Some Final Thoughts on the 2023 #FemGeniusesinBerlin by Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

“Gotta hit them muthafuckin’ angles! It’s a short life!”
—Drake, “Nice for What” (2018)

Judy at the DARK MATTER Museum with Me and Chase

I want to be honest. Every summer since around 2018, about halfway through this course (which I’ve taught annually since 2014 and except in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19), I contemplate not teaching it again. Most of the time, that has little to nothing to do with the students, who are usually great overall. The real issue is I’m getting older and changing in ways I never thought I would. Sometimes I think seriously about leaving the liberal arts or even about leaving the academy altogether. I don’t love teaching the same way I used to five years ago let alone twenty years ago when I taught my first college course while pursuing my Master’s degree. A large part of that is probably also due to my kids getting older. I now have an 18-year-old son headed to college this fall and a 17-year-old daughter headed into her senior year of high school. So, I’m interested in reinventing myself and spending more time with my elders and folks my own age. Plus, teaching in Berlin is exhausting. I still do everything the students do, including the walking tours and museum visits. Then, when my kids come along (as they did in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and my daughter also came this year), I’m energized by doing additional things with them like going swimming, shopping at flea markets, going to the zoo, and visiting extra museums. But that’s also exhausting.

But then, something(s) always happens to give me a spark, a second wind, if you will—another reminder of why I love teaching this course and why I’ll come back again.

Photo Credit: Katharin Luckey, 2023 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

This year, I remembered to visit a space where I once wondered if I could hold class for discussion days. The Regenbogenfabrik (or Rainbow Factory), just across the street from the flat where I’ve lived almost every year since 2018, is a self-governing, emancipatory, grassroots collective that began in 1981 (the year I was born) as part of the tenant’s rights movement in Kreuzberg. But to be honest again, my remembering the space wasn’t intentional. In fact, I hadn’t thought about it once this year—despite passing it multiple times daily—until I was preparing for our class swap and convergence class with Dr. Zachary Woods of Seattle University. I reserved rooms for us at two spaces that have been friends of the #FemGeniusesinBerlin for years, xart splitta and the FHXB Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum. One “fell through” for that morning, so I wrote the Regenbogenfabrik staff last minute asking if we could use their kino (theater). They said “yes,” and it was truly amazing. It reminds me so much of the now-defunct Brauni space that I was introduced to by Jewish Antifa in 2017 and where I held discussion days in 2018. I’m really looking forward to having class there and not only because I’d only have to leave my flat 15 minutes before class starts. So, that was one thing, and I’m starting with that, because sometimes it really is the “little” things that make a huge difference.

On that note, the majority of folks in Berlin were surprisingly kind this year. Never have so many strangers smiled at and offered to help me. It was unreal. My friend Sharon and I even met a guy from Detroit as we were leaving a coffee date. Shoutout to the Midwest. I wonder if some of the unusual kindness I’ve experienced is related to folks being happy to be back outside “after” COVID-19, but to be more honest, I don’t really care. As I told my student Kaléa during a walking tour, the older I get, the more I appreciate random acts of kindness. I need it. I receive it.

Ria and Me

Of course my friends, colleagues, and comrades here are always a reminder. I even met some new folks I’m excited to connect with again next year. To the former, I visited Ika Hügel-Marshall’s grave for the first time with Ria, Jasmin, Dagmar, and their friends Sabine and Katharin, who I met back in 2015. Every year, we go to the cemetery to see and tend to May’s grave, as well as Mike Reichel’s and Fidelis Grotke’s. This was the first time Ika wasn’t with us in the physical. I miss her. Most of all, I’m so thankful to have known and loved her and to have been loved by her. My daughter Chase and I were also so happy to spend time with Deborah, Katja, Ecki, Peggy, and Maisha in their garden. As usual, the food and drinks were delicious and the company was even better. I was thankful to hear Sharon and my other friend Josy read from their new books and seeing Tiffany at the former. I was thankful to have dinner with Rebecca, especially since she’s now a tenured professor in the U.S. and may not always be visiting Berlin when I’m in town. I want to spend every moment possible with my folks—sharing stories, smoking, eating, drinking, and laughing, especially my elders. Every hug, every kiss on the cheek, every toast is a reminder.

I do miss my best friend Dana, who came to Berlin with me as the Second Responsible Adult (SRA) five times between 2016 and 2019. It’s still hard for me to think about being in the city let alone actually being in it without her. To fill the void, my daughter, Judy, and I went to what felt like 100 flea markets and museums. I walked when it was possible to take public transportation way more than I was willing when Dana was with me. I also took pictures of the weirdest things like a donut on the bus and a bumblebee on a flower. She was definitely here in spirit.

Still, it was great having Judy back. Judy, a Feminist & Gender Studies at Colorado College alum (2020) and member of the Fall 2017 #FemGeniusesinBerlin, acted as the SRA last year and this one. The students and I always love hearing about her research on Indianthusiasm (or hobbyism) in Germany. Moreover, I remain honored that this course was one small catalyst for her work.

Italia and Marisa during the Street Art & Graffiti Walking Tour

Last, but never least, my spark was lit by this incredible group of students—these 19 students (highest enrollment for the course ever!) who were thoughtful, curious, funny, and super duper fly. It’s been a long time since I taught a course in which the Black students, Brown students, and other students of color were the majority and also gave so many damns about how they look. I firmly believe in the “look good, feel good” mantra, and these “kids” stayed camera-ready, and I loved to see it—hence, the Drake quote opening this essay. Oh, and for the record, can’t nobody serve poked lips in a picture like Marisa, honey. It was absolutely beautiful. I was so inspired. If I continue with my honesty theme, though, these were some of the slowest walkin’ students in the history of this course, probably in the history of all of mankind. Emma referred to them as “saunterers,” and I absolutely concur. But that was part of their swag, and it was only really annoying during walking tours—for me, that is. Haha. And their bond seemed so genuine. That’s not a prerequisite or a learning outcome for the course. However, it’s always a beautiful thing when I get to witness and support students developing substantial relationships. To be fair, several knew (or at least knew of) each other beforehand, but even those students seemed to grow closer during their time here.

The Street Art & Graffiti Walking Tour

And they’re so smart. I felt compelled to ask several if they’d thought about graduate school, because I see future professors in this group who’ll write critical scholarship that interrogates oppression and resistance with an especially necessary focus on intra-communal relationships. I see artists who’ll create critical spaces that center subjugated and oppressed people. I see K-12 teachers who’ll do the same. Whatever they become, I know the world is and will continue to be brighter with them in it. I feel sadness thinking about those slated to graduate next year, since I may not have them in class again. Still, and most importantly, I feel hope thinking about their futures. I also feel gratitude for being a small part of their journeys.

Chase and Judy before the SZA Concert

In closing, and as of this writing (June 21—save a few edits), I miss my husband and son more than words can say. I miss my house. I miss my bed. I miss our pets. I miss my friends. I miss my home office. I miss writing. I miss Black America. I miss Hip Hop. I’m ready to go home. But I will be back. And I’m already looking forward to it.

P.S. Other highlights include my daughter Chase’s budding friendship with Atquetzali; the SZA concert; my very novice attempt at storytelling during the German colonialism walking tour; my even more novice attempt at theorizing the bra we saw hanging on a wall during the graffiti and street art walking tour (#FreetheNipple); the convergence class with Zach; the new photojournal assignment; the students’ extra credit postcards; our first cracks at the Precarious Berlin walking tour I learned about from Adam, our Jewish history tour guide, and the Museum des Kapitalismus; and #FleaMarketFrenzy and #MuseumMayhem with Chase and Judy.

Click here to view a slideshow of pictures of the 2023 #FemGeniusesinBerlin, and follow on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook (@FemGeniuses and|or @AudresFootsteps on all platforms) to see more. To view final project indices and slideshows for previous #FemGeniusesinBerlin, click here

PhotoJournal Index:

German Colonialism Walking Tour with Josephine Apraku” by Katharin Luckey and Ella Simons
The Neues Museum” by Kaléa Daniels and Glorie Michelle Romero Elvir Enamorado
A Day in the Life of the #FemGeniusesinBerlin” by Noor Issa and Nova Yu
Jewish History Walking Tour with Adam Schonfeld” by Brailey Harris and Emma Fowkes
The German Resistance Memorial” by Marisa Diaz Bonacquisti and Talulah Geheim
A Day in the Life of the #FemGeniusesinBerlin” by Barbara Bilić and Gabby Rogan
A Day in the Life of the #FemGeniusesinBerlin” by Atquetzali Quiroz and Ella Simons
Die Mauer asisi Panorama” by Jordan Fields and Gabby Rogan
Under the Berlin Wall with Berliner Unterwelten” by Elie Deshommes and Elliot Triplett
A Day in the Life of the #FemGeniusesinBerlin” by Italia Alexandria Bella’-Victoria Rodriguez Quintana and Kate Nixon
Graffiti and Street Art Walking Tour with Alternative Berlin” by Noor Issa and Cecelia Russell
Urban Nation Art Museum” by Nova Yu and Barbara Bilić
A Day in the Life of the #FemGeniusesinBerlin” by Glorie Michelle Romero Elvir Enamorado and Marisa Diaz Bonacquisti
A Day in the Life of the #FemGeniusesinBerlin” by Brailey Harris and Elie Deshommes
The Schwules* Museum” by Jordan Fields and Emma Fowkes
Queer Berlin Walking Tour with Mal Pool” by Elliot Triplett and Cecelia Russell
On the History of Poverty and Solidarity: The Precarious Berlin Walking Tour with Stefan Zollhauser” by Kaléa Daniels and Italia Alexandria Bella’-Victoria Rodriguez Quintana
Museum des Kapitalismus” by Kate Nixon and Talulah Geheim
Graffiti Workshop with Berlin Massive” by Atquetzali Quiroz and Katharin Luckey

A Conversation with Judy Lynne Fisher

by Riley Hester

Photo Credit: Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

Since the beginning of this course, Course Associate and former student of Dr. Heidi R. Lewis, Judy Lynne Fisher, has comforted me as a student new to Feminist and Gender Studies. As we spoke during our first class session on Black and transnational feminisms, I sat quietly in my seat, quickly realizing how naïve I was in my previous thinking about feminist movements and how I had neglected the idea and possibility of counternarratives. I was embarrassed at my ignorance, especially given my positionality as a white woman; yet, I felt compelled to voice my feelings of unfamiliarity to the class.

When I spoke, Fisher looked at me with empathy and understanding, listening closely and nodding her head. My anxieties lessened as I realized the classroom was a safe place for discussions such as this. Since that first encounter, I’ve been lucky enough to hear vulnerable stories from Fisher related to her experience as an Indigenous woman in academia and of her impressive motivation despite it all. I have appreciated her empathy and passion for Indigenous people and other minorities. I was not surprised to find these qualities evident in her presentation on Transnational Indigenous Feminism and her research on the topic of the relationships between Indigenous people and Germany.

Photo Credit: Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

She began her talk by clarifying terminology. Again, as someone with little knowledge of Indigenous communities, I sat next to her relieved to be getting a clearer understanding. Her explanations of certain terms ensured that everyone could refer to herself and her people properly. However, she clarified that since these terms have been thrown around by Non-Native people for so long and since Indigenous people don’t all have the same ideals, there will always be debates over “proper” usage. When it comes to her, Fisher is a citizen of the Choctaw nation of Oklahoma. Though, she uses the term “Indian” in her research more specifically to refer to the stereotypical homogenous images people use to describe and understand Indigenous people. When referring to actual people in the community, “Indigenous” and “Native” are often used interchangeably. Through this preliminary discussion, I was reminded of the importance and power of language and specificity, something I have also come to be extra mindful of in Dr. Lewis’ course.

Before coming to class and hearing Fisher’s talk, I wondered how she could be inspired to do such meaningful work after coming to Berlin. Like many of the other speakers who visited our class, Fisher seemed to have had a moment of revelation at a somewhat random moment on her trip with Dr. Lewis in 2017. During a graffiti and street art walking tour, she noticed a bronze statue of an Indigenous man in a headdress wearing an “I Y NYC” t-shirt. She wondered what it was and how it had gotten there. Even more, she questioned what Native people were doing in Germany in the first place. When the tour guide and Dr. Lewis could not provide any information on the statue, Fisher decided to nurture her curiosity and start her own research.

Photo Credit: Riley Hester

Upon speaking with her family, she learned from her father that she had Indigenous family members enlisted in the U.S. military who had been stationed in Germany at some point. In fact, I learned from Fisher that Native Americans have the highest enlistment rate in the U.S. military. Growing up an “Army Brat” myself, I wondered why I had never noticed this majority. I also thought of my father who was stationed in Germany at the time I was born, and how I know little information about his time serving in Germany. Though I am proud of my father and everything he has sacrificed, I do feel that my upbringing may have censored me from realizing the unfortunate erasure and manipulation of various people and cultures at the hands of the U.S. military.

When Fisher introduced the term “Playing Indian” to the class, I was already wary of what I was about to hear and see. Like the term implies, and to my understanding, “Playing Indian” is the act of Non-Indigenous people taking and appropriating Indigenous culture and practices. With the help of Dr. Santiago Ivan Guerra, Director and Associate Professor of Southwest Studies at Colorado College (CC), Fisher was pointed toward various articles and the Karl May Festival in Germany, which prompted her to further explore “Playing Indian” and hobbyism in Germany, both of which ended up being a great part of her undergraduate work. She informed us that Karl May was a German explorer and author who wrote about the Wild West and Indigenous tribes, including several adventure trilogies.

Photo Credit: Riley Hester

In 2019, Fisher received a grant from CC to come back to Berlin to study Indigenous Feminism in Germany, which included attending the Karl May Festival. Prior to attending the festival, Fisher explained she was surprised to see that actual Native groups would be coming to perform at the festival on its website. This meant Native people would be educating predominantly white visitors on their communities and cultures. The festival included banners supporting the freedom Leonard Peltier, who has been imprisoned since 1977. In addition, visitors were encouraged to sign postcards that would be sent to President Donald Trump in support of Peltier’s freedom. Activism such as this encouraged Fisher, who says there is hardly anything of the sort being done at similar festivals in the U.S. However, Native appropriation was still very present at the festival. Non-Indigenous adults and children scattered the fair wearing Native headdresses, jewelry, and other clothing.

Fisher had a similar experience attending the El Dorado-Templin Wild West Theme Park in Germany. Although there are opportunities for Native participants to provide education for the predominantly white European audience, the theme park still features disturbing visuals and experiences inside the park. This includes displays of Native scalps, hypersexualized Native CD cases, and soap with offensive caricatures of Black people on the packaging. These displays and these kinds of environment contribute to the erasure of Indigenous people, something Fisher continues to study as a apart of her doctoral studies.

Photo Credit: Riley Hester

What I also found particularly fascinating was a conversation we had about “authenticity” and how one may create an “authentic” place where a community, in this case Indigenous people, can be represented and communicated with. It is something I have spoken about in other classes in terms of modernity and what some historians have called the “Teleological Timeline.” From my previous understanding, western ideas and portrayals of minority groups, such as Indigenous people, create a set image of what a community looks like and how people in those communities should be acting. This image is usually adapted and manipulated to fit western ideas and biases in order to place these communities “behind” in terms of advancement and development. This stagnates and isolates a group of people. Therefore, no representation could be truly “authentic,” depending on one’s definition. I could not help but be reminded of this as Fisher expressed the lack of space the full humanity of Indigenous people is given due to the historicized western ideals.

Fisher used herself as an example of this, sharing that she does beading that sometimes does not fit the “typical” idea of what Indigenous beading should be. She explained that sometimes she beads memes or other silly requests from friends and family. She even beaded the book cover of In Audre’s Footsteps: Transnational Kitchen Table Talk for Dr. Lewis. As impressive and talented as her beading work is, it is sometimes seen as shocking or surprising by those who are expecting “traditional” Indigenous beading. This is most certainly due to the historicization of Indigenous people practices. When people have a set image of what something or someone should look like or act like in their heads, it is difficult to accept anything outside of this idea as “authentic.”

Photo Credit: Riley Hester

I think, if nothing else, Fisher wanted us to take away an understanding of and shared frustration with the lifeless image that has been placed on her people throughout history and into modern day. People are ignorant to the existence of Native people in many countries today because of such immense historicization. Indigenous communities are set in place and tied to specific land, making them seem set in particular times and places. This has greatly impacted expectations about Indigenous people. Many people do not expect to see Native people in street clothes or in the city or on the train or in the workplace or in academia. Many people only expect to see Native people wearing headdresses and making dream-catchers and in Western films and in museums and in children’s books. This makes it ever so difficult for Indigenous people to remain connected to their heritage while still living and expressing themselves today. My admiration for Fisher has only grown greater as I now have a better understanding of what she has experienced.

Even more so, I left with a greater sense of what it means to be passionate about your work, what it means to be motivated, and what it means to be constantly mindful of the representation (or lack thereof) of vulnerable communities. I also know now what it means to be understanding and forgiving, even when some people are the least deserving. Fisher’s empathy and devotion are tied to her work and also her daily interactions. I am thankful to have had the chance to speak with her in class, and better yet, to have had the chance to be on this trip with her. I look forward to reading what her published work, which focuses Indianthusiasm in Germany and explores how the figure of “the Indian” in Germany and its relationship to German colonialism.

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Riley Hester is a rising junior at CC. She was born in Germany and has since lived in 6 different places, including Illinois, New York, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and now Colorado. She is a Psychology major and a double minor in English and German. She is new to Feminist and Gender Studies and hopes to expand her knowledge about the experiences of all people in Germany outside of what she has previously learned. She hopes to one day enter the clinical field of Psychology and work to change the mental health care system to make it more welcoming to and accessible. At CC, she is involved with NAMI and is a member of the swim and dive team. In her free time, she enjoys painting, writing, and exploring whatever area she is in. She’s enjoyed her time in Berlin and has valued the relationships she has built with her classmates over such a short period of time.

The 2022 #FemGeniusesinBerlin

Photo Credit: Dr. Heidi R. Lewis

Click here to view a slideshow of pictures, and follow @FemGeniuses and|or @AudresFootsteps on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook to see more pictures and videos.

Multimedia Podcast Index:

The RomaniPhen Feminist Archive + the Romanja Power Walking Tour with Estera Iordan” by Christiana García-Soberanez
A Conversation with Jasmin Eding” by Eliza Strong
Jewish History & Culture Walking Tour + Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt with Adam Schonfeld” by Bridget Hanley
BlackEurope: The Beginnings of Black Self-Organization in Europe” by Erin Huggins
German Colonialism Walking Tour w/ Josephine Apraku + the Neues Museum” by Amalia Lopez
A Conversation with Sharon Dodua Otoo” by Latra Demaçi
The Wall Museum + the Berliner Unterwelten Tour” by Margalit Goldberg
Blackness in America and Europe: Where the Grey Space Exists” by Monica Carpenter
A Conversation with Dana Maria Asbury, Mona El Omari, and Iris Rajanayagam” by Vicente Blas-Taijeron
Graffiti & Street Art Walking Tour + the Urban Nation Museum” by Alexis Cornachio
A Conversation with Judy Lynne Fisher” by River Clarke
Queer Berlin Walking Tour w/ Mal Pool + the Schwules*Museum” by Riley Hester
A Street Art Workshop with Berlin Massive” by Judy Gonzalez

To read and|or listen to the finales and view the indices and slideshows for previous #FemGeniusesinBerlin, click here

In Audre’s Footsteps: Feel the Love

First and foremost, thank you sincerely to Dr. Tiffany N. Florvil, Judy Lynne Fisher (Fall 2017 #FemGeniusesinBerlin and 2022 Course Associate), Aishah Shahidah Simmons (2015 #FemGeniusesinBerlin Course Associate), Dr. Rosemarie Peña, and Elisa Diallo for their beautiful, powerful blurbs of the book! Your support and encouragement has meant everything!

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My amazing students sent me the most beautiful video showing me lots of love and sharing their enthusiasm for In Audre’s Footsteps! I cried for so long, and I am so full of gratitude, excitement, love, and joy! Thank you and lots of love to each and every one of them (in order of appearance): Jazlyn Tate Andrews (2015 #FemGeniusesinBerlin and In Audre’s Footsteps co-editor), Niyat Ogbazghi, Alejandra Hernandez (2016 #FemGeniusesinBerlin), Malone DeYoung, Atiya Harvey (Fall 2017 #FemGeniusesinBerlin), Mae Eskenazi (2016 #FemGeniusesinBerlin and In Audre’s Footsteps‘ audiovisual engineer), Sakina Bhatti, Njeri Summey, Kali Place, Cheanna Gavin (2016 #FemGeniusesinBerlin), Lexi Davis, Nan Elpers, Emma Martin, Eileen Huang (2019 #FemGeniusesinBerlin), Kay Adams (Fall 2017 #FemGeniusesinBerlin), Maya Patel, Hailey Corkery (2017 #FemGeniusesinBerlin), Avia Hailey (2019 #FemGeniusesinBerlin), Tess Gattuso, Ivy Wappler (2016 #FemGeniusesinBerlin), Lindumuzi Jabu Ndlovu, Judy Lynne Fisher (Fall 2017 #FemGeniusesinBerlin and 2022 Course Associate), Christie Ma (organizer of this beautiful offering), Salem Tewelde, and Jade Frost (2015 #FemGeniusesinBerlin and In Audre’s Footsteps copyeditor). Words can’t express my appreciation, but I feel it deeply in all of my being!

I also want to sincerely thank each and every person who purchased a copy of In Audre’s Footsteps and allowed us to share these amazing, supportive photographs! Y’all are the real MVPs!

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Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @AudresFootsteps on all platforms.

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 Five | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven | The Afterword | Buy the Book | Events | Book Dr. Lewis

Senior Spotlight: Judy Fisher



My name is Judy Fisher and I have been a part of the FGS program since my very first class, taking the Intro to FGS FYE with Dr. Heidi R. Lewis. Additionally, I have contributed to the Monthly Rag since that very first class and have been proud to serve as the Editor Apprentice and the Editor. Through my experiences in this program I have also been able to serve as the FGS FYE Mentor and serve on Triota cabinet for 2 years. I have had the opportunity to learn so much, meet so many amazing people, and do amazing things because of my experiences in this department and I am forever grateful to the people who I have been in contact with, particularly my peers and my mentors. I have learned so much through the content in these courses but most importantly from listening and being in community with so many people who are different from me, but dedicated to making sense of how power shapes our lives. I am very sad that I am unable to share these final moments with my friends and mentors and thank them properly for the impact they have played in my life, but I hope to be able to do so in the future, and I hope they know how much they mean to me. I will be spending this summer with my family and preparing to begin my graduate journey in joining the American Studies PhD program at Purdue University where I have been awarded the Purdue Doctoral Fellowship.