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 main motive for the legislation was to prevent mixed marriages, which would lead to the birth of mixed-race children and “racial pollution.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-08-15 19:09Z by Steven

Based on a long series of modern studies, [James Q.] Whitman says the Nuremberg Laws were crafted so as to create citizenship laws based on racial categories. The main motive for the legislation was to prevent mixed marriages, which would lead to the birth of mixed-race children and “racial pollution.” At the center of the debate that preceded the Nuremberg Laws was the aspiration to construct a legal code that would prevent such situations. American precedents, which were meant to make African-Americans, Chinese and Filipinos second-class citizens, provided inspiration for the Nazis.

Oded Heilbronner, “Racism Comes Full Circle: America as the Harbinger of the Nazis’ Race Laws,” Haaretz, August 15, 2017. http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.806835.

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Racism Comes Full Circle: America as the Harbinger of the Nazis’ Race Laws

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Virginia on 2017-08-15 19:00Z by Steven

Racism Comes Full Circle: America as the Harbinger of the Nazis’ Race Laws

Haaretz
2017-08-15

Oded Heilbronner, Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies
Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Shenkar College of Engineering and Design


Demonstrators carry confederate and Nazi flags during the Unite the Right free speech rally at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA on August 12, 2017. Emily Molli / NurPhoto

James Q. Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017)

Nazi sentiment was very much influenced by the American experience including the Jim Crow legislation in the South, Yale’s James Q. Whitman says in new book

A recent study has joined the constant flow of research on the Third Reich, an original work that sheds more light on a subject we thought we knew everything about: Nazi racism. It’s a subject all the more current after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

Countless books have been written on the sources of Nazi racism. Some reconstruct 500 years of German history, since the days of Martin Luther, and find the source of the Nazis’ murderous worldview. Others see Nazi ideology as a historical accident whose roots are to be found only in the few years before the rise of the Third Reich.

Others invoke European contexts: the Eastern European or French anti-Semitism on the eve of the 20th century, and the Communist revolution, whose shock waves included murderous anti-Semitism in Europe. We also must not ignore the biographical-psychological studies that focus on the pathological anti-Semitism developed by the Nazis, with Hitler at their head.

The unique work of Prof. James Q. Whitman of Yale Law School, whose previous book explored the growing divide between criminal law and punishment in America compared to Europe, belongs to a long series of research noting the global contexts in which decisions are made and events occurred both regionally and domestically…

…Based on a long series of modern studies, Whitman says the Nuremberg Laws were crafted so as to create citizenship laws based on racial categories. The main motive for the legislation was to prevent mixed marriages, which would lead to the birth of mixed-race children and “racial pollution.” At the center of the debate that preceded the Nuremberg Laws was the aspiration to construct a legal code that would prevent such situations. American precedents, which were meant to make African-Americans, Chinese and Filipinos second-class citizens, provided inspiration for the Nazis…

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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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.”…

Read the entire article here.

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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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We got diversity all wrong!!!

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive on 2017-04-01 01:48Z by Steven

We got diversity all wrong!!!

Dirty Movies: Your platform for thought-provoking cinema
2017-03-30

Victor Fraga, Writer and Publisher
London, United Kingdom


Brigitte Mira and El Hedi ben Salem in Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

Liberals like myself like to embrace and demand diversity, but we often come up with flawed arguments; Fassbinder has taught me that this can backfire with catastrophic consequences – Victor Fraga reflects on the 1974 classic ‘Fear Eats the Soul‘, as the film reaches UK cinemas

Diversity is not as straight-forward as it seems. We liberals like to think that it is a mandatory requirement for a multicultural, modern and sophisticated society. Yet we often come up with arguments that only serve to perpetuate the most reactionary and short-sighted rhetoric. For example, during the Brexit debate, the discussion around immigrants was almost inevitably linked to their financial and social contribution, something along the lines: “EU citizens have been paying taxes for years, they don’t claim benefits, and so on”. This is a dangerous fallacy.

It’s as if our tolerance of foreigners was entirely contingent on money and, to a lesser extent, social functionality (“they are our nurses, our train drivers, etc”). We have thereby stripped tolerance of its fundamentally altruistic nature. It’s as if we suddenly decided that tolerance has nothing to do with kindness, hospitality or high-mindedness. I have learnt from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 classic Fear Eats the Soul (which is out in cinemas this weekend) that this is a very serious mistake with very pernicious ramifications. Tolerance founded upon economic/ vested interests will develop into an ulcer and kill…

Read the entire article here.

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How U.S. Law Inspired the Nazis

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Interviews, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-25 20:13Z by Steven

How U.S. Law Inspired the Nazis

The Chronicle Review
The Chronicle of Higher Education
2017-03-19

Marc Parry, Senior Reporter


Asian immigrants in the late 1920s await processing in an internment center in San Francisco. AP Images

It started with Mein Kampf. James Q. Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale University, was researching a legal-history question when he pulled Adolf Hitler’s mid-1920s manifesto from the shelf. What jumped out at Whitman was the admiration that Hitler expressed for the United States, a nation that the future Führer lauded as “the one state” that had made progress toward establishing a healthy racial order. Digging deeper, Whitman discovered a neglected story about how the Nazis took inspiration from U.S. racial policies during the making of Germany’s Nuremberg Laws, the anti-Jewish legislation enacted in 1935. That history is the focus of Whitman’s new book, Hitler’s American Model (Princeton University Press). The interview that follows has been edited and condensed…

You also write that some Nazis felt that the American legal example went too far. The Nazis were very interested in the way Americans classified members of the different races, defining who counted as black or Asian or whatever it might be. And there, in particular, the most far-reaching Nazi definition of who counted as a Jew was less than what you found in almost any American state. The most far-reaching Nazi definition, which dates to 1933, held that a Jew was anybody who had one Jewish grandparent. There were a few American states that made the same provision with regard to blacks. But most of them went much further than that. At the extreme, American states had what’s called the one-drop rule. That is, one drop of black blood makes you black…

Read the entire interview here.

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Why the Nazis Loved America

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-25 01:14Z by Steven

Why the Nazis Loved America

TIME
2017-03-21

James Whitman, Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law
Yale Law School


American Nazis parade on East 86th St. in New York City around 1939. Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images

Whitman is the author most recently of Hitler’s American Model.

To say America today is verging on Nazism feels like scaremongering. Yes, white nationalism lives in the White House. Yes, President Donald Trump leans authoritarian. Yes, the alt-right says many ugly things. But for all the economic pains of many Americans, there is no Great Depression gnawing away at democracy’s foundations. No paramilitary force is killing people in the streets. Fascism and Nazism have not arrived in the United States.

But there is a different and instructive story to be told about America and the Nazis that raises unsettling questions about what is going on today — and what Nazism means to the U.S.

When we picture a modern American Nazi, we imagine a fanatic who has imported an alien belief system from a far-away place. We also, not wrongly, picture captives in concentration camps and American soldiers fighting the Good War. But the past is more tangled than that. Nazism was a movement drawn in some ways on the American model — a prodigal son of the land of liberty and equality, without the remorse…

Read the entire article here.

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