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Looking for an Own Identity

The lives and achievements of black men and women in Germany have been yet poorly recognised. Now with support of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation various initiatives aim at changing this.

‘There are lots of black Germans’ says Saidou Cissé Schleicher from the initiative ‘Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland’ (ISD – Black People in Germany’), however, for the white majority black and German still seem to be a contradiction. This leads to the fact that black Germans face discrimination and racism on a daily basis. The Amadeu Antonio Foundation supports initiatives which deal with the topic of everyday racism by various means.

Remembering the colonial rulers?

At the exhibition ‘Homestory Deutschland – Black Biographies from the Past and Present’, organised by the diversity committee of the Nelson Mandela School and the ISD and supported by the Foundation, one can learn about the lives and achievements of black people. Among them is May Ayim, who was born in Hamburg and died in 1996 in Berlin-Kreuzberg. She was the co-founder of the ‘Initiative Schwarzer Menschen in Deutschland’ (Initiative of Black People in Germany) and joined the fight against racism and discrimination. In early 2010 the ‘Gröbenufer’ in Berlin was renamed ‘May-Ayim-Ufer’. Otto Friedrich von der Groeben established the colony Groß Friedrichsburg (today in Ghana) which fort was a transfer point for slave trade. May Ayim’s memorial tablet on the river bank was financed by the Amedeu Antonio Foundation.

‘We are examined like objects’

Also the Joliba Association, supported by the Foundation, deals with the history of black Germans – but they have an artistic perspective. In their project ‘Black Art & History Forum’ teenagers grapple with the history and influence of black people in Germany together with the artist Satch Hoyt. The outcome of their arts and history workshops are presented to the public.

The theatre company ‘Label Noir’ uses a different from of action. In the autumn of 2010 they organised a tour throughout Brandenburg with support from the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. The play performed by the ‘Label Noir’ deals with the often awkward situations of meeting Germans – from the perspective of a black person. ‘People who we just met suddenly ask very personal questions about our parents and our origins or simply would like to touch our hair,’ says Lara Sophie Milagro, arts director of ‘Label Noir’. ‘We are not taken seriously, we are examined like exotic objects. We would like to change and expand the notion of what is and can be seen as German. The cultural identity of a person is not simply his or her appearance’.

Text by Nora Witter and Christian Müller, English translation by Luca Váradi

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