Bringing together our collective stories

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Europe, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-11-26 18:17Z by Steven

Bringing together our collective stories

The African Courier: The International Magazine Published in Germany
October/November 2012

Gyavira Lasana

The second annual convention of the Black German Cultural Society of New Jersey took place at Barnard College in New York City recently. Our New York-based contributing editor Gyavira Lasana reports on the convention, which focused on the theme of “What Is the Black German Experience?

“Black German studies did not come from academia,” insisted Peggy Piesche, “but from young people who wanted to know their own history.” Professor Piesche, who was born and raised in the former East Germany and who now teaches at Hamilton College in New York, asserted her observation during an early-morning panel discussion on “Teaching the Black German Experience” at the second conference of the Black German Cultural Society (BGCS) held recently at Barnard College in New York City.

Piesche’s words echoed a decided difference between Black Americans and Black Germans on the study and teaching of the Black German experience, a difference that would reverberate throughout the conference. The panel also included Noah Sow, the German poet/writer and music performer who was the keynote speaker at the first BGCS conference last year in Washington DC. Sow suggested that the term Afro-German be replaced by Afro-Deutsch, which is surely more German. All in all, the panel noted that Afro-Deutsch studies continue to fascinate students in the US, and are thriving and growing. That is questionable.

Here in America, Black professors of German are reaching retirement age, and they are not being replaced. Black American students are following the global trend and pursuing Asian studies – Chinese, Japanese and Korean. German lies quite low on the list of options for study. Still, the Black professors of German maintain a high degree of enthusiasm, fuelled mostly by the emerging focus on the history and culture of Blacks in Germany…

…These highly personal stories reflect the heartache, confusion and repeated dysfunction of many (but not all) biracial children growing up in the American milieu. Their quest is often identity: Am I Black or White (in this case German)? Or something in between? Is a mixed-race identity desirable/acceptable?

There is a growing discourse and body of literature on these topics in the US, but they tend to be marginalised by the journey of Blacks born and raised in Germany who more often cite systemic and day-to-day racism. For example, during an earlier panel discussion on “Claiming the Black German Experience”, Lara-Sophie Milagro, a Black German actress and founder of Label Noir, a Berlin-based Black theatre company, stated that “what I had considered to be my personal struggle is really the struggle of all people of colour in Germany, and what I had regarded as my personal problem and failure – not to be a real German and full-value human being – was really the problem and failure of a privileged and ignorant White majority.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Against Black-Face Roles in German Theatre

Posted in Arts, Europe, Media Archive on 2012-10-24 04:11Z by Steven

Against Black-Face Roles in German Theatre

Avaaz: Community Petitions
2012-10-14

Gyavira Lasana

Last January Schlosspark Theatre in Berlin opened “I’m Not Rappaport” by Herb Gardner. The production featured a white actor in black-face in the role of Midge Carter, portrayed in New York by Ossie Davis. When concerned theatre professionals complained on the website of Schlosspark, they were blocked; yet neo-Nazis, who charged that the “niggers should go back to Africa,” were allowed access. Schlosspark insisted the production was not “racist,” that they cast a white actor because they could not find a “qualified black actor.” The widow of Herb Gardner has deflected inquiries about the rights to “Rapport” to the agent in Germany. And she points to a 1986 conversation in which Gardner agreed to black-face “if a suitable black actor could not be found.” That time and circumstance have passed. I am asking Actors Equity and the Dramatists Guild to decline participation in productions featuring black-face and condemn its use in Germany.

Why this is important

The German theatre use of “black-faced” white actors in roles written and designed for blacks subverts the intentions of the dramatists and denies work to black actors. On a broader scale, black-face demeans black Germans and reinforces racist societal and political positions of power.

For more information, click here.

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