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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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…

Read the entire article here.

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Why Germany’s latest Nazi satire ‘Heil’ isn’t brave enough

Posted in Articles, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2015-10-26 01:10Z by Steven

Why Germany’s latest Nazi satire ‘Heil’ isn’t brave enough

Deutsche Welle
2015-07-16

Sarah Hofmann

An unlikely spokesman
Neo-Nazi boss Sven (left, played by Beno FĂĽrmann) celebrates a victory. He kidnapped Afro-German author Sebastian Klein (played by Jerry Hoffmann), who suffers from amnesia after behind hit on the head. Klein starts mimicking everything the neo-Nazis say.

An Afro-German starts talking like a neo-Nazi after the right-wingers beat him up in the new film satire, “Heil.” If Germany is going to laugh about Nazis, it should have a better reason to, says DW’s Sarah Hofmann.

It starts with a shock and the text “Deutschland 1945” on a black board. Cut. Historic footage of a Hitler speech. Cut. Piles of corpses in Bergen-Belsen. Cut. “Deutschland 1945” on a black board. Cut. One of the main characters in the film, a neo-Nazi, spraying “Wheit Pauer” – presumably intended to read “White Power” – and a swastika on a wall.

The first sequence in the film “Heil” lasts only five seconds. But the scenes are powerful. The audience stops laughing when the images jump from 1945 to 2015.

As a German in the audience, I find myself asking: Is that ok? Can images of Nazi crimes be used to evoke laughter without offending the victims? I decide that, yes, it can. But with one caveat: It has to hurt.

If the humor is black, then it should be bad.

How far can clichés be taken?

Nevertheless, even in 2015, Nazi jokes shouldn’t be turned into slapstick in Germany – and that’s the problem with “Heil.” The plot cannot be summed up in a few lines. It opens in Prittwitz, a fictional East German village that fulfills every clichĂ© and is controlled by neo-Nazis. Afro-German author Sebastian Klein has a reading scheduled in this very town. Shortly after he arrives, he is beaten up and kidnapped by a bunch of neo-Nazis. The slapstick element comes when Klein suffers from amnesia after being hit on the head and mimics everything the neo-Nazis say for the rest of the film.

In talk shows, Klein rants xenophobic slogans. It’s a victory for neo-Nazi boss, Sven, who is competing with other neo-Nazi groups: the new Nazis in the West and the Nipsters. The latter dress like hipsters and know their way around social media, which gives them an advantage over the backward twits from Prittwitz. Then there are the local gangs that are just waiting for an opportunity to march into Poland again.

And Sebastian? His pregnant girlfriend – the epitome of the well-situated, hip Berlin mom – comes looking for him…

Read the entire article here.

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WorldLink: Racial identities and the politics of color

Posted in Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-09-01 01:45Z by Steven

WorldLink: Racial identities and the politics of color

Deutsche Welle (DW)
2015-06-19

Bliss Broyard responds to the recent controversy surrounding Rachel Dolezal’spassing” as black, and describes how racial identities have shaped her own life and career.

Download the interview (00:07:55) here.

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From hair care to racism, Afro-Germans share experiences online

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Europe, Media Archive, Women on 2013-12-20 19:00Z by Steven

From hair care to racism, Afro-Germans share experiences online

DW: Deutsche Welle
Berlin/Bonn, Germany
2013-12-18

Lori Herber, Cologne

Two 20-somethings in Germany have launched krauselocke.de, the country’s first online portal with an Afro-German perspective. For many in the community, it’s more than hair advice – it’s a roadmap to identity

After growing up with few role models who looked like them, Afro-Germans Barbara Mabanza (left) and Esther Donkor (right) didn’t want the same thing to happen to girls in Germany’s next generation. So they created a website to bring together a community.

Twelve-year-old Magdalena Inou is one of those girls the two had in mind. Magdalena has her Austrian mother’s quick smile and her Cameroonian father’s kinky hair. Tonight those tresses are pulled into a ponytail. She sits beside her mother, Sylvia and is quick to point out the obvious.

“My hair is different from the hair of my mother,” she explains, matter-of-factly. Her mother, Sylvia Inou adds. “I have German hair. Austrian hair. Straight hair.”

They’ve traveled more than eight hours from Vienna to Cologne to meet more than 50 fellow members of the online community called “Krauselocke,” or “kinky curls.” They want to get tips on how to care for Magdalena’s hair and, most importantly, to show Magdalena she’s not alone…

Read the entire article here.

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Exhibition brings black Germans’ stories to light

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Europe, Media Archive, Social Science on 2012-11-10 17:21Z by Steven

Exhibition brings black Germans’ stories to light

DW
2012-11-09

Helen Whittle

An exhibit gives voice to the histories of Africans, African-Americans and Afro-Germans from the past 300 years of German history. It presents a differentiated perspective on the lives and histories of blacks in Germany.

Asked what comes to mind when they think about Germany, many foreigners conjure up stereotypical images of Oktoberfest, the Holocaust and the Berlin Wall.

But these images of Teutonic culture and society do little to reflect the diversity of the contemporary, multiethnic Federal Republic of Germany where one fifth of the population has an ethnic minority background, according to an exhibition that opened Saturday (3.11.2012) at Cologne’s Alte Feuerwache.

Jonas Behre, director at the Initiative for Black People in Germany (ISD), helped organize the exhibit titled “Homestory Deutschland: Black Biographies from History and the Present” and which provides a collective self-portrait, giving voice to the complex and varied histories of Africans, African-Americans and Afro-Germans from the past three centuries of German history.

“Even though black people have lived in Germany for hundreds of years, it is not viewed as a reality of everyday life,” said Behre, who was born in Eritrea but has lived for virtually all of his life in Germany. “And that can be seen in the discrimination and exclusion in daily life, and that’s what we hope to tackle with this exhibition.”…

…Another of the biographies illuminated in the exhibition is that of Afro-German actor, journalist and activist Theodor Wonja Michael. Born in Hamburg in 1925, Michael is Germany’s oldest living Afro-German. His father moved from Cameroon—then a German colony—to Germany in 1904.

Denied access to higher education on the basis of skin color, he would have liked to have become an archeologist or an ethnologist. But as a young man, one of the few possibilities he had to earn a living wage was as an actor in colonial films or “Völkerschauen”—the ethnological expositions or “human zoos” popular in Germany in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

After the end of the Second World War, Michael found it hard to get work he managed to get work as an actor of the theater stage.

Michael remembers how his father always felt it was his natural right to live in Germany and how this attitude remains integral to own perspective on life as an Afro-German today.

“Afro-German means that one has two backgrounds, namely an African one and a German one,” Michael said. “I think it’s an advantage having an insight into two cultures. I see it as a very positive thing.”…

Read the entire article here.

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