Image

What the Berliners Said!

Per the suggestion of Vicky Jones, I sometimes ask my comrades if they’d be willing to share their thoughts about the course!  To read and hear what students have written and said about the course, click here.


NoahI wish such a class and course and curriculum existed in Germany. I had a great time presenting to these students who don’t have an ‘abstract’ approach on intersectional womanism, but know from living and breathing what it’s all about. This is the foundation for our theory and studies to be applicable and fruitful. I am especially delighted that matters of pan- and intra-Diasporic power and hierarchy have been brought to the table, as Afrodeutsche lately seem to be considered rather a ‘field of study’ than an autonomous culture (with our own research) by many American and British academics. The entire exchange was so positive and respectful that I wish more universities could learn from this class and prof. I’m sure Professor Heidi R. Lewis makes a huge difference to her students, institution and field, and I can’t wait until this generation of students makes many differences in their respective ways of life and professions. Peace.
Noah Sow

Picture IV

I’ve gotten to know many of Heidi’s university groups on my queer tours of Berlin. These tours focus on the solidarity of the city’s peoples, but also on past contexts in which groups like the Nazis or the provisional allied governments after WWII persecuted individuals. We move from contexts of persecution to investigations of queer club culture and activism. My tours are intersectional and inclusive. I try to leave no stone unturned, no point of contact unexplored. In this way, Heidi’s groups always feel like a perfect match. Her groups are the tours I most look forward to in any year. Her students are woke, engaged, critical, compassionate, and yet show each other a comraderie more common among family. Heidi’s herself is also a meaningfully charismatic person and absolute pleasure to be around. I only wish I could attend all her lectures.
Jared Pool


Noah Hofmann

It was a wonderful and refreshing experience to see young people studying the often overlooked experiences of Black people in Europe! I felt really honoured that Heidi has chosen me as one of the people who should share their experiences and their knowledge! It was a new and very enriching experience to exchange thoughts and knowledge this time not on social media, but in real life and to get in dialogue with such wonderful, reflected, and highly-educated students and teachers! I’d be ready to repeat this at any time!
Noah Hofmann (author, activist on social media)


Mendelssohn (Calvi)I met the FemGeniuses for a tour of Jewish Berlin at the rather early hour of 9 a.m. on June 3rd in front of the main building of the Humboldt University on Unter den Linden. Only half of them were on time (it was quite early in their stay, and they were still figuring out the public transport system) but what totally impressed me is that those who were late came literally running down Unter den Linden with full cups of coffee to try and make it on time! The 2nd positive impression was how big the group was this year and how multi-cultural. No other exchange program I have worked with has achieved this level of involvement of students from ethnically diverse backgrounds like this group. Huge kudos to Heidi and the program!
We began the tour by going into the lobby of the Humboldt University where we saw an exhibit on the upcoming “Humboldt Forum,” a big project to rebuild the German royal palace and put the Ethnological Museum of Berlin into it. Activists had placed posters on the floor in front of the exhibit commenting on the stolen art (Beutekunst) contained in this museum. The FemGeniuses showed a lot of interest and background knowledge of what it means that so much of what is in our museums is presented in a racist way, yanked out of context, stolen, etc. Despite the language barrier of activist action, the group really engaged and asked questions and commented. We also “visited” with Lise Meitner, a Jewish scientist who discovered nuclear fission. Meitner has gone down in history as the clearest example of a person who should have received a Nobel prize and did not. And why not? She was a woman and a Jew and driven out of Germany and away from her work by the Nazis. So we discussed the knowledge we do not have because the Nazis were successful in suppressing that knowledge. Finally after many decades there is a statue of Lise Meitner in front of the Humboldt University so we “met” her and had photos taken. Unfortunately, we cannot yet take a photo of a proposed memorial for the Black victims of German colonialization, the Holocaust and racism in general. We looked at a picture of a proposed memorial by the Black British artist Satch Hoyt called “Shrine of the Forgotten Souls.” This memorial is being promoted by Katharina Oguntoye, the Black German author and head of the Berlin multi-cultural project Joliba.

Ducks on Gro+ƒ Hamburge St_

And that was just the start of the tour! What is rewarding about touring with the FemGeniuses (this is my 2nd year) is their understanding of political contexts and the fact that they are absolutely prepared and open to hearing and understanding the complex issues that come up on a tour. It feels like you don’t have to start at ABC but somewhere far along in the alphabet! So, as a guide, I can unpack all my knowledge and passion for Jewish history and current day life in Berlin. There was a funny moment on Groß Hamburger str. As we were looking at a memorial, an entire family of ducks walked across the city street! I’ll include this photo as it is symbolic for me of how Heidi leads, protects and challenges her group like this mother duck.

Thanks for coming to Berlin FemGeniuses. And thanks to DeAira Cooper who wrote a great entry on my tour for the blog. You really got it!

Carolyn Gammon


IMG_8950When Professor Lewis asked my if I would be willing to speak in her class about the History of ADEFRA e.V. (Organization for Black Women and Women of Color in Germany), I was highly surprised how interested the students have been in our 30-year History and Herstory. The lives and struggles of Black people in Germany is not well-known in the U.S., so i was thankful to share some of our experiences in Germany, knowing that  our stories will be shared in the U.S. This will strengthen solidarity, which is very important among activists and organizations here and there, specially to fight racism and to share experience  of resistance. We need to spread the word throughout the Diaspora and build  alliances. So hopefully, Professor Lewis will return with more students and meet many activists again next year. I thank Heidi for her commitment and passion to teach young people the real important things in life. 🙂
Jasmin Eding

Group Photo (Asbury)

Mutlu with Ryan Garcia, Noah Hofmann, and Musa Okwonga

I had  a very good time at the class. I rarely come across such a group of good listeners. They were very curious without crossing any boundaries, very open and attentive to the very complex story and information I shared with them. I was also very glad to right some of the wrongs the class experienced during their so called Turkish German Berlin-Tour. I think their white German tour guide had very little understanding about the migration history from Turkey to Germany and even less understanding about Turkish/Kurdish German culture and lived experiences. I had a great time sharing my perspective.
Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz


Frauenkreise Talk

Helen, Professor Lewis, Cassandra, Marca, Gabi, and Vicky

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 Jones, Founder of Krik TV and Rock It


IMG_0231 (2)

Ika Hügel Marshall, Dagmar Schultz, and Dr. Ellerbe-Dück

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.
—Dr. Cassandra Ellerbe-Dück


photo 4

Nadine Saeed and Katrin Julien (6th and 7th from left) with the 2014 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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 Julien, Inititiave in Memory of Oury Jalloh


IMG_0673

Mona El Omari and Iris with the 2016 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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, Xart Splitta


TBB II (Nora)

Celine with the Fall 2017 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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.
—Dr. Celine Barry, Each One Teach One


photo 1

Kristina Kuličová and Magda (second and first from right) with the 2014 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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, Author and Political Officer


AWYO II

Elizabeth (second from left) with the 2014 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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


African Women & Youth Organization

Kester with the 2014 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

“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, African Women & Youth Organization


IMG_8809

Nadine and Mouctar Bah with the 2015 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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


IMG_0446

Sharon with the 2016 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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, & 2016 Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis Winner


Image #5

Drs. Brückmann and Lewis during a convergence class with the 2018 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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.
—Dr. Rebecca Brückmann, Free University


Kadesha

Dr. Radvan with the 2014 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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


IMG_8271

Josephine with the 2018 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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


ReachOut

Biplab with the 2018 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

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

Image

Heike Radvan and the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung

By Kadesha Caradine

Kadesha

L to R: Melissa, Kaimara, Heidi, Heike, Beril, Nicole, and Ximena

Our day started earlier than usual, which seems like it caused the morning to go a little longer than usual. While it was interesting seeing the hustle of Berlinerson a week day, I was a bit uncomfortable being so close to strangers and occasionally bumping intothem due to the harsh stops of the train. I guess it is just the southerner in me.

IMG_3425

Beril

We arrived to the office of the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung where we were greeted with both coffee and tea which we were, the need for which was desperate. After everyone was situated, we went around the table and gave small introductions, which was followed by an introduction by Heike Radvan who has been working for the foundation for 14 years. She then gave us a brief introduction of the organization,and explained that it is named for Amadeu Antonio. Antonio was a contract worker who migrated to Berlin from Angola in 1980, and was, unfortunately, one of the first victims of Neo-Nazis. Antonio did not survive his brutal attack.

I was so excited to be able to talk to Heike about this organization, because I have been very interested in learning about the types of crimes that happen in Germany as compared to the U.S. I believe the reason why I was so interested in learning more about such information was because until our visit to the Foundation, many people I talked to described Berlin as a place that was way less violent than the U.S. I wanted to believe them, but it was hard for me to do that after learning about all the discrimination that happens here. So, I finally got the real scoop. Even though this particular organization has more of a focus on East Berlin, our discussion gave great insight on the somewhat hidden violence in the city and its rural areas.

IMG_3427

L to R: Kaimara, Heike, Beril, and Nicole

Heike explained that the police in Berlin are often racist, especially in cases involving migrants. Sounds to me like how African-Americans are treated in the United States, which is why I decided to pose a question about how Heike thought Germany might have handled the Trayvon Martin case. I asked because the day before, we had dinner with students from Free University, and on our way back to our apartment, we were discussing gun laws in Germany and the States. One of the students explained that gun violence isn’t as prevalent in Germany because of the lengthy process it takes to get one. Then, she went on to say that because of these gun laws, the Trayvon Martin case would have happened very differently here. This was shocking because it gave me hope that such racist violence doesn’t happen everywhere in the world, but I still had my doubts. In response to my questions, Heike basically said that because of the racist police, Neo-Nazis, and discrimination against people of color here, the case would have more than likely had a very similar outcome. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t shocked at all.

IMG_3428

Stefani

Afterwards, Heike explained that Neo-Nazis train their children to be young Neo-Nazis, which creates problems in schools. We also had some discussion about how there are still parts of East Germany that have large populations of Neo-Nazis and that they often go unnoticed because they don’t always try to make their selves visible. This instantly reminded me of racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in southern parts of the U.S. Even though they might not always dress in their traditional white uniforms, they are still very active. I went on to ask Heike if there were “smaller” ways that Neo-Nazis tried to display their pride, much like the confederate flag for southern American racists. She informed us that even though the swastika is banned in Germany, Neo-Nazis still identify themselves with other signs, such as Celtic symbols.

All this information was eye-opening to me, because even though people describe Berlin as a really safe place, as Heidi says, “Here, I feel acutely Black.” This is also a challenge for me. Yet at the same time, I feel accutely Black at Colorado College, so the feeling is familiar. This conversation really made me think, “Is there a place where Trayvon Martin would have received justice?”

********************

Kadesha II

Kadesha Reading Maya Angelou at #rosesForRefugees in Berlin

Kadesha is entering her third year at Colorado College, majoring in Feminist and Gender Studies and possibly minoring inRace and Ethnic Studies. She is also on the Pre-Medicine track.

Image

Convergence Class with Rebecca Brückmann at Freie Universität

By Ximena Buller

Rebecca and HeidiAfter our educational and informative Wedding Tour around the Afrikanisches Viertel (African Quarter), the Femgeniuses, as the family we are, headed to have a nice lunch together and ended up at a Turkish restaurant that our newest friend Josy Apraku recommended. Once there, we could not be more puzzled by the menu, which was written in Turkish and German. Luckily Beril, one of our Femgeniuses, is Turkish and was able to explain each and every plate in detail and gave great suggestions on the delicious meals. Although we were very satisfied after our meal, we were still craving some of the refreshing (usually home-made) ice cream that can be found in almost every corner during summer in Berlin. My personal goal is to eat at least one scoop every day! Subsequent to our well-deserved treat, we were on our way to the John F. Kennedy Institute at Freie Universität where we had a convergence class with Professor Rebecca Brückmann’s students in her course entitled “Can We Do It?: The 20th Century Women’s Movement in the U.S.”

XimenaWe started off by introducing ourselves and giving our reasons for taking a Feminist and Gender class. Then, we discussed women’s movements in the U.S. and Germany, as well as the differences between the experiences of African American and Afro-German women. We also watched the trailer for Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years, 1984-1992. The FemGeniuses had fortunately already watched the whole movie last week, so we were able to contribute our comments and opinions about the documentary. We discussed how Audre Lorde was so essential for recognition and development of the concept “Afro-German,” as well as the development of an Afro-German community, especially amongst Black German women. We spoke about how there had previously been a huge lack of recognition for the Afro-German community. This was true even among Black Germans, because they had lived primarily in white communities. Back in the day, the stories of Black women were invisible and not considered worthy to be discussed. This was even more acute without contemporary technology, such as Google and social media. Even today, Black women’s voices are not widely heard and most white people in Germany are surprised when they learn that many of these women were born and raised in Germany. This is when our professor Heidi mentioned the importance and the need of teaching these types of courses because they create awareness and provide knowledge on issues of racism and sexism throughout the world.

photo 2Later, we discussed questions within smaller groups with Rebecca’s students. My group, for instance, focused on how the work we have studied, including Audre Lorde, has helped us to better understand the experiences of Black women. Rebecca’s students read bell hooksAin’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, a text we haven’t read in our class, so it was interesting to merge the thoughts and works of all the people we were studying and how they present their views on Black women and feminism. Other questions asked students to discuss intersectionality, the importance of education about racism, criticism of the stereotypes portrayed in media, and how labels are effective (such as “Afro-German”) and also problematic (such as the “n” word).

photo 3We came to the conclusion that the issues spoken about and discussed during this session are essential for everybody to discuss and that schools need to start teaching them much earlier than college. This was a great experience, because it allowed for discussions with other students outside our Femgeniuses group, and it was very interesting to hear what they had to say.

********************

XimenaXimena an international student at Colorado College. She is from Peru, and will be a sophomore this coming year. She is currently undeclared, but debating between majoring in Anthropology or Sociology. She is very excited to be in Berlin taking a course with Heidi and through CC, because it has so far allowed for a unique learning experience.