixed-race children in Germany. She adopted 12, and found homes for 500 others. Associated Press

Since 1851, many remarkable black men and women did not receive obituaries in The New York Times. This month, with Overlooked, we’re adding their stories to our archives.

Grammer’s self-run adoption agency made it possible for unwanted mixed-race children in Germany to find homes after World War II.

They were called “brown babies,” or “mischlingskinder,” a derogatory German term for mixed-race children. And sometimes they were just referred to as mutts.

They were born during the occupation years in Germany after World War II, the offspring of German women and African-American soldiers. Their fathers were usually transferred elsewhere and their mothers risked social repercussions by keeping them, so the babies were placed in orphanages.

But when Mabel Grammer, an African-American journalist, became aware of the orphaned children, she stepped in. She and her husband, an army chief warrant officer stationed in Mannheim, and later Karlsruhe, adopted 12 of them, and Grammer found homes for 500 others…

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Germany’s ‘Brown Babies’

Posted in Articles, Europe, Family/Parenting, History, Media Archive, United States on 2019-02-07 02:30Z by Steven

Germany’s ‘Brown Babies’

Black German Cultural Society
2019-02-05


Home Needed for 10,000 Brown Babies Interracial Children of War, Ebony Magazine, October 1948

We Are Here! (Wir Sind Hier!)

“We’ve struggled through childhoods filled with confusion, fear, anger, and feelings of inferior self-esteem. Navigated adolescence in extreme conformity to perceived structures of authority in order to redeem our existence, or in defiance to them in utter rebellion. Adulthood was either accomplished successfully by integrating the powerful nuances of our diversified selves, or postponed until safety could be found in the distanced wisdom of experience. Some of us didn’t make it. Some of us are just now coming of age.” ~ Rebekka White, Black German

Out of the approximately 95,000 U.S. Occupation babies born in Germany shortly after WWII, there were approximately 5,000 of us, Post WWII Afro-German children or so-called Negro mulatto babies, better known in the United States as Germany’s “Brown Babies.” In 1952, the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) deemed that we formed a special group, presenting a human and racial problem of a special nature. Our national and cultural heritage were seen to be in direct contrast to our skin color…

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Two Berlin Filmmakers Reflect on Germany’s Racial Dynamics

Posted in Articles, Arts, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism on 2018-08-03 18:34Z by Steven

Two Berlin Filmmakers Reflect on Germany’s Racial Dynamics

Hyperallergic
2018-08-03

Adela Yawitz
Berlin, Germany


Natasha A. Kelly, Millis Erwachen/Milli’s Awakening (2018), video, b/w, sound, 45′, video still (courtesy Natasha A. Kelly)

In their films at the Berlin Biennial, Natasha A. Kelly and Mario Pfeifer address the growing divide in Germany between the politics of liberal inclusion and on-the-ground ignorance, racism, and suppression.

BERLIN — The 10th edition of the Berlin Biennale opened in June. Ambitious yet unpretentious, the exhibition features 46 artists across 5 venues. The Biennale’s curator, Gabi Ngcobo, and her team create a setting for perceiving and relating to the artworks on view with little layering of textual analysis and without tying them explicitly to the artists’ biographies. In fact, the Biennale omits general information regarding artists’ nationalities and dates of birth. This is refreshing, not because it implies that the artworks should stand on their own, but as a political signal against the convention of touting artists’ diversity as a symbol of the institution’s progressive politics or post-colonial criticality. At this Biennale, artists — and curators — of color are the majority, yet this alone is not its primary subject nor its intention…

…In Milli’s Awakening (2018), artist and academic activist Natasha A. Kelly weaves together portraits of eight Afro-German women of different generations. Their lives have all been touched by art, in one way or another, and many of them tell stories of structural barriers and marginalization in and out of the art world. Maciré, an activist from Bremen recounts how she understood in retrospect that her film, shown at the local museum, had been used to legitimate the exhibition as a whole by providing a non-white, critical perspective. She has since decided to invest in working for her own community, not for the white audiences of the Kunsthalle. Diana from Bavaria, who identifies as intersex, recalls taking refuge in photography to overcome her discomfort with her own body as a teenager. And the artist Maseho reads from her tongue-in-cheek guide for Black POCs traveling in Germany; she advises saving time by telling Germans you are from “USA” or “Afrika,” since other answers would devastate their view of the world…

Read the entire article here.

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Transnational Perspectives on Black Germany

Posted in Canada, Europe, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, Women on 2018-04-20 02:55Z by Steven

Transnational Perspectives on Black Germany

University of Toronto
Innis Town Hall
2 Sussex Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1J5 Canada
2018-05-23 through 2018-05-25

Sponsors: Germanic Languages & Literatures, Cinema Studies Institute, Gender & Women’s Studies Institute, Centre for Transnational & Diaspora Studies, Comparative Literature, SSHRC, Centre for the United States, TIFF, DAAD, and Heinrich Böll Stiftung

The Black German Heritage and Research Association (BGHRA) is collaborating with the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures and the Cinema Studies Institute at the University of Toronto in hosting the 3-day SSHRC-funded conference, “Transnational Perspectives on Black Germany” in Toronto, Ontario, on May 23-25, 2018. The event will feature keynote addresses by Fatima El-Tayeb and Noah Sow, a screening of “On Second Glance” (dir. Sheri Hagen, 2012) at TIFF’s Bell Lightbox with filmmaker in attendance, and a dance-music-word tribute to Afro-German poet and activist May Ayim by guest artists Layla Zami and Oxana Chi.

REGISTRATION OPEN UNTIL 4/21/2018

For more information, click here.

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Being Black: Still a multi-front struggle

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2017-12-05 01:19Z by Steven

Being Black: Still a multi-front struggle

DW
2017-04-07


Theodor Wonja Michael

A particular excerpt of the DW documentary “Afro.Germany” went viral: the touching testimony of one of the oldest Afro-Germans born in Berlin. Here’s what can be learned from social media users’ hundreds of reactions.

“I am an African – I didn’t even know Cameroon and Togo were German colonies,” said one social media user, reacting to an online video clip about the life and times of Theodor Wonja Michael, one of Germany’s oldest contemporary witnesses.

The clip is an excerpt from “Afro.Germany,” a documentary project by Deutsche Welle, which aims to chronicle the diversity of Black experiences in Germany and challenge the historical amnesia surrounding Germany’s colonial past.

The video narrates Michael’s extraordinary experiences as a Black person in Germany.

Born in Berlin in 1925, Michael was forced to act in “human zoos” during his childhood. He survived the Nazi era and later became an actor and author

A further challenge: fluid identities

However, subsequent analysis by researchers such as E. P. Johnson, has drawn attention to the more troubling implications of Black identity politics.

Black pride can inadvertently promote the problematic notion of Black authenticity – that is to say, it can construct an image of the the “real Blacks” and the “real” Black experience, to which the individuals must conform and relate. This line of thinking can hinder efforts geared towards separating identity from race.

For example, one commentator insisted on referring to Michael as “mixed-race” and denounced the acceptance of “trans-racial crap.”

Race does not define us, but it does influence our experience of the world. Needless to say, “Black” includes a spectrum of peoples whose experience of race varies depending on the interaction of other factors, such as class, culture, gender, nationality, etc. For many people, race is not a black and white issue, but a multi-front struggle for inclusion in their “own” communities.

“My mother was French, my father was American […] Being light skinned, I fought blacks because I wasn’t dark enough. I fought whites because I was colored. Fought Spanish, Puerto Ricans because they said I was a ‘wanna be’ and fake,” said one commentator…

Read the entire article here.

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Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken

Posted in Africa, Audio, Europe, History, Interviews, Media Archive on 2017-12-05 00:36Z by Steven

Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken

The New Book Network
2017-02-04

Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora Community, 1884-1960 (Cambridge University Press 2015)

“There were black Germans?”

My students are always surprised to learn that there were and are a community of African immigrants and Afro-Germans that dates back to the nineteenth century (and sometimes earlier), and that this community has at times had an influence on German culture, society, and racial thinking that belied its small size.

Germany’s role in colonizing Africa has received increased attention lately, with an exhibit on German colonialism appearing at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in October and recent headway on a deal for Germany to pay reparations to the descendants of Herero and Nama genocide victims in Namibia. In Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Disapora Community, 1884-1960 (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken supply a part of the colonial story that gets even less attention than that of Germans in Africa: what about Africans in Germany? Focusing primarily on a community of West-African-born black Germans and their families, Rosenhaft and Aitken trace the groups evolution in the nineteenth century through its persecutions by the Nazi state and postwar existence.

Download the interview (00:25:27) here.

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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

Read the entire article here.

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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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