Graffiti Workshop with Berlin Massive by Atquetzali Quiroz and Katharin Luckey

Atquetzali Quiroz

On Friday, June 23rd, we had our final day of class, creating a class graffiti mural on the Berlin Wall. During previous classes, we discussed possible mural ideas. Although three main concepts were proposed, we agreed on the “Hello, my name is..” idea. For context, this concept was influenced by the “Hello, my name is…” name tags found throughout Berlin. Then, during our Graffiti and Street Art walking tour, our guide Rob emphasized the importance of graffiti artists leaving their mark and one way many do is by posting these name tags around the city. This idea of leaving a mark resonated with many of my classmates, leading us to create a large-scale rendition of the name tag surrounded by our individual tags on the sides. For my personal tag, showcased in the slideshow below, I decided to create a green and pink heart. I chose this symbol as it was the easiest way to showcase the importance of moving through the world with love. It is important to recognize that the Berlin Wall holds significance as a site of expression and resistance, especially for marginalized communities. During our visit to Die Mauer asisi Panorama, the work of Yadegar Asisi, who had experienced life on East and West Berlin (both sides of the Wall) was highlighted. Asisi created a mural illustrating the second half of a building, because only the first half could be seen from his side of the wall at that time. Asisi is one among numerous artists that continue to create graffiti and street art on the wall to this day, leaving their mark and making a statement. I am proud of the work our class produced, and I feel that we left our mark as #FemGeniusesinBerlin.

Atquetzali Quiroz (she|they) is a rising senior at Colorado College. They are an Indigenous Nahua and Filipinx student from Imnížiska (Saint Paul), Mni Sóta, homeland of the Dakota peoples. Atquetzali is a Feminist and Gender Studies major minoring in Race, Ethnicity, & Migration Studies and Education. They hope to pursue a career as a high school Social Studies educator. They enjoy trying new food, dancing, and seeing new places. As this is Atquetzali’s first time in Europe, they are excited to adventure and make new memories!

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Katharin Luckey

Today was the last day of the 2023 #FemGeniusesinBerlin program. Despite the all-day rainy weather, the group still showed up and showed out for one last hurrah to cap off the program, the graffiti workshop! Together with local artist Age Age, the team spray painted a massive group-designed piece onto the former Berlin Wall in addition to many individual tags. Over the past week, several ideas bounced around as to what exactly to spray paint as the group piece, including a series of footsteps (an homage to Dr. Lewis’ book In Audre’s Footsteps) and a giant kitchen table in reference to the second part of the book’s title, Transnational Kitchen Table Talk in Berlin, but the group eventually landed on the idea of a giant “Hello, my name is…” style name tag. Age Age outlined the design while the #FemGeniusesinBerlin wrote their individual tags, after which we individually wrote letters onto the group name tag in a rainbow color scheme (“I” wrote the “I” ^^). Today was understandably a very emotional day for everyone involved, full of group hugs and goodbyes. Over the course of the past three weeks, new connections formed, existing friendships strengthened, and many memories were made in the German capital, which served as the space where numerous foundational thinkers of Black Feminist, Transnational, and Critical Race Theories gathered and developed their ideas. Students created a group thank you card for Dr. Lewis and Judy Fisher for making this whole experience possible for everyone. As the group learned during the previous graffiti and street art walking tour, the art one creates on city walls, from the smallest of tags to the largest of street art pieces, does not simply mean “I was here,” but rather “I am here. I’ve been here, and I will continue to leave my mark on the world, no matter how short or long it lasts.” Expressions of joy and resistance remembered in the unlikeliest of places. Hidden narratives in hidden spaces…

This has been the #FemGeniusesinBerlin, signing out!

Kathrin Luckey is a rising senior double majoring in German and Romance Languages and minoring in Linguistics. She has a passion for languages and is particularly interested in translation, as well as linguistics in the context of intersectional feminist movements. She has previously studied on an exchange semester at the University of Göttingen.

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A Day in the Life of the #FemGeniusesinBerlin by Italia Alexandria Bella’-Victoria Rodriguez Quintana and Kate Nixon

Italia Alexandria Bella’-Victoria Rodriguez Quintana

This week’s readings contextualized the fall of the Berlin Wall and the violence during integration of West and East Germany. As a Mexican-American, it felt impossible for me not to see the methods of violence globally maintained in the 21st century. I thought often about Transnational Feminism as a framework to explore borders and how they position us in a false binary of confined or protected. Additionally, we’ve learned Critical Race Theory functions as a framework to understand the racialization of immigration legislature, as well as the creation of national identities that essentialize exclusionary ideologies. The paradigm of “who belongs” versus “who is excluded” has been necessary to utilizing people as tools of oppressive institutions, exemplified in the violent treatment of migrant groups within West Germany. Our class discussion then changed to forms of resistance in Germany and how the fight for liberation includes anticipation of our oppressors fighting back to maintain power. This was discussed in relationship to ideals of work and production, as those who face the worst of capitalism in the U.S. (Black and Brown communities) are also faced with the question: Will I choose to rest or resist? Similarly, Black and Brown women are asked to position themselves as silent victims of violence for the betterment of their communities. This can be analyzed in the discouragement of reinforcing racial stereotypes and brutalization towards Black and Brown communities, while silencing conversations of intracommunity issues. I see this in relation to frameworks of Black Feminist Theory, as Black women are asked to give up their racial or gender identity to focus on a singular experience of oppression, which flattens the complexity of existing within the intersections of multiply marginalized categories. This week’s readings also examined the relationship between colonialism and the construction of race, which has served as historical context for how marginalized groups are treated in contemporary Germany. On the streets, we saw street art of a cop saying “aquí no necesitamos a gente como tu.” This contributed to my understanding of Germany by emphasizing the dichotomy between differing systems of racialization that globally share foundations of anti-immigrant sentiments. The street art piece, which translates to “we don’t need people like you here,” reminded me of our class in which we discussed how borders designate whether we belong and how racialized national identities designate BIPoC as forever foreign.

Italia Alexandria Bella’-Victoria Rodriguez Quintana is a Xicana from South Denver, Colorado. Her name seems long, but it represents her and her mom’s shared interest in paying homage to the people who made her. Italia is a Romance Languages major with minors in Political Science and Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies. Her study of linguistics allows her to explore history and culture through personal narratives, serving as a method of decolonization of the self. She enjoys reading feminist theory, Instagram reels, thinking|pondering, weightlifting, and reviewing food w| her bestie on @latinayumtinas.

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Kate Nixon

Hello, and welcome to my day in the life on a lovely Wednesday in Berlin! I started my morning with yogurt and coffee (made by one of my wonderful roommates—thank you Elliot!!) and headed to class. We started class with a discussion of love—questioning how is love defined and how is it pushing us towards resistance? The day before, we went on a tour exploring the escape tunnels built under the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. One of the largest factors motivating these escapes was love, so much so that one man made sure the tunnel he built was tall enough for his fiancé to use without having to crouch down. These tunnels showed us how love gave those tunnel builders purpose and motivation to keep going even despite the low (25%) success rate of the tunnels. Our conversation then shifted to how we keep resisting, knowing that regardless of our best efforts, nothing will be successful 100% of the time. While we didn’t come up with any concrete solutions, we came back to love and how necessary it is to have in hard times. Keeping with the discussion of staying motivated when everything seems exhausting, we talked about the importance of rest. As self-defined “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde has written, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” We discussed how napping is a form of self-care and active resistance, and in honor of that, after class and amazing visits to a gluten-free café and a queer bookstore, I decided to take a nap. After I arose from my restorative siesta, Elliot and I decided to head to the Berlin State Library to finish off the night with some schoolwork.

Kate Nixon is a rising senior pursuing a double major in Feminist & Gender Studies and Psychology, with an interest in finding where the two intersect and how they can inform each other. Raised in Maryland and Kansas City, Kate enjoys being in nature and exploring new places. When not working on classwork or the Colorado College newspaper, you can find Kate with friends making art or reading queer and feminist books in various coffee shops.

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Under the Berlin Wall with Berliner Unterwelten by Elie Deshommes and Elliot Triplett

Kate, Elie, and Elliot

The saying “seeing is believing” is one that epitomized my experience with Berliner Unterwelten (Berlin Underground). Being born in the post-Wall era and never being taught of the Berlin Wall and its impact left me with a blasé view of the Wall and its relevance. Seeing where the Wall was placed, crossing over it several times, and later heading to underground tunnels was a shock. Common acts, such as sleeping over at a friend’s or visiting one’s parents could mean that you were separated from your home, belongings, and loved ones in one night, for decades. Seeing the lengths that people went through to escape and help others escape made me pause and understand that the Wall was not merely a physical boundary. It was a boundary that quite literally separated neighbors, cut across metro lines, and was harshly enforced by the government. From the readings, I was still under the assumption that East Berlin wasn’t that bad and that the true horrors of the Soviet Union were outside the boundaries of Germany. Hearing of the reproductive control East Berlin women had over their bodies further influenced this impression, that while conservative people still chose to live in East Berlin. The tour and later research helped me round out the perspective. I learned that not all agents of the Berlin Wall were in agreement with their government. While there were good aspects of East Berlin, it was still a Soviet-run area with the further downside of people being physically separated from their family, their support network taken away. I learned that the Berlin Wall is a complex subject, one that was shaped by Germany’s past and that shaped Germany’s future. I also learned the ingenuity and grit of those who resisted is something to be admired and studied.

Elienne Deshommes is a queer rising junior who loves to learn. They are majoring in Organismal Biology, focusing on environmental stability and healing. However, their interests are broad and include African-based religions, queer history, evolutionary sciences, and Greco-Roman history. Born in Denver, CO to a Haitian immigrant father and a Coloradan mother, their dream would be to return the island of Hispaniola and its ecological past to increase the opportunities of LGBT citizens via STEM jobs and education.

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Elliot Triplett

Today our class had the opportunity to take a Berliner Unterwelten tour focused on resistance to and escapes under the Berlin Wall. What struck me most were the stories of people who had been separated from their loved ones and who were willing to do anything to reunite with them, even if it meant spending months digging a tunnel and putting themselves in danger. While I had studied the Berlin Wall in history courses before, I had never truly understood the intense impact it had on the people of Berlin, separating families and friends. The tour made me appreciate the value of studying people’s lived experiences, something that is often emphasized in feminist spaces, but not as often in many other disciplines. While theorizing and understanding the facts of an event are both valuable and important, theory and fact are incomplete without a grounding in material consequences and lived experience. Additionally, learning about the group of men who dug tunnels who still take the time to educate people on the Wall and its history reminded me of the importance of learning from past events and making connections between struggles. While there is no “Berlin Wall” today, the tour prompted me to consider where similar forms of subjugation are happening and where I can be “digging tunnels.” A key intervention of transnational feminism, which helps guide this course, is to see where forms of power are showing up similarly without erasing contexts. I feel so privileged to have been able to go on this tour and learn about the risks and successes of resistances in the past, and I am excited to take my learnings forward with me into the future.

Elliot Triplett is a Computer Science major and Feminist and Gender Studies minor from Longmont, Colorado. He is passionate about the mountains, disability justice, and his cats. In his free time, he can be found reading comics, making stuffed animals, and taking naps. This is his first study abroad course, and he is enjoying the chance to explore a new city.

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Die Mauer asisi Panorama by Jordan Fields and Gabby Rogan

Jordan Fields

Die Mauer Asisi Panorama Museum is in the Mitte district of Berlin, Germany. The Panorama was created by Yadegar Asisi, a German artist who experienced life on the East and West sides of the Berlin Wall. Asisi created a Panorama art piece of an overview of the point of view overlooking the West side of the Berlin Wall to the East. The historical and artistic remembrance of the Wall created a dynamic storytelling of navigating space around the 1970s and 1980s. This made me think of “The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene” by Simon Arms, because he elaborates on Berlin street art and graffiti as a form of resistance. The photographs I have taken in the Panorama exhibit showcase graffiti throughout West Berlin. The western side of the Wall was occupied by the United States and France. However, Arms argues political elites (large, corporate industries) also profit off urban art. Arms mentioned the waves of artists in Berlin illustrated unique art styles to resist the government and a lack of freedom. Moreover, the resistance was a counterculture that rose against state surveillance. Die Mauer Asisi Panorama Museum impacted my understanding of storytelling and historical perception. The American educational system often overlooks or deemphasizes the Berlin Wall as historical event. My understanding along these lines was also impacted by “Women in East Germany Today” by louise k. davidson. davidson gave more of an American interpretation (framework) of West and East Berlin and the economic, social, and political aspects of women’s livelihood. As an American reader, interpreting scholarship on these subjects challenged my preconceived notions of German history.

Jordan Fields is an uprising senior at Colorado College pursuing an independently designed major. These photos were taken at Die Mauer Asisi Panorama Museum. Another photo was taken in front of the Cathedral in Mitte.

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Gabby Rogan

Today, we visited Die Mauer (the Wall) asisi Panorama, a hyperrealistic installation created by Yadegar Asisi. This exhibition captures interwoven scenes of the Berlin Wall, a period of stark ideological division in Germany between West Berlin’s capitalist government and East Berlin’s communist government. The Wall installation itself visualizes the streets of Kreuzberg (where Asisi resided) within its inner city border, with a view of the death strip and East Berlin on the other side of the wall. The scenes he depicts are ordinary snapshots of daily life, but the partition of the city is especially apparent, as the developed city structures are still clearly visible. Since the Berlin Wall has now almost completely disappeared from the cityscape due to it being destroyed, sold, or given away, this panorama gives the public access to Germany’s contemporary history once more. This exhibit directly mirrors the themes of our reading, especially “The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art and Graffiti Scene” by Simon Arms, because he discusses how graffiti was used by artists West Germany as an expression of freedom and a form of resistance to East Germany’s communist government, inspiring a sense of liberation for the public.

Gabby Rogan is from Evanston, Illinois, and is currently majoring in History and Political Science with a minor in Education at Colorado College. In her free time, Gabby works for after-school programs at Colorado Springs elementary schools, sings with her femme plus a cappella group, and is a board member of the R.O.S.E. Foundation—a nonprofit that aims to uplift school staff in the United States. Eventually, Gabby wants to work in education policy to help create more equitable experiences for students across the globe.

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Memorialization: The Past in the Present and Why it is Important Today


By Liza Bering

As our time in Berlin nears an end, I am noticing more and more the relationship between capitalism and sites, memorials, tours, and museums—especially how the importance of these places sometimes gets lost in a whirlwind of ignorance. This ignorance is one that allows for little discussion or critical remembrance and instead creates space for an insensitivity that masks the problems that “remembered” people face today. Before snapping a selfie or indulging in the appropriated souvenirs, a visitor should think about or ask themselves: What is the significance of this site? Who is it for? Why is this important? The truth is that most don’t bother to ask these questions. Instead, they settle for a cool key chain, an Instagram post, or even just to say they’ve been there. With this, I wonder how these places, museums, sites, may function as memorials for the people they “remember” or as a Band-Aid for historical traumas and the erasure of groups or if they are simply there to eagerly take money from seemingly clueless tourists, because the reality is that monuments and memorials prescribe history.

This past weekend, I traveled to Teufelsberg. Located just outside of the city of Berlin, near West Berlin’s Grunewald Forest, lies a large hill made up of 12 million cubic meters of war rubble pushed together and created what is now Teufelsberg, which literally translates to “Devil’s Mountain.” I arrived, payed the entrance fee, and set off on my way to explore. I had fallen into the vicious cycle that allows tourists to visit a place they know absolutely nothing about, take some pictures, and then leave—still knowing nothing. After leaving the site, I asked myself, “What is this place?” I still knew absolutely nothing about Teufelsberg, except that it had beautiful street art covering the walls of the abandoned spy tower. I later searched Google, and found what I was looking for: tangible information that would allow me to appreciate the site and understand its importance and how it functions today as a place of artistic expression. The tower was built on a former Nazi training school that was utterly invincible as it had survived multiple demolition attempts. Instead, truckloads of war rubble from World War II were dumped on the center, and the U.S. built a spy tower to use with Great Britain to spy on communist East Germany during the era of the Berlin Wall. After the fall of the Wall, the site became a place that was going house an air traffic control center, apartments, or a school, but it ultimately became a site open to the paying public and a haven for graffiti artists.

Bering III

Photo Credit: Liza Bering

Spending a relaxing Sunday strolling around the spy towers had me thinking about a prevalent theme that we have been discussing in class: the memorialization of sites and how they function as institutions of remembrance, knowledge, and recognition while sometimes simultaneously catering to capitalism, especially pertaining to collective guilt. Along these lines, in “Sites of Remembrance? Jewish Museums in Contemporary,” Sabine Offe writes, “It is a time gap between both institutional functions [collecting/sheltering cultural heritage and obscuring of past and history of guilt] that turns museums in general and Jewish museums specifically into highly ambivalent places, established to transform collective guilt and banish it from memory and thereby enhancing its commemoration” (78). During our class, the lens through which we view and discuss various sites of “remembrance” allows us to critically examine the ways certain acts of memorialization are sometimes fueled by personal, political, and/or capitalist interests rather than changing the way the memorialized subject is seen and treated today.

Berlin is city filled with historically deep wounds that are not forgotten and sometimes not even fully discussed. A common mentality I have picked up from some sites in Berlin is one that seems to scream, “Okay, Berlin has given you and your people a sign, memorial, or museum…isn’t that enough?” We saw this during the Africa in Wedding Tour when we discussed street signs that give recognition to the African countries that Germany colonized, like Ghanastraße, yet the city still fails to do much justice to the people or bring the invisibility of Germany’s colonial past to the present. We saw this at the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under the National Socialist Regime, where clueless tourists throw pennies into the memorial’s basin of “tears” or continue to use derogatory language when referring to Sinti and Roma people. We saw this at Checkpoint Charlie, where tourists from all over waited patiently in line to dress up in old army uniforms and pose with a replicated U.S. checkpoint hut, while still not fully understanding the lasting effects that the Berlin Wall had on Berlin even after its fall in 1989. The common theme here is that the memorials do not necessarily change the stigma that surrounds these historically marginalized groups today. Just because you dedicate a statue, fountain, or street to something doesn’t mean the pain and suffering is over. Still, these sites are powerful, because they give recognition to groups, events, or people that otherwise might still be unrecognized. My question is, how can we memorialize people in a way that does not suppress their past and present experiences?

Bering I

Photo Credit: Liza Bering

Memorials have become institutions that collect and shelter cultural heritage while sometimes obscuring the past, which contributes to an obscured sense of collective guilt and collective memory. Along these lines, in “Coming In From the Cold: The Black German Experience, Past and Present,” Marion Kraft comments on the recognition and memorialization of Afro-Germans, writing, “Despite the presence and achievement of Black Germans, racist notions and conceptualizations of nation and ‘race’ have not vanished from the mainstream German collective consciousness” (10). So where do we go from here? The beginning of this issue lies within the people—we must slough off shallow, surface-level approaches to sites of remembrance and enter with an open mind and the understanding that the issues surrounding such memorials are issues that are still deeply rooted in society today. The public attraction and capitalization that inevitably attracts tourists isn’t always bad, because after all some kind of remembrance or recognition is better than none. However, we must be careful and compassionate and critical of how and what information tourists and outsiders are seeking and being fed.

BeringLiza Bering is a sophomore at Colorado College hailing from Des Moines, Iowa. She is planning on majoring in Geology and minoring in Middle Eastern Studies and Feminist and Gender Studies. She plans on combining the three different disciplines in way that with impact others on more than just a shallow surface level. When she isn’t studying (or touring Berlin with her fellow FemGenuises) you may find her checking out street art, walking around Berlin’s beautiful city parks, or getting lost on the subway.