Recently, I wrote to my collaborators and new friends thanking them for the time and energy they spent with the 2014 FemGeniuses in Berlin. Per the suggestion of Vicky Germain, I also asked if they’d be willing to share their thoughts about the course! This, dear readers, is what they wrote!
“I had a great time at your lectures and was really honored to go through and anaylze the advertising materials created here from a Black perspective. It’s rare to have this opportunity to speak about racial depictions in a European setting and to do this with young international and local scholars was a real treat. Thank you for energy and work!”
—T. Vicky Germain, Founder of Krik TV and Rock It
“I was very impressed about the openness, thirst for knowledge and capacity for critical enquiry that these 9 young women – or better said- the FemGenuiuses group displayed during our interaction at the Clara Zetkin Museum in Birkenwerder. And the term interaction best describes, I think, our encounter. The lecture was indeed an equal exchange of information, ideas and wisdom in both directions. The encounter with these young feminist pioneers embodied my concept of teaching and lecturing, and also demonstrated that creating a space that fosters interactive participation regarding the transfer of knowledge is not only possible, but vital.”
—Cassandra Ellerbe-Dück, International Event & Congress Academy
“Nadine [Saeed] and I, both activists of the Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh, a refugee in Germany who was burnt alive in a police cell, met Heidi and her students to talk about our fight for justice. Since Oury Jalloh was murdered by the police in 2005, we keep on saying, “Break the silence, Oury Jalloh, this was murder!” Despite clear evidence that Oury was murdered, the system followed the most unlikely assumption that he killed himself by covering up and by manipulating evidence. We do not expect justice from the German political system, which is why we are doing our own investigations supported by experts who work independently. Oury Jalloh is not an individual case, and his murder was not “unfortune” as some people put it, but part of a system of discriminating, banning, criminalising and even eradicating people that are not wanted here. We do not want to accept that—that’s why we are member of the initiative. We spent a very intense afternoon together with Heidi and her students and could have shared our thoughts for many more hours.”
—Katrin Jullien, Inititiave in Memory of Oury Jalloh
“I think what stayed in my mind most of all from our time together, was the evening when Daima was presented. When we were talking about the ‘privilege’ of being the one asking the questions…I was very grateful for [Heidi’s] comment about how important it is that experiences that are regarded as racist by Black Women and Women of Color (be it silly questions or comments or inappropriate and disrespectful touching of hair or body) be taken seriously and accepted as such and not put into question. This is something that happens so very often in ‘mixed’ spaces. Being the ones asking the questions, demanding answers information and knowledge, taking up spaces is a ‘privilege’ that Black Women and Women of Color have been denied for much too long and which they are starting to take on more and more. When [Heidi] said that [she] enjoyed the company of Black Women most because they knew what [she was] talking about, I had a very good idea of what [she] meant. [Smiles.] That does not mean that dialogue is not impossible (although it is hard work!) but that it can only be possible under certain preconditions. I don’t want to write too much; although, there are other things that come to my mind. For example, what [Heidi] said about the social status of [many] students at [her] university and how some students couldn’t take part because of lack of money. This made it clear to me again how important it is to always think in terms of intersectionality: racism, classism, sexism….!”
—Iris Rajanayagam, Frauenkreise
“What a beautiful encounter of sharing biographies of our lives within contemporary postcoloniality. I especially enjoyed our critical tourism journey through Berlin when we visited the prominent spaces that define the German narrative as well as the spaces that are not so known, that are created at the margins and that make a difference for those excluded by official Germany. I am glad we started our project of researching the multiple narratives of the city, of confronting them, and of locating ourselves within these dividing hierarchies (with the appropriate share of humor). A work in progress.”
—Celine Barry, Free University
“Professor Heidi R. Lewis scheduled and organized a summer course on Feminist, Queer and Black perspectives in Germany (now entitled Hidden Spaces, Hidden Narratives: Intersectionality Studies in Berlin). Frauenkreise is a feminist project engaged in intersectional discussions about discrimination based on race, class, disability, age, gender, and sexuality; therefore, we gladly welcomed the #femgeniusesInBerlin, and were eager to follow their program.
The impressive schedule Professor Lewis had organized unveiled hidden spaces and narratives in contemporary German feminist discourse. As a project, we have worked on this issue for several years now, and we are convinced that her students received an extensive view of the German perspective through the topics Professor Lewis opened up to discussion. Moreover, she unearthed issues that are relatively new on the research agenda in Berlin’s feminist scene, i.e. the emergence of fat activism. Throughout her seminars, the students were eager to learn and engaged in-depth discussions. They summarized their experiences in a very qualified way and published them on a daily basis on their blogs, which was a pleasure to follow. All seminars that took place at Frauenkreise were open to the public so visitors, clients, and our staff could also take the chance to learn more.
At the end of the course, we asked Professor Lewis to give a talk on “Representations of Racialized Women in the U.S. Media” in order to facilitate transnational exchange in regard to this topic the discourse on race and feminism, as well as to allow participants to get an impression of on the theoretical background of Lewis’ research agenda and teachings. She gladly accepted our invitation. On this evening, Professor Lewis offered a considerable amount of new information and a lively exchange took place.
To sum up, we would like to say that we enjoyed the stay of the #femgeniusesInBerlin at our place to the fullest. It was informative, inspiring, and encouraging for our work and would very much love to welcome Professor Lewis and the #femgeniuses back in Berlin, very soon!”
—Gabi Zekina, Frauenkreise
“I was thrilled to become part of this extraordinary feminist lecture series by facilitating a discussion about Emerging Fat Activism in Germany with my fellow FAT UP activist Kristina. I was truly amazed by this bright and engaging group of students as well as Professor Heidi Renée Lewis who created a wonderful atmosphere for honest and critical discussion – a perfect space where academia and activism could meet and stimulate each other.”
—Magda Albrecht, Fat Up!
“I want to thank Heidi for picking our organization as one of the NGOs or projects her group of students from Colorado will like to see, know and probably network with for future projects when they visit Berlin. It all started with an email and the interest was established to get to know each other and to transfer experience and knowledge between the two organizations when the group visits. Little did I know that the students are from different backgrounds but with a passion to make a difference in their society after their study program. I was moved by the openness and readiness to learn from each other and to want to do something together in the future.”
—Olayinka Elizabeth Adekunle, African Women & Youth Organization
“‘Heidi R. Lewis will be visiting the AWYO organization with some of her students from Colorado College in June,’ was the announcement of Elizabeth Adekunle to me as I stepped into the office that morning. Reading through Heidi’s CV gave me some exciting impression of our guest to come and the thought that she will be coming with some of her students made it more exciting. June 6, 2014 will always be a memorable day for AWYO as the day we hosted the FemGeniuses.
I had excitedly come early to the office, since our guests were expected. At exactly 9 am, the bell rang and there we had the FemGeniuses matching confidently on the stair case leading to the office. Their faces looked very bright to me and had a few of them with brimming smiles as I welcomed them into the conference room. A quick glance at their areas of discipline and individual interests was very insightful, as I discovered that these are world change agents as they have stakes in almost every field of study. It was then clear to me that in tandem with the AWYO’s vision of being recognized as the premier resource centre for excellent development of African change agents, world change agents were meeting in that conference room that morning. Social issues such as women and youth empowerment, racism, poverty, career trends and development, challenges and opportunities in Africa among others were discussed. The insightful comments and questions from the FemGeniuses sustained the passion in our talks and it was almost as if the meeting should not end. AWYO looks forward to coming to Colorado next summer with African kids as part of the organization’s cultural educational programme held once every year. We trust AWYO’s partnership with the FemGeniuses will grow leaps and bounds. Miss you all, dear FemGeniuses.”
—Kester Audu (MSC Student at the University of Cottbus), African Women & Youth Organization
“To meet you and your students was very inspiring. It was like meeting someone for the first time and coming directly to the point. It was less time, so we ran through different aspects of racism in big steps. The face of institutional racism in Germany and the U.S. has the same shape and same roots. To exchange our political and daily life experiences and analyses of that system means realizing that we fight against same big problem just in different places. Coming to this point, it is necessary to learn about different ways of resistance and combine them. I will keep you informed about case of Oury Jalloh and the uprising refugee movement in Germany and Europe. We should know about ongoing peoples movements around the world to catch the fire!”
—Nadine Saeed, Inititiave in Memory of Oury Jalloh
“I am really honoured to have been asked to contribute to the FemGeniuses in Berlin programme. The morning we spent together was lively and engaging and I was very impressed by the way the students engaged with the material I was presenting. The Witnessed Series is dedicated to documenting stories of Black experiences in Germany, written in English. My dream is that these stories – written by us and for us – can be shared in the Diaspora. I am especially grateful, therefore, that Witnessed could be included in the programme as a step towards achieving this dream! Most of all, however, I am grateful that this is not a one-off but the simply the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Looking forward to FemGeniuses in Berlin 2015!”
—Sharon Dodua Otoo, Mother, Activist, Author & Series Editor of “Witnessed”
“Working with Professor Lewis was a wonderful, rewarding experience. My students and I tremendously enjoyed our convergence class with the Femgeniuses. It was a unique, intercultural learning environment, which provided the opportunity for direct debate and exchange of knowledge and ideas between groups of students who rarely meet each other despite their courses of study: students of US history and Women’s Studies in Germany and students of German history and Women’s Studies in the US. Not only was the convergence class very interesting and instructive for students by creating a transnational academic exchange, the socially interactive convergence class enabled everyone to form professional ties and personal friendships across the Atlantic.”
—Rebecca Brückmann, Free University
“What impressed Carmen and me most about your visit was that we did have so very much intensive discussions about topics that are not so easy to explain mostly. Our research about right wing women and their influence within Neonazi-groups in history and present brought up very interesting questions and discussions. For me, it was very impressive that for the students the topic of overlooking the victims of Neonazis in general played a very important role; we did have good talks about this as well! So I look forward meeting you again next year and I hope your application is going to be succesful!”
—Dr. Heike Radvan, Antonio Amadeu Foundation
“Meeting Heidi and her group of students has been very important to me. Our fields of interest are very much alike but obviously differ strongly as the national contexts of both the U.S. and Germany have a huge influence on how race an gender operate. To me, it was a very empowering experience to be able to exchange thoughts and ideas on feminism and everyday racism with not only a diverse group of women but with a group of women that seemed highly educated on the topics. Thank you for giving me even more inspiration!”
—Josephine Apraku, Africa in Wedding Expert and Tour Guide
“Thank you very much for a very interesting afternoon with all your lovely students. I consider myself lucky to have met and spoken to so many excellent and intelligent young people. Please convey my best wishes to them and especially to Casey for the blog entry.”
—Biplab Basu, ReachOut
Also, click here to read what our comrades wrote about the 2015 FemGeniuses in Berlin!