By Ximena Buller
After our educational and informative Wedding Tour around the Afrikanisches Viertel (African Quarter), the Femgeniuses, as the family we are, headed to have a nice lunch together and ended up at a Turkish restaurant that our newest friend Josy Apraku recommended. Once there, we could not be more puzzled by the menu, which was written in Turkish and German. Luckily Beril, one of our Femgeniuses, is Turkish and was able to explain each and every plate in detail and gave great suggestions on the delicious meals. Although we were very satisfied after our meal, we were still craving some of the refreshing (usually home-made) ice cream that can be found in almost every corner during summer in Berlin. My personal goal is to eat at least one scoop every day! Subsequent to our well-deserved treat, we were on our way to the John F. Kennedy Institute at Freie Universität where we had a convergence class with Professor Rebecca Brückmann’s students in her course entitled “Can We Do It?: The 20th Century Women’s Movement in the U.S.”
We started off by introducing ourselves and giving our reasons for taking a Feminist and Gender class. Then, we discussed women’s movements in the U.S. and Germany, as well as the differences between the experiences of African American and Afro-German women. We also watched the trailer for Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years, 1984-1992. The FemGeniuses had fortunately already watched the whole movie last week, so we were able to contribute our comments and opinions about the documentary. We discussed how Audre Lorde was so essential for recognition and development of the concept “Afro-German,” as well as the development of an Afro-German community, especially amongst Black German women. We spoke about how there had previously been a huge lack of recognition for the Afro-German community. This was true even among Black Germans, because they had lived primarily in white communities. Back in the day, the stories of Black women were invisible and not considered worthy to be discussed. This was even more acute without contemporary technology, such as Google and social media. Even today, Black women’s voices are not widely heard and most white people in Germany are surprised when they learn that many of these women were born and raised in Germany. This is when our professor Heidi mentioned the importance and the need of teaching these types of courses because they create awareness and provide knowledge on issues of racism and sexism throughout the world.
Later, we discussed questions within smaller groups with Rebecca’s students. My group, for instance, focused on how the work we have studied, including Audre Lorde, has helped us to better understand the experiences of Black women. Rebecca’s students read bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, a text we haven’t read in our class, so it was interesting to merge the thoughts and works of all the people we were studying and how they present their views on Black women and feminism. Other questions asked students to discuss intersectionality, the importance of education about racism, criticism of the stereotypes portrayed in media, and how labels are effective (such as “Afro-German”) and also problematic (such as the “n” word).
We came to the conclusion that the issues spoken about and discussed during this session are essential for everybody to discuss and that schools need to start teaching them much earlier than college. This was a great experience, because it allowed for discussions with other students outside our Femgeniuses group, and it was very interesting to hear what they had to say.
Ximena an international student at Colorado College. She is from Peru, and will be a sophomore this coming year. She is currently undeclared, but debating between majoring in Anthropology or Sociology. She is very excited to be in Berlin taking a course with Heidi and through CC, because it has so far allowed for a unique learning experience.