By Breana Taylor
Berlin has surprised me. This is a city rich in history, and I do not only mean history specifically focused on World War II. The course has focused, in part, on problematizing the limited popular narratives about Berlin and Germany, and has exposed my classmates and I to the histories, herstories, cultures, and politics of marginalized groups, such as Black Germans, Jewish Germans, Turkish Germans, LBTQIA folks in Germany, and other groups and how their experiences and relationships with Berlin and Germany are often absent from general narratives. We have taken numerous tours learning about Berlin’s Queer history, Jewish History, African history (particularly along the streets of Wedding), and more. In addition to tours, we have met with multiple intellectual activists like Stefanie-Lahya Aukongo, Asoka Esuruoso, Sandrine Micossé-Aikins, Noah Sow, Noah Hofmann, Dr. Maisha Eggers, Sharon Dodua Otoo, and many others.
Like other countries across the globe, Germany wishes to distance itself from racists and oppressive actions committed within its own walls and by its own people. As Heinz Ickstadt points out in “Appropriating Difference: Turkish-German Rap,” Germany is a country with multiple cultural layers. It is a country in which Black Germans, Asian Germans, Latino Germans, and more do exist and not all in small numbers. Still, Ickstadt argues, “It will probably still take some time until Germans fully understand how much their own culture has been enriched by these developments.” He further questions, “Is it a transitional phenomenon bound to disappear with the next generation of fully integrated Germans with Turkish names? Or will it be kept in place by a global tendency toward a bicultural existence?” (21). This is an unavoidable transition that Germany is approaching. And while German as an identity is growing and evolving to include many of the aforementioned marginalized communities, it is still not an inclusive term, even for marginalized people who were born and reared in Germany. Along these lines, Jasmin Eding argues, “Today we have to deal with a dominantly white society that now calls itself multi-cultural although we are viewed strangely if we identify ourselves as Black. We are also still struggling for visibility as well as Black consciousness within our own ranks” (2). Similarly, listening to Noah Sow speak gave us incredible insight regarding the distinctions between Black German and Afro-Deutsche.
As we learned from Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz, Turkish-Germans have also resisted similar challenges through their relationship with Black American culture through hip hop as means of expressing themselves. Generationally for the Turkish community in Germany, one’s citizenship is affected by whether or not one is born in Germany and when one person’s parents came to the country. Hence, when coming of age, many feel they have to choose between two citizenships, two identities. Because many young Turkish Germans were born in Germany, they consider themselves German. Unfortunately, the German identity has restrictions and limitations on what is actually German, and Turkish-Germans are often not treated as German. The idea of being German and what it means is evolving, but German often still means White German.
As the class came to an end, we concluded with a dinner at Maredo Steakhouse, enjoying a full course meal and good company. We laughed and spoke about what it has meant to be abroad and experience new things with all the phenomenal people on the trip. Though it may have seemed overplayed, it was still greatly appreciated. This was an amazing class thanks to the vision for the class provided by Professor Heidi Lewis, including the help of her colleague Aishah Shahidah Simmons, and our interactions with the rich herstories/histories of Berlin.
2015 FemGeniuses in Berlin Blog Index:
Also, click here to view a slideshow of the course.
“Introducing the 2015 FemGeniuses in Berlin” by Heidi R. Lewis
“Finding Their Presence: A Women’s Perspective Tour of Berlin” by Nia Abram
“I’m My Own Flower: Stefanie-Lahya Ndeshipewa Aukongo on Intersectionality, Resistance, and Belonging” by Jazlyn Andrews
“Understanding Black Studies in Germany (w/ Dr. Maisha Eggers)” by Meredith Bower
“Beware of the Green Spaces: A Jewish History Tour (w/ Carolyn Gammon)” by DeAira Cooper
“The Jewish Museum: Forced into Exile Workshop” by Jesse Crane
“#BlackLivesMatter All over the World: Initiative in Memory of Oury Jalloh” by Samantha Gilbert
“What is Racism?: A Discussion with Sandrine Micossé-Aikins” by Jade Frost
“Student Resistance: Germany in the 1960s” by Mackenzie Murphy
“Where You Reside?: Postcolonial Performance in Berlin w/ Salma Arzouni” by Lyric Jackson
“I Am not Your Idea of Me (w/ Sharon Dodua Otoo)” by Thabiso Ratalane
“‘Not So Tangible but Still Real!’: LesMigraS and Intersectional Anti-Violence Work in Berlin” by Spencer Spotts
“Jasmin Eding and ADEFRA: On Self-Definition and Empowerment” by Willa Rentel
“Stories of Blackness with Asoka Esuruoso and Noah Hofmann” by Breana Taylor
“Dismantling Structural Racism: Kwesi Aikins on Politics in a Postcolonial Society” by Nia Abram
“Consumption of Culture: A Trip to the KENAKO Afrika Festival” by Jazlyn Andrews
“Ignorance Is Never Bliss: Our Turkish Tour Experience” by Meredith Bower
“Freedom Summer, Selma, & Federal Civil Rights Legislation: Black History in Berlin w/ Rebecca Brückmann” by Jesse Crane
“‘I Want You to Listen to My Story!’: An Afternoon with Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz” by Jade Frost
“Misrepresenting a Colonial Past: The Africa in Wedding Tour with Josephine Apraku” by Samantha Gilbert
“What It Is and What It Ain’t: Tour of the Neues Museum” by Lyric Jackson
“Breaking Down Barriers: A Discussion with Noah Sow” by Mackenzie Murphy
“A Visit to Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand” by Thabiso Ratalane
“Resistance through Art: The FemGenuises Do Graffiti with Berlin Massive” by DeAira Cooper
“‘Hier ist’s richtig!’: Creating and Dominating Queerness in Berlin” by Spencer Spotts
“Site Seeing (and Thinking, Analyzing, Understanding, etc.)” by Willa Rentel
To read and/or listen to the finales and view the indices and slideshows for previous FemGeniuses in Berlin, click here.
While studying at Colorado College, Breana Taylor realized that feminism is a passion of hers, which is convenient, because she recently decided to declare her major in Feminist & Gender Studies. Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, Breana is no stranger to traveling or to being around lots people. Having grown up in a large family and with a father in the military, she enjoys being exposed to new environments and the experiences that come with being in new places. During her down time, she enjoys reading, stand-up comedy, and listening to movie soundtracks. Feminism has brought nothing but good things to her life, such as new perspectives on women, race, and gender, and how to think critically about these things and more. Being a member of the FemGeniuses is such an honor, and she cannot wait for the opportunity to grow in her knowledge on feminism across the globe!