ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER:
Black Germany & Beyond
The Black German Heritage & Research Association and Africana Studies at Rutgers University-Camden are pleased to invite you celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the BGHRA at its Fifth International Conference. Registration is free and open to the general public. The event will be held virtually from February 17-20-2022.
Angelica Fenner is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies and German and Associate Chair of Graduate Study in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. She is author of Race Under Reconstruction in German Cinema (U of Toronto Press, 2011), co-editor of The Autobiographical Turn in Germanophone Documentary and Experimental Film, and various articles and book chapters on the thematics of migration in European cinemas.
Keith Green is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Africana Studies Program at Rutgers–Camden. Dr. Green’s main research and teaching interests lie in African American literature, with more specific investments in the study of the antebellum era, self-referential writing, African-Native American literature, and slave narratives. He has delivered papers on Nat Turner, Harriet Jacobs, Henry Bibb, and William Wells Brown. His current book project, Not Just Slavery: African Americans Write Captivity Narratives, Too: 1816-1879, explores the various kinds of bondage and confinement–specifically Indian slavery, Barbary captivity, and state imprisonment–African Americans experienced and recounted in the nineteenth century.
Until her retirement in May 2012, Sara Lennox was Professor of German Studies and Director of the Social Thought and Political Economy Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her books include Cemetery of the Murdered Daughters: Feminism, History, and Ingeborg Bachmann, Feminist Movements in a Globalizing World, The Imperialist Imagination: German Colonialism and Its Legacy, and Remapping Black Germany: New Perspectives on Afro-German History, Politics, and Culture. She has published essays on twentieth-century literature, theory, feminism, postcolonialism, globalization, and transnationalism. From 2007-08 she was president of the German Studies Association. She was co-principal investigator for research grants on Black European Studies and 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.
Rosemarie Peña is the founder and president of the Black German Heritage and Research Association (BGHRA). In this role, she has co-produced and hosted four international academic conferences on Black German studies. A fifth conference planned for April 2020 at Rutgers-Camden was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rosemarie earned bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and German and both her M.A. and Ph.D. in Childhood Studies at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ. Her research explores displaced childhoods with a special focus on the historical and contemporary intersections of transnational adoption and child migration. Her dissertation, The Rekinning: Portraying Postwar Black German Transnational Adoption, is a discourse analysis of two historical documentary films.
Rosemarie has presented at numerous conferences and is a frequently invited keynote speaker internationally. She is a contributing author in several edited volumes published in both German and English. Her peer reviewed articles have appeared in The Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood, Genealogy Journal, and the Journal of Adoption and Culture. Rosemarie’s most recent essay, “Stories Matter: Contextualizing the Black German American Adoptee Experience(s)” is included in Marion Kraft’s edited volume Children of the Liberation: Transatlantic Experiences and Perspectives of Black Germans of the Post-War Generation in 2019.
Art by Maseho
Maseho is a Black German, specifically Mosotho-Hanseatic visual concept artist, writer, curator, poet, and storyteller – or to sum it up: An Afrocultural artivist made in Hamburg. Afrocultural artivists are not really in demand in the German labour market, therefore Maseho works as an online marketing and executive assistant.
Her art is predominantly, but not exclusively, coined by her commitment to Afrocentric mythology, history and contemporary experiences.
She is the initiator of Hamburg’s Black History Month’s Poetry Night. Her works are included e.g:“Arriving in the Future – Stories of Home and Exile“ (Anthology, Koeppsel/Esuruoso, 2014), featured in the film and the book „Millis Awakening“. Examples of the latest exhibitions: “Recoding African Fashion and Hairstyles – the History of the Afro“ (Text for wall art and the catalogue of the „Africa X Fashion Now“ exhibition, Museum für Kunst und Gwerbe Berlin, 2019, „It’s about me“ (Curator), Kulturzentrum des Bürgerhauses Eidelstedt, 2019.
Current projects: The „Afrohanseatische Salon“, launched in 2019 a programme blending performance, theatre and talkshow which in line with the Ukubona Sisters Initiative, a creative Black women’s collective Maseho founded to achieve more of the space, funding and awareness for Black female creators of Northern Germany.
The Film Library of Branwen Okpako
The Education of Auma Obama
(Die Geschichte der Auma Obama, 2011, Germany, dir. Branwen Okpako, 80 min., color, doc., EN ST)
A captivating, intimate portrayal of the US president’s Kenyan half-sister. Obama studied linguistics in Heidelberg, Germany, before enrolling in film school in Berlin, where she met director Okpako in the 1990s. In time, she moved back home to mentor a younger generation of politically- and socially-engaged Kenyans, whose aspirations are informed by their parents’ experiences and whose ambition to forge a better future for their communities starts from the ground up.
As the Toronto International Film Festival noted, “Okpako has always been interested in questions of identity, affiliation and belonging. Although she frames her film as a biographical portrait of Obama, she goes much further, providing layered historical context and discussion of post-colonial African identity from a feminist perspective.” This film won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Diaspora Documentary (2012), the Festival Founders Award for Best Documentary at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles (2012) and the Viewers’ Choice Award at the Africa International Film Festival (2011).
Curse of Medea
(Fluch der Medea, 2014, Germany, dir. Branwen Okpako, 44 min., color, EN ST)
On January 27, 2010, Okpako visited the (East) German author Christa Wolf to discuss a film project based on Wolf’s novel Medea: A Modern Retelling. Over tea, with the sound of planes landing at nearby Schönefeld airport, they talk about how she came to tell the story of Medea the immigrant, treated with suspicion in her host country, and are joined by the voices of Medea, Jason, Agameda, Glaucke and the passing of the East German era. This film premiered at the Berlinale in 2014.
Valley of the Innocent
(Tal der Ahnungslosen, 2003, Germany, dir. & script Branwen Okpako, 85 min., color, EN ST)
Shortly before her 40th birthday, detective Eva Meyer revisits the Dresden orphanage where she grew up, intent on discovering her identity in this noir thriller. Stasi archives eventually reveal the story, and her family’s plot to hide her birth becomes a metaphor for things suppressed in Germany. Finding and confronting her mother sets off a chain of unintended consequences.
Dirt for Dinner
(Dreckfresser, 2000, Germany, dir. Branwen Okpako, 73 min., color, doc., EN ST)
In 1992, shortly after a series of racist murders and attacks against immigrants in former East Germany, posters throughout the country began featuring the smiling face of Sam Meffire, a young Afro-German police officer in the formerly East German state of Saxony. Meffire became well-known and a symbol of tolerance in Germany; but in 1994, he suddenly left the force and, two years later, was sentenced to ten years in prison for extortion and armed robbery.
Through interviews with Meffire, his mother and others, Okpako skillfully tells the story and draws a portrait of this young man who was both befriended and exploited by people in power. This film won multiple awards, including: The German Newcomer Award for Best Documentary Film (2000), IG MEdia Award at DOK-Leipzig (2000), Best Newcomer Film Award at the Duisburg Film Week, “The Young Lion” Documentary Award of the Bavarian State Government (2001) and Best Graduation Film at the See Docs in Dubrovnik Festival (2001).
(1999, Germany, dir. & script Branwen Okpako, 35 min., color, EN ST)
Hans loves Fatima and he will do anything to make her feel at home in Germany. Fatima loves Hans and she will do anything to feel at home with him. This short student film was shot on 35mm.
(1997, Germany, dir. Branwen Okpako, 11 min., b/w, EN ST)
Landing is the story of a young Afro-German woman who wakes up to discover that she is invisible… something she has always dreamed of being. Screened at the Berlinale in 2007.
Ivie wie Ivie (Precious Ivie)
Sarah Blaßkiewitz’s engaging film addresses the current and always thorny topic of racism through its winning combination of incredible acting and clever humor. Afro-German Ivie, whom her friends call ‘Schoko (means ‘Chocolate’), lives in Leipzig. She works at a solarium run by her ex-boyfriend while she looks for steady employment as a teacher. One day, her half-sister from Berlin shows up at her door. She tells Schoko of the death of their father and his upcoming funeral in Senegal. Neither sister knew him, nor did they know each other until now, and thus they find it difficult to imagine getting to know his side of their family. As the sisters from two very different cities grow closer, Ivie starts to question not only her nickname, but also her culture and her self-image. And so an amazing journey begins.
Sarah Blaßkiewitz worked on film productions in the directing and camera departments parallel to her studies in audiovisual media (2006 to 2011). Her graduation film AUF DEM WEG NACH OBEN premiered at the Max-Ophüls Festival, and her short film BLANK was released in 2016 and screened at many festivals. In 2017, she received development funding for her mini-series concept SUPERCREW. Most recently, she directed the final season of the series DRUCK, which premiered in January 2021. Her debut feature film is PRECIOUS IVIE (2020).
Araba Evelyn Johnston-Arthur
Araba Evelyn Johnston-Arthur is the cofounder of PAMOJA. Movement of the Young African Diaspora in Austria and the Research Group on Black Austrian History and Presence/Pamoja. She has taught at the University of Vienna, the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria Linz (Social Work) and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and is currently working on her unidisciplinary doctoral thesis on Resistances in the African Diaspora in Austria and teaching at Howard University in Washington D.C.
Priscilla Layne is Associate Professor of German and Adjunct Associate Professor of African Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her book, White Rebels in Black: German Appropriation of Black Popular Culture, was published in 2018 by the University of Michigan Press. She has also published essays on Turkish German culture, translation, punk and film. She recently translated Olivia Wenzel’s debut novel, 1000 Serpentinen Angst, which will be out in June. And she is currently finishing a manuscript on Afro German Afrofuturism and a critical guide to Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun.
Michael Mc Eachrane
Michael McEachrane is a Visiting Researcher at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights. He has a PhD in Philosophy (with distinction, 2006) from Åbo Akademi University in Finland and has held positions at universities in the US, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, Sweden, Germany and the UK.
His current research focus is on postcolonial/decolonial perspectives on human rights, structural racial discrimination and reparatory justice. Among his publications are the books Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe (Routledge, 2014) and Sverige och de Andra: Postkoloniala perspektiv (Natur & Kultur, 2001).
Michael McEachrane is a regular commentator on issues of race for international as well as Swedish media. He is also a seasoned universal human rights advocate who, among other things, has helped found several CSOs and served as an expert advisor to the UN around the International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024.
Dr. Kelly’s work in Communication Studies and Sociology focuses on German colonialism and Black feminism, thematizes the experiences of Black Germans, and problematizes dominant narratives about Black Germany. Dr. Kelly has taught at universities in Germany, Austria and the USA and presently holds her second appointment as Max Kade Visiting Professor for German Studies at the University of Rhode Island.
Her publications include:
her manuscript Afroism: Zur Situation einer ethnischen Minderheit in Deutschland / Afroism: Regarding the Situation of Ethnic Minorities in Germany (2008)
her 2015 edited volume Sisters & Souls: Inspirationen durch May Ayim / Sisters & Souls: Inspired by May Ayim
her 2016 book Afrokultur: >>der raum zwischen gestern und morgen<< / Afroculture: “the space between yesterday and tomorrow”
Dr. Kelly’s ongoing creative works include:
“EDEWA” – The Postcolonial Supermarket” (2010 ongoing)
“The Poison Cabinet” (German Historical Museum Berlin, 2016/2017)
“African_Diaspora Palace” (“World Exhibition_Reformation”, Wittenberg 2017)
her theater series M(a)y Sister (HAU Hebbel am Ufer Theater in Berlin, 2015-2018)
Branwen Okpako was born in Lagos, Nigeria. She studied film directing in Berlin, and her graduation film, Dirt for Dinner, won several international prizes. Her fiction feature Valley of the Innocent premiered at TIFF and competed at FESPACO (Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou). The Education of Auma Obama won multiple awards, and the documentary-drama The Curse of Medea—a film about the late (East) German author Christa Wolf, featuring Sheri Hagen—premiered at the Berlin Int’l Film Festival. Okpako teaches at UC Davis and is currently completing Chibok Girls, a feature film based on the 2016 novel by Nigerian author Helon Habila about the mass abduction in northern Nigeria.
Emilia Roig (she/they) is the Founder and Executive Director of the Berlin-based Center for Intersectional Justice (CIJ), a non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing justice, equality and a life free of systemic oppression for all. Her experience growing up in a transracial Algerian-Jewish-Martinican family in France shaped her commitment to and passion for intersectional social justice. Emilia is Adjunct Faculty member of the Hertie School in Berlin since 2021, was Faculty member of the Social Justice Study Abroad Program of DePaul University of Chicago from 2015 to 2020 and has taught graduate and post-graduate courses on Intersectionality Theory, Postcolonial Studies, Critical Race Theory, Queer Feminism and International and European Law at universities all across Europe. She holds a PhD in political science, a Master of Public Policy and an MBA in international law. Prior to her PhD, she was working extensively on human rights issues at the UN in Tanzania and Uganda, at the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) in Cambodia, and at Amnesty International in Germany – and decided to leave the ‘development’ field to focus on social justice in Europe. She has held numerous keynotes, talks and interviews at major conferences and events and was jury member of the German Non-Fiction Book Prize 2020, was nominated Ashoka Fellow in 2020, and received the Online Magazine Edition F Award in 2021.
Emilia is dedicated to inspire people to divest from oppressive systems through creating new narratives and shifting collective consciousness. She is the author of the bestselling book WHY WE MATTER. The End of Oppression.
Emilia’s keynote will be live only on February 17,2022 at 1:30 pm EST. Her presentation will not be recorded. This event is sponsored by the Department of Central, Eastern, & Northern European Studies (CENES) at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver.
Emilia’s website is: www.emiliaroig.com @emiliazenzile
Vanessa Spanbauer, studies history at the University of Vienna and is currently in the master’s program for Contemporary History and the Media. She works as an historian and at present is doing research for Technisches Museum Wien regarding colonial objects in federal museums in Austria. She also is working on an exhibition for Volkskundemuseum Wien. In addition she spent more than 10 years in Journalism – creating content for TV, online and print and is editor-in-chief for the magazine fresh – Black Austrian Lifestyle.
Suggested Donation for BGHRA 2022 Conference to Support BGHRA Annual Spring Fundraiser
Thank you very much for registering for the 2022 BGHRA Conference, “All Black Lives Matter: Black Germany and Beyond,” which will take place February 17-20, 2022.
The BGHRA is a nonprofit organization without membership dues. Funding for the conference comes from various sources. Ultimately, however, a significant portion of our budget comes from individual donations. There is no registration fee for the conference, but we would welcome those of you with access to resources to contribute to the BGHRA Annual Spring Fundraiser. Any amount will go a long way in supporting our initiatives.