Ijoma Mangold: “I was a Wagner fan already at 15”

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Europe, Interviews, Media Archive on 2022-01-20 18:40Z by Steven

Ijoma Mangold: “I was a Wagner fan already at 15”

Exberliner
Berlin, Germany
2022-01-06

Alexander Wells


Photo: Christian Werner

Ijoma Mangold is a man who speaks his mind. One of Germany’s top literary critics, he currently lives in Berlin as the culture and politics correspondent for Die Zeit, while featuring regularly on German television and on literary prize juries. Late last year, DAS Editions published his memoir about growing up biracial in 1970s Heidelberg, The German Crocodile, in an award-winning English translation by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. This compelling work covers Mangold’s relationship with his single mother, his burgeoning passion for German literature, the belated appearance of his father and formative visits he made to both Nigeria and the USA. The narrative is shaped throughout by Mangold’s subtle literary touch, his understated wit – and a fierce intellectual independence.

What led you to write a book about your youth?

The catalyst was the death of my mother in 2010. That triggered a lot of beautiful, even idyllic memories of my childhood, including ones I didn’t know I had. So I began writing about that. But then I realised that the reader would be wondering, with all this talk about a mother and child – where is the father? I would have to explain that. It became clear that this was the essential story of the book: what it means to grow up in a completely idyllic German setting when you look different, have an unusual first name, and don’t have a father around. I also quickly realised I was bringing some tonalities and perspectives that aren’t exactly typical for this genre. Which is to say that my book isn’t one of accusation, or of trauma. On the contrary, I had an extraordinarily happy childhood. And I wouldn’t say that I really experienced racism. Still, as a child, I had this growing consciousness of being different that I carried around with me…

Read the entire interview here.

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The German Crocodile: A Literary Memior (Das Deutsche Krokodil)

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Books, Europe, Monographs on 2022-01-19 23:52Z by Steven

The German Crocodile: A Literary Memior (Das Deutsche Krokodil)

DAS Editions
November 2021 (originally published in 2017)
366 pages
Hardcover 978-1838221508
eBook ISBN : 978-1838221515

Ijoma Mangold (Translated into English by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp)

In this compelling memoir of growing up different, Ijoma Mangold, today one of Germany’s best literary critics, remembers his youth in 1970s Heidelberg and the new Federal Republic, and momentous visits in early adulthood to the USA and Nigeria.

His own story is inextricably linked with that of his mother, a German from the eastern province of Silesia, forced to escape as a refugee in the expulsions from 1944, and to start afresh in utter poverty in West Germany. His Nigerian father came to Germany to train in pediatric surgery but returned before Ijoma was old enough to remember him. His reappearance on the scene forces a crash collision with an unknown culture, one he grew up suspicious of, and a new complex family history to come to terms with. Mangold explores many existential questions in this lively narrative; How does a boy cope with an absent father? What was it like to grow up ‘bi-racial’ in the Federal Republic? Was he an opportunist, a master adaptor who had over-assimilated? What is the relationship between race and class? And what is more unusual in Germany: having dark skin or a passion for Thomas Mann and Richard Wagner? Ijoma shares his story with its dramatic twists and turns, not forgetting the surprises he uncovers about himself along the way.

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Film Screening with Director Ines Johnson-Spain in Attendance: “Becoming Black”

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Videos on 2021-11-19 20:34Z by Steven

Film Screening with Director Ines Johnson-Spain in Attendance: “Becoming Black”

Black Germans
2021-11-17

Sponsored by Waterloo Centre for German, German at University of Toronto, and Africana Studies at Rutgers University-Camden
November 17, 2021

SYNOPSIS: Becoming Black (dir. Ines Johnson-Spain, 2019, 91 min.):

In the 1960s, the East German Sigrid falls in love with Lucien from Togo, one of several African students studying at a trade school on the outskirts of East Berlin. She becomes pregnant, but is already married to Armin. Sigrid and Armin raise their daughter as their own, withholding from her knowledge of her African paternal heritage. That child grows up to become the filmmaker Ines Johnson-Spain. In filmed encounters with her aging stepfather Armin and others from her youth, Johnson-Spain tracks the strategies of denial developed by her parents and the surrounding community. Her intimate but also critical exploration comprising both painful and confusing childhood memories and matter-of-fact accounts testifies to a culture of repression. When blended with movingly warm encounters with her Togolese family, Becoming Black becomes a thought-provoking reflection on identity, social norms and family ties.

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Film Screening with Director in Attendance: “Becoming Black”(2019)

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Europe, Live Events, Media Archive, Videos on 2021-11-12 16:07Z by Steven

Film Screening with Director in Attendance: “Becoming Black”(2019)

Black German Heritage & Research Association
Online Event
Wednesday, 2021-11-17, 17:30-19:30Z (12:30-14:30 EST)

As the next segment of our ongoing All Black Lives Matter event series, and in cooperation with the Waterloo Centre for German Studies, The University of Toronto, and Africana Studies at Rutgers University-Camden, the Black German Heritage and Research Association (BGHRA) is pleased to invite you to a film screening of Ines Johnson-Spain’s autobiographical documentary “Becoming Black“(2019).

SYNOPSIS: Becoming Black (dir. Ines Johnson-Spain, 2019, 91 min.):

In the 1960s, the East German Sigrid falls in love with Lucien from Togo, one of several African students studying at a trade school on the outskirts of East Berlin. She becomes pregnant, but is already married to Armin. Sigrid and Armin raise their daughter as their own, withholding from her knowledge of her African paternal heritage. That child grows up to become the filmmaker Ines Johnson-Spain. In filmed encounters with her aging stepfather Armin and others from her youth, Johnson-Spain tracks the strategies of denial developed by her parents and the surrounding community. Her intimate but also critical exploration comprising both painful and confusing childhood memories and matter-of-fact accounts testifies to a culture of repression. When blended with movingly warm encounters with her Togolese family, Becoming Black becomes a thought-provoking reflection on identity, social norms and family ties.

The link to view the film will be posted on Eventbrite for registrants to stream from November 15-18, 2021.

For more information and to register, click here.

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The Black Lives Matter movement in four E.U. countries

Posted in Articles, Europe, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice on 2021-07-13 22:25Z by Steven

The Black Lives Matter movement in four E.U. countries

Der Tagesspiegel
Berlin, Germany
2021-07-12

Andrea Dernbach

Graciously translated from German into English for me by Gyavira Lasana.


Black Lives Still Matter: Dass das Leben Schwarzer Menschen weiterhin zähle, war der leicht variierte Titel einer Demonstration. FOTO: FABIAN SOMMER/DPA

The short summer of BLM—and what remains of it. The results varied, but everywhere #blm influenced the debate on racism, says a European study. A comment.

A year has now come and gone since the protests that drove hundreds of thousands onto the streets after the death of the black US citizen George Floyd—and not just in the USA. In Germany, by the end of July 2020, around 200,000 people had demonstrated against racism in their own country, through police, discrimination in public services and against the gauntlet that is their everyday life for the majority of non-white people.

Forgot everything? The last demonstration at the Brandenburg Gate brought just a thousand people, despite relaxed pandemic regulations. Media interest in “Black Lives Matter” also quickly subsided after initial widespread coverage, as a group of researchers from Germany, Poland, Italy and Denmark who investigated the phenomenon a year later for their respective countries have noted.

But this only seems to be the surface when you read what the social scientists from the German Center for Integration and Migration Research in Berlin, the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, the University of Copenhagen and the Polish Academy of Sciences have compiled in interviews with activists, media analysis and on four maps of protest. In all countries, the short #blm summer has made racism as a topic more visible and black voices more audible than ever.

In Poland protest only in the cities

Even if, as quoted in the research report, it had to be made clear to the enthusiastic newcomers that the black movement in Germany has existed for more than forty years and not merely since May 25, 2020. Now having gained momentum and publicity, anti-racism became, according to the report, “like never before a political topic.” Even for Poland, where the protests were relatively small—limited to major cities such as Warsaw, Kraków, Wroclaw and Katowice—and failed to include outrage over government actions against women’s and gay rights, Black Lives Matter nonetheless made racism a public issue.

Particularly interesting is the comparative view of the two countries with both fascist and colonial pasts: In Italy as well as in Germany, the #blm protests reached the whole country, and both movements related racism to their nations’ past. In the media, on the other hand, and possibly beyond there was resistance to the connection of today’s racism with national history. According to the analysis of the team from Florence, even Italy’s left-liberal and left-wing traditional newspapers have dealt with the US protests in far more detail than with those in Europe and Italy. Even the left-wing Il Manifesto has interpreted the slogan “I can’t breathe,” whispered by the dying Georg Floyd, not as a call against anti-black racism but a jingo for the many who suffered from shortness of breath owing to the pandemic, the climate and the economic crisis.

Racism is often that of “others”

In Germany, the news daily Bild had virtually concealed the topic. The narrative that minorities have been wanting to blow up for decades—that racism has been successfully overcome together with fascism and Nazism—still seems resilient. The editors of Bild had decided that a racist status quo in Germany was not something its readership wanted to see, hear, or read. Interestingly, Alle außer mir, Francesca Melandri’s excellent novel about Italy’s racist Abyssinian War against Ethiopia and its consequences sold 70,000 copies in Germany in one year, while selling over the counter just 10,000 times in Italy. Racism is preferably that of others.

The two countries are also far apart in terms of the response of established politics to #blm. In Italy, the momentum seems to have ebbed before reaching the so-called palazzo, or parliament: “At the political-institutional level, we cannot yet see any effects,” says the research report. In Germany, however, even as BLM was less diverse and counted fewer refugees and fewer active people than in Italy, the movement found exactly the right people for German formal democracy: long-established Afro-Germans with the necessary experience in German politics. For example, they participated in the Chancellor’s Cabinet Committee on Right-Wing Extremism and Anti-Racism, and since then there has also been more money committed black programs and projects.

How long the topic of racism endures at the upper levels of institutions cannot readily be determined. As the researchers also write: For a real verdict on #blm in Europe, a look at the one short summer is too short.

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Queer Memory and Black Germans

Posted in Articles, Europe, Gay & Lesbian, History, Media Archive on 2021-06-21 01:33Z by Steven

Queer Memory and Black Germans

The New Fascism Syllabus: Exploring the New Right through Scholarship and Civic Engagement
2021-06-08

Tiffany N. Florvil, Associate Professor of European History
University of New Mexico


Memorial plaque, May-Ayim-Ufer, Berlin. OTFW CC BY-SA 3.0.

In “The German Catechism,” Dirk Moses offers an interesting intervention by challenging the idea of the Holocaust’s uniqueness as well as current debates about the Holocaust and its connection to German colonialism, especially the Namibian genocide (1904-08). He also addresses the stifled debates surrounding antisemitism, Israel, and Palestine. In making his argument, Moses uses five points to explore Germans’ abilities to come to terms with their genocidal past and how that past has shaped subsequent postwar efforts at state (re)building, national identity, belonging, and restitution. Postcolonial scholars such as Paul Gilroy, Frantz Fanon, and Aimé Césaire have long acknowledged the interconnections among colonialism, antisemitism, racism, and the Holocaust. Moses even references the latter two theorists in his piece. I applaud some of his intellectual provocations as well as the other contributors in this exciting forum (i.e. Frank Biess, Alon Confino, Bill Niven, Zoe Samudzi, Helmut Walser Smith, Johannes von Moltke, etc.). Together, they not only force us to grapple with these histories and our own positionalities, but they affirm how subjective (and not value-free) the production and dissemination of knowledge really is.

As much as I welcome debate, I am left pondering what is exactly new about Moses’s claims given that Black (queer) women in Germany examined the Holocaust and memory politics since the 1980s often outside of academic institutions and mainstream debates; sadly, a dynamic that is still common today. There were (and remain) racialized communities in Germany who used the Holocaust as a point of reference for opening up public dialogues about discrimination and systemic racism. They did so in their community and in their own publications, constructing a new public sphere. This was not taken up in the mainstream; it still isn’t today. Where are the voices of those individuals in these German debates past and present? This is also striking considering that those same communities demonstrated in their cultural and political work how “Memories are not owned by groups—nor are groups owned by memories. Rather, the borders of memory and identity are jagged”—a point stressed in Michael Rothberg’s Multidirectional Memory (2009), which is encountering criticism in today’s Germany, but which has propelled analysis of the complex, overlapping layers of memory at play in the postwar years. If Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung is such a fundamental feature of postwar German society, where are the perspectives from Black German, Turkish German, and Romani communities? Why don’t we know them and why aren’t they shaping the debate? The latter group was not officially recognized as victims of the Third Reich until 1982. It is the first group I will focus on in further detail below…

Read the entire article here.

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Afro-German Women are Still Upholding the Legacy of May Ayim

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2020-09-13 01:55Z by Steven

Afro-German Women are Still Upholding the Legacy of May Ayim

Catapult
2020-09-10

Tari Ngangura


May Ayim with Audre Lorde/Photograph via audrelordeberlin.com

There have always been people suffering from anti-Blackness. And May Ayim highlights the continuity of the Black experience—not only her own, but those before her as well.

In 1986, Afro-German author and poet May Opitz—better known as May Ayim—co-edited the anthology, Showing Our Colours: Afro-German Women Speak Out. The book carries the stories of Afro-German women and their volatile, often violent experiences with anti-Blackness, belonging, and sexism in the European nation. Showing Our Colours remains a seminal offering in works that claim the existence and legitimacy of Black history within Europe, and also examines Germany’s specific role in the nineteenth century colonization of Africa—including the genocide in Namibia, which saw over one hundred thousand of the Herero, Nama, and San people killed by the German regime from 1904 until 1908.

Those who survived the genocide were locked in concentration camps, a precursor to those that would be utilized in the Holocaust. Showing Our Colours is as much about claiming space as it is about holding Germany accountable to its imperial history and its effects on the contemporary realities of Black immigrants living in the country. The book also outlines political shifts through the ages that saw terms like Moor, Negro, and African morph into racial epithets that would later be used by pseudoscientists to justify anti-Black racism, fascism, and medical bias.

Ayim died by suicide in 1996, and in her life and death, I see a testament to the resilience of Black women, and an indictment of insidious white supremacy that makes Black life a fragile negotiation between visibility and erasure. Since her death, Ayim’s work has been revisited most often by young Afro-Germans searching for the language and tools to explore their Blackness and womanhood alongside a European history that interrupted their ancestry and systematically destabilizes their present. For Afro-Germans, and especially the youth who have lived through global Black Lives Matter conversations, who witnessed police brutality on both a national and global scale, it is not enough to be simply German. It’s in this space that Ayim’s work is finding new eyes…

I spoke with Marny Garcia Mommertz, a Black-German researcher born in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, about how the late author’s work has been something of a map, detailing similar experiences of othering, and a reminder that her contemporary reality is not simply of her own making, but part of a larger structural legacy of oppression…

Read the entire interview here.

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Being black in Nazi Germany

Posted in Articles, Arts, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2019-05-22 00:29Z by Steven

Being black in Nazi Germany

BBC News
2019-05-21

Damian Zane

A slide used on lectures on genetics at the State Academy for Race and Health in Dresden, Germany, 1936. Original caption: "Mulatte child of a German woman and a Negro of the French Rhineland garrison troops, among her German classmates
This photo was used in genetics lectures at Germany’s State Academy for Race and Health Library of Congress

Film director Amma Asante came across an old photograph taken in Nazi Germany of a black schoolgirl by chance.

Standing among her white classmates, who stare straight into the camera, she enigmatically glances to the side.

Curiosity about the photograph – who the girl was and what she was doing in Germany – set the award-winning film-maker off on a path that led to Where Hands Touch, a new movie starring Amandla Stenberg and George MacKay.

It is an imagined account of a mixed-race teenager’s clandestine relationship with a Hitler Youth member, but it is based on historical record…

Racist caricatures

The derogatory term “Rhineland bastards” was coined in the 1920s to refer to the 600-800 mixed-race children who were the result of those relationships.

Newspaper cutting in the Frankfurter Volksblatt says "600 Bastards Accused, the legacy of black crimes against the Rhinelanders"
The 1936 headline in the Frankfurter Volksblatt says: “600 Bastards Accused, the legacy of black crimes against the Rhinelanders” Robbie Aitken

The term spoke to some people’s imagined fears of an impure race. Made-up stories and racist caricatures of sexually predatory African soldiers were circulated at the time, fuelling concern…

Read the entire article here.

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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.

Read the entire article HTML or PDF format.

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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…

Read the entire article here.

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