Please Support the #FemGeniusesInBerlin!


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In 1986, Black German women published their first text, a collection of writing and visual art entitled Farbe Bekennen: Afro-Deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte (Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out) edited by Katharina Oguntoye, May (Opitz) Ayim, and Dagmar Schultz. In the “Preface” to the English-language edition, Black, Lesbian, Mother, Warrior, Poet Audre Lorde wrote, “To successfully battle the many faces of institutionalized racial oppression, we must share the strengths of each other’s vision as well as the weaponries born of particular experience. First, we must recognize each other.” This course, “Hidden Spaces, Hidden Narratives: Intersectionality Studies in Berlin,” allows the FemGeniuses in Berlin to learn, appreciate, and honor this intellectual tradition through various pedagogical projects situated at the nexus of Black feminism, transnational feminism, LGBTQI studies, and other transdisciplinary modes of analysis. They study the histories of marginalized peoples during walking tours in various parts of the city, visit with NGOs committed to eradicating oppression, attend workshops at several museums that document the histories and contemporary experiences of subjugated communities, and participate in cross-generational discussions with artists, activists, and scholars that share our intellectual commitments.

I became interested in teaching this course in 2012 after thinking more seriously about how to further develop the Feminist & Gender Studies curriculum in intersectional and transnational ways. I chose Berlin for a few reasons: first, the sociological, historical, and civil rights work of the late W.E.B. DuBois was greatly influenced by his two years of graduate study in Berlin from 1892-1894; further, Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Berlin in 1964 and gave a sermon entitled “East or West—God’s Children” to 20,000 people at the Waldbühne stadium in West Berlin before crossing the Berlin Wall border at Checkpoint Charlie to deliver a similar sermon to 2,000 people at Marienkirche in East Berlin; additionally, there were several manifestations of solidarity with and support for Black Panther Party activist Angela Y. Davis throughout Germany, including Berlin; and last but not least, Audre Lorde spent part of each year of her life in Berlin from 1984 until 1992 when she died, and was instrumental in helping to develop Afro-German, especially Afro-German women’s, communities as aforementioned. Additionally, since a reported 70% of Germans speak English, I believed I could significantly contribute to the learning of my students in Berlin while also learning a great deal more about the global intricacies of oppression. With the support of Professor Eric Popkin, then dean of Summer Programs, and the Christian Johnson Endeavor Grant for course development, I first visited Berlin in November 2013 and began to design the course in careful collaboration with my husband Antonio and myriad activists, artists, and scholars whom I now call friends, including Celine Barry, Sharon Dodua Otoo, Rebecca Brückmann, Iris Rajanayagam, Jamile Da Silva, and many friends of and collaborators with Audre Lorde, such as Katharina Oguntoye, Dagmar Schultz, Ria Cheatom, Cassandra Ellerbe-Dück, and Ika Hügel-Marshall. Soon after, I brought the inaugural FemGeniuses in Berlin to Germany in 2014, and the program’s success has allowed me to teach it every summer since and also led to me being invited to teach it as part of the German Department’s semester-long Lüneburg Program in Fall 2017.

Group Photo

The 2015 #FemGeniuses in Berlin (L to R): Dezerae Terrell (Heidi’s Cousin), Willa Rentel, Lyric Jackson, Breana Taylor, Nia Abram, Thabiso Ratalane, Jazlyn Andrews, Jade Frost, Professor Heidi R. Lewis, Jesse Crane, Mackenzie Murphy, Spencer Spotts, Samantha Gilbert, Meredith Bower, DeAira Cooper, and Aishah Shahidah Simmons (Course Associate)

Feminist & Gender Studies, Summer Session, and International Programs continue to support this course, in part, because it is the first time a study abroad course has been offered by a faculty member fully appointed in the former. Additionally, through this course, the college is illustrating its commitment to providing students with opportunities to conduct feminist studies of power, inequality, and privilege along the lines of sexuality, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, religion, physical embodiment, and other social, cultural, and political markers. The “rub” is that in addition to tuition costs, students who enroll in the summer session of this course are required to pay a $4,000 program fee to cover expenses, which includes their flight from New York City to Berlin, but not their flight to New York (if they live elsewhere). Hence, I was honored when recently, Kerry Brooke Steere (Director of Annual Giving) and Roshni Patel (Phonathon and Student/Gold Philanthropy Manager) had the idea to feature my course as part of the new Colorado College Crowdfunding initiative, a platform that offers “students, faculty, and staff a new avenue for sharing their projects and directly appealing to prospective donors for gifts.” I have worked tirelessly to keep costs—which must include expenses for the professor and a mandatory second responsible adult per Summer Session policy—especially low. However, your donation can significantly lower the program fee so that this unique and unprecedented opportunity is available to more students, particularly those who are in deep financial need and especially since Feminist & Gender Studies is willing but unable to financially support this course.

So, how can you help? You can donate to our $7,000 goal starting TODAY by clicking here, and we’ve structured the fundraising so that every bit counts! For example:

  • $5 covers one student’s entrance into the Anne Frank Museum.
  • $10 covers one student’s entrance into the Schwules Museum.
  • $30 covers one student’s art supplies and permit for a graffiti workshop at the Berlin Wall.
  • $40 covers one student’s meals for a day.
  • $90 covers one student’s local transportation for the entire trip.
  • $150 covers the cost of the Africa in Wedding walking tour for the entire class.
  • $400 covers museum entrance and workshop fees for the entire class.
  • $900 covers one student’s flight from New York City to Berlin.
  • $1200 covers cultural and historical walking tours for the entire class.
  • $4000 covers one student’s participation in the entire three-week course.
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The 2016 #FemGeniusesInBerlin (L to R and top to bottom): Amelia Eskenazi, Claudia Harrison, Lila Schmitz, Amy Valencia, Ivy Wappler, Alejandra Hernandez, Cheanna Gavin, Katharina Oguntoye (Guest Lecturer), Joliba Intern, Professor Heidi R. Lewis, Grace Montesano, Baheya Malaty, Nitika Reddy, and Amanda Cahn

In closing, our fundraising goal of $7,000 will cover communication costs, local transportation, classroom rental, and mandatory activity fees for all students enrolled in the 2018 summer session of the course. This would save each student $1,000 by significantly lowering the program fee from $4,000 to $3,000 for each student. Additionally, if we exceed our fundraising goal, those funds will be contributed to the overall expenses of the course, which would lower the program fee even further.

Thank you so much for supporting me and my students as we’ve taken this incredible journey together over the past few years! In the meantime, please stay tuned for the summer 2017 blogs starting Wednesday, June 7 and the Lüneburg Program session blogs this fall starting Wednesday, November 29!


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