A Lesson from Philadelphia’s Little Film Festival that Could

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2012-09-10 01:59Z by Steven

A Lesson from Philadelphia’s Little Film Festival that Could

Colorlines: News for Action
2012-08-10

Akiba Solomon, Columnist, Gender Matters

For a four-day event that began as a small assortment of screenings, there were plenty of major moments at Philadelphia’s inaugural BlackStar Film Festival last week. Curated in less than a year by producer and filmmaker Maori Karmael Holmes, this new celebration of film by and about people of the African diaspora featured more than 40 works from four continents including the Philadelphia premiere of Byron Hurt’s Kickstarter-assisted Soul Food Junkies; the U.S. debut of Berlin filmmaker Oliver Hardt’s The United States of Hoodoo, a sold-out screening of Nelson George’s Brooklyn Boheme, and a candid talk about African American filmmaking outside of the Hollywood system by Sundance-prize winning director and organizer Ava DuVernay…

…While the biggest crowds filled Philadelphia’s International House for screenings of nationally publicized works such as Brooklyn Boheme and Soul Food Junkies, lesser known films also attracted audiences. For me, the highlight was a German import, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992.

Written, directed and produced by German feminist publisher and professor Dagmar Schultz, the documentary provides an intimate portrait of the poet, professor, activist and cultural organizer who died of cancer in 1992 at age 58. Through never-released video, photographs and (sometimes hilarious) interviews with Lorde, her partner, Gloria Joseph, and a tight-knit group of Afro-German activists and writers, The Berlin Years tells the story of Lorde the genius facilitator.

When Harlem-born Lorde arrived in Berlin in 1984 as a visiting professor, she immediately sought out Afro-Germans—who were then known only by pejoratives like “cross-breed,” “mulatto” and “brown babies”—and taught them how to see themselves outside of what she observed as “the pain of living a difference that has no name.”

The anecdotes are rich. For instance, at the end of a 1984 poetry reading, Lorde asked the white women to leave the room and the black women to remain until they had spoken to at least one other black woman. “Her intention was to make us feel: No matter what you do, you are not alone,” recalls one Afro-German activist who was in that room. “You must work together! Make yourself visible and raise your voice, each of you in her own way.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Allegedly the confrontation with African American literature and history led those present to call themselves “Afro-German” and to record “their-story.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, Women on 2012-03-25 22:55Z by Steven

To discuss the perspective of race in contemporary German literature, it is worthwhile to focus on those writers associated with the programmatic efforts of the Afro-Germans, a heterogeneous, biracial group of individuals usually of German and African or African American heritage and born since 1945. In 1984 the late feminist author and scholar Audre Lorde presented a lecture and workshop in Berlin that apparently struck a resonant chord among the biracial women present. Lorde’s topic was African American and feminist literature. Allegedly the confrontation with African American literature and history led those present to call themselves “Afro-German” and to record “their-story.” The result has been organizational and publishing initiatives as well as a series of texts that include such disparate genres as lyric, film, essay, and rap. Perhaps the most interesting aspect in the evolution of Afro-German literature is the reception of the African American experience.

Leroy T. Hopkins, “Speak, So I Might See You! Afro-German Literature,” World Literature Today,Volume 69, Number 3, Multiculturalism in Contemporary German Literature (Summer, 1995): 533-538.

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Black German Cultural Society of New Jersey 2012 Annual Convention: Call for Papers

Posted in Articles, Europe, Forthcoming Media, United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2012-03-12 02:00Z by Steven

Black German Cultural Society of New Jersey 2012 Annual Convention: Call for Papers

Black German Cultural Society of New Jersey
2012-01-31

Building on the success of the inaugural 2011 conference, the second annual convention of the Black German Cultural Society of New Jersey (BGCSNJ) will be held at Barnard College in New York City on August 10-11, 2012.  This year’s convention will focus on the theme of “What Is the Black German Experience?” The conference will feature a keynote address by Yara Colette Lemke Muniz de Faria, screenings of the films “Hope in My Heart: The May Ayim Story” and “Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984-1992,” and readings by Black German poet-performers Olumide Popoola and Philipp Khabo Köpsell.

The BGCSNJ Review Committee invites proposals for papers that engage the multiplicity and diversity of the experiences of Blacks of German heritage and on Blackness in Germany. We welcome submissions for twenty-minute presentations on three academic panels and two sessions devoted to life writing, oral history and memoir. To participate please send a one-page abstract and a CV or short biographical statement to: bgcsinc@gmail.com. Deadline for proposals: March 15, 2012

For more information, click here.

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Berlin marks Black History Month but the struggle goes on

Posted in Articles, Europe, Media Archive, Social Science, Women on 2012-02-29 03:19Z by Steven

Berlin marks Black History Month but the struggle goes on

Deutsche Welle
2012-02-16

Anne Thomas

Berlin has become more diverse and the situation for Afro-Germans has improved, but it’s still hard to get a job or an apartment. Black History Month highlights the challenges faced by over 2 percent of the population.

A black Portuguese friend of mine once dated an African-American guy she had met in her favorite bar. “We were so surprised to see another black person, we instantly gravitated towards each other,” they told me, laughing. They were able to joke, but for many Afro-Germans, it has been a lonely struggle.

Although I live in Neukölln—reportedly Berlin’s most diverse district with inhabitants from 160 countries—I am always struck by how white the city seems compared to other European capitals. I have never seen a black doctor, civil servant, yoga teacher, ticket collector, bus driver, pharmacist, plumber, policewoman, librarian… Most of the black people I know are from the US, UK, Nigeria, Senegal, Brazil or Portugal.
 
As a white foreigner in Germany, I sometimes find it difficult here and am very aware of my differences. However, I cannot really imagine what it must be like to constantly be considered exotic, just because of a different skin color.

Remembering May Ayim

So this year’s Black History Month in Berlin has been especially fascinating. The Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD) introduced this annual event in 1990, the year of German reunification, which Afro-German poet and activist May Ayim described as a celebration “without immigrants, refugees, Jewish or black people.”

To date, many in Germany maintain the country has a very insignificant colonial history and racism is not an issue. Ayim (1960 – 1996), whose father was Ghanaian and mother German, suffered from this ignorance and co-founded the ISD to change attitudes and work towards a non-racist Germany…

…Introducing Afro-Germans

Micosse-Aikins also praised the fact that Berlin had changed for the better as a result of the work of May Ayim and her fellow panelist, the historian and activist Katharina Oguntoye, who was born in Zwickau to a white German mother and a black Nigerian father.

When Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist Audre Lorde arrived in Berlin in 1984, she looked for other black women and found mainly isolated individuals, including Ayim and Oguntuye. She encouraged them to write a book.

“She said we should introduce ourselves to each other and to the world,” recalled Oguntoye, adding that this was an extremely daunting task for two women in their early 20s, but one they felt equipped to perform.

The result was “Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out,” a groundbreaking combination of historical analysis, interviews, personal testimonies and poetry that explored racism in Germany and was published in German in 1986…

Read the entire article here.

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Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992

Posted in Biography, Europe, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Videos, Women on 2012-02-28 22:16Z by Steven

Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992

Third World Newsreel
2012
84 minutes
Germany
English/German with English Subtitles

Dagmar Schultz

2012 marks the 20th anniversary of Audre Lorde’s passing, the acclaimed Black lesbian feminist poet and activist. Throughout the 70s and 80s, Lorde’s incisive writings and speeches defined and inspired the women of color, feminist and LGBT social justice movements in the United States.

Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992  explores a little-known chapter of the writer’s prolific life, a period in which she helped ignite the Afro-German Movement and made lasting contributions to the German political and cultural scene before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German reunification.

Lorde mentored and encouraged Black German women to write and publish as a way of asserting their identities, rights and culture in a society that isolated and silenced them, while challenging white German women to acknowledge their white  privilege. As Lorde wrote in her book Our Dead Behind Us: Poems, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 contains previously unreleased audiovisual material from director Dagmar Schultz’s personal archive, showing Lorde on and off stage. With testimony from Lorde’s colleagues, students and friends, this film documents Lorde’s lasting legacy in Germany.

See the Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 Study Guide here.

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Speak, So I Might See You! Afro-German Literature

Posted in Articles, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-12-26 23:16Z by Steven

Speak, So I Might See You! Afro-German Literature

World Literature Today
Volume 69, Number 3, Multiculturalism in Contemporary German Literature (Summer, 1995)
pages 533-538

Leroy T. Hopkins, Professor of German
Millersville University, Millersville, Pennsylvania

In  recent decades Germany has struggled with the reality of being a multicultural society. The influx of political and economic refugees from Asia and Africa as well as growing friction between resident aliens euphemistically termed “Gastarbeiter” (guest workers) and the German population have created a political atmosphere conducive to neofascist and nationalistic elements expounding xenophobic policies. Simultaneously, the presence of diverse cultural, racial, and ethnic groups has created opportunities for literary perspectives that can diversify and enrich German culture. One such new perspective is that of race.

In and of itself, the German discussion of race is certainly no novelty. At least since the Age of Discovery and the first modem contacts with people of color, Europeans and Germans in particular have been so fascinated by exotic areas of the world that they collected flora and fauna from those regions to “adorn” their courts, museums, and universities and slake their hunger for the supposedly curious and bizarre. The growth of the slave trade and the resultant agitation to abolish it in the Atlantic world had a counterpart in the German states, where individuals such as Alexander von Humboldt and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach either spoke against the slave trade or extolled the numerous achievements of Africans.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the slave narratives, autobiographical statements from individuals who had removed themselves from bondage, played a central role in the international struggle against slavery: the victim served a double function. First, the acquisition of literacy demonstrated the ennobling impact of European education on the “primitive”; second, the inhumanity of slavery’ was verified in first-person narration. German receptivity for such accounts was not unproblematical. Although enthralled by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s fictionalized account of slave life, the German public was indifferent to the factual account presented by Frederick Douglass. The German translation of Douglass’s narrative of his life, published in 1860, appeared only in one edition and was not issued again until the GDR released a new translation in 1965. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, on the other hand, met with phenomenal success and sold over two million copies worldwide in just a single decade. This discrepancy in the respective receptions accorded to fictional and historical personages presages expectations about the African character (docility versus self-assuredness, object of pity versus autonomous individual, et cetera) that, fossilized by the German colonial experience and the pervasiveness of scientific racism, created a mind-set that would hinder rather than promote cross-cultural communication.

To discuss the perspective of race in contemporary German literature, it is worthwhile to focus on those writers associated with the programmatic efforts of the Afro-Germans, a heterogeneous, biracial group of individuals usually of German and African or African American heritage and born since 1945. In 1984 the late feminist author and scholar Audre Lorde presented a lecture and workshop in Berlin that apparently struck a resonant chord among the biracial women present. Lorde’s topic was African American and feminist literature. Allegedly the confrontation with African American literature and history led those present to call themselves “Afro-German” and to record “their-story.” The result has been organizational and publishing initiatives as well as a series of texts that include such disparate genres as lyric, film, essay, and rap. Perhaps the most interesting aspect in the evolution of Afro-German literature is the reception of the African American experience.

As an early step in their search for cultural identity the Afro-Germans organized a women’s group, ADEFA (for “Afrodeutschc Frauen” or Afro-German Women), and the ISD (for “Initiative Schwarze Deutsche” or Black German Initiative), with affiliated branches in major urban centers such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart. Perhaps recognizing the necessity of a major public campaign to attract the attention of a populace faded by over a generation of self-recrimination because of war crimes, the Afro-Germans turned to the mass media. Two provocative television broadcasts aired in 1986 and the energies released by Audre Lorde in Berlin culminated in the publication of Farbe bekennen: Afrodeutschc Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichie (Acknowledging Color Afro-German Women on the Trail of Their History). Part essay, pan oral history, this fascinating cross section of the Afro-German experience from the Wilhelminian empire up to the very recent past allowed bicultural women of color to reflect on the daily racism and sexism that have stalked them since childhood. As such, the selections are reminiscent of…

Purchase the article here.

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My hero: Audre Lorde by Jackie Kay

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2011-11-21 02:04Z by Steven

My hero: Audre Lorde by Jackie Kay

The Guardian
Series: My Hero
2011-11-18

Jackie Kay, Professor of Creative Writing
Newcastle University


Refusal to be defined by single categories: Lorde in 1983. Photograph: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

‘Lorde was openly lesbian before the gay movement existed. Her wise words often seem eerily prescient’

Audre Lorde dropped the y from Audrey when she was still a child so she could be Audre Lorde. She liked the symmetry of the es at the end. She was born in New York City in 1934 to immigrants from Grenada. She didn’t talk till she was four and was so short-sighted she was legally blind. She wrote her first poem in eighth grade. The Black Unicorn, her most unified collection of poems, partly describes a tricky relationship with her mother. “My mother had two faces and a frying pot / where she cooked up her daughters / into girls … My mother had two faces / and a broken pot /where she hid out a perfect daughter /who was not me.”…

…I first met Audre in 1984, when I was 22. She told me her grandfather had been Scottish, and that I didn’t need to choose between being Scottish and being black. “You can be both. You can call yourself an Afro Scot,” she said in her New York drawl. Lorde was Whitman-like in her refusal to be confined to single categories. She was large. She contained multitudes…

Read the entire article here.

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Controversy: Race and Sexuality on the American Frontier (FRO 100.023)

Posted in Barack Obama, Course Offerings, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2011-05-01 04:12Z by Steven

Controversy: Race and Sexuality on the American Frontier (FRO 100.023)

Goucher College, Baltimore, Maryland

Angelo Robinson, Associate Professor of English

“Am I Black or White? Am I Straight or Gay? CONTROVERSY?”  Since its founding, and long before recording artist Prince penned these lyrics in the 1980s, America has been a space and a place demanding and mandating polarized definitions of race and sexuality. This course will examine the reasoning behind and ramifications of these dichotomies from the Colonial Period to the present in genres that include literature, film, and music.  We will also explore how these binaries affect people who identify as biracial and bisexual.

This discussion-based course requires intensive reading, viewing, and listening and will foster your critical thinking and analytical writing.  Topics of discussion will include the “one-drop rule,” the slavery debate, miscegenation, racial passing, segregation, integration, interracial desire, and sexual passing.  Special attention will be given to individuals who and organizations that refuse to follow racial and sexual dictates. Authors will include Thomas Jefferson, Harriet Jacobs, Mark Twain, Nella LarsenJames Weldon Johnson, Ralph Ellison, June Jordan, James Baldwin, Audre LordeStevie Wonder, Prince, Adrienne Rich, E. Lynn Harris, and Barack Obama.

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Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Europe, Media Archive, Women on 2010-05-11 02:25Z by Steven

Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out

Orlanda Frauenverlag (German)
1986
University of Massachusetts Press (English)
1992
ISBN: 0-87023-759-4
Likely out of print.

Edited by

May Opitz [Ayim]
Katharina Oguntoye
Dagmar Schultz

Translated by Anne V. Adams

Foreword by Audre Lorde

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