Integration Isn’t Even What We’re Demanding:
A Conversation with Jamile da Silva e Silva and Melody LaVerne Bettencourt
Our identities are not a fixed set of characteristics or traits we can list. Rather, they are created through layered experiences. Here, we ask how is our sense of self informed by the weight of our layered experiences? We discuss how our experiences being Black are informed by proximity to whiteness, motherhood, nationality, and marital status. Jamile and Melody’s latest project uses art to create space for the self-definition and self-expression of Black women, specifically in terms of sexuality, which leads us to also ask how our identities determine how we create and show up in such spaces.
I understand the need to have particular spaces that honor and celebrate specific communities, but I wish there was more of an understanding that as a dark-skinned, Black, German woman, we have many shared experiences. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that many Black people here have been socialized in predominantly white spaces. So, there’s an inclination to adopt the same tools white people use to box us into constraining categories.
—Jamile da Silva e Silva
It’s not as if our experiences are a monolith. We each bring with us differences based on our backgrounds, but all of those differences live underneath this umbrella of Blackness. There are so many times you see something or feel something but aren’t able to talk about it in your daily life. This space allows us to talk about and learn from each other’s experiences free from the stifling effects of whiteness.
—Melody LaVerne Bettencourt
Jamile da Silva e Silva, Black Brazilian feminist and mother of two, is director of an intercultural women’s center in Berlin, where she previously worked for 6 years as program coordinator. She is also an events and workshops facilitator and moderator. The focus of her work is intersectional feminism, anti-racist and decolonial struggle, and visibility and empowerment of marginalized groups with a focus on migrant women, refugees, Black women and women of color. Born and raised in Brazil, Jamile has lived in several countries, from studying Social Work in Rio de Janeiro to earning a Master‘s degree in Gender Studies from Lund University in Sweden. In her spare time, Jamile is a percussionist and capoeirista.
Melody LaVerne Bettencourt is a Black Cabovdien-German visual artist based in Berlin. Melody obtained her diploma in fine arts at the HFBK in Hamburg in 2008 (being tutored by Michaela Melian and Isaac Julien), and her art praxis is mono printing and painting, integrating international Black resistance symbols, and silhouettes. Her work often relies on Black Feminism, which itself always has to find new paths of expression. In 2020, she published a children’s book entitled Farbenfroh essen in cooperation with Black author and illustrator Adalca Tomás.
The Highlights | Witnessed | The Co-Authors | #FemGeniusesinBerlin | The Dedication | The Acknowledgements | The Preface | The Foreword | The Introduction | Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven | The Afterword | Buy the Book | Events | Book Dr. Lewis | Feel the Love