Rethinking Black History Month in Germany

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tags: Germany, Black History Month, Black History

Tiffany Florvil is a historian of the modern and late modern period in Europe, especially social movements, gender and sexuality, emotions, and the African diaspora. She is currently revising her manuscript tentatively entitled, Making a Movement: A History of Black Germans, Gender, and Belonging. Follow her on Twitter @tnflorvil.

In Britain, Canada, and the United States, Black History Month (BHM) events are widely well-known and are celebrated annually. But Black History Month also has roots in Germany. This year will mark the 30th anniversary of the annual Black History Month celebrations in Berlin, which became a fixture in the Black German community. Started by members in the Black German organization, ISD or the Initiative of Black Germans (Initiative Schwarze Deutsche), the celebrations began in 1990. Black History Month represented a clear manifestation of African diasporic politics and solidarity, particularly with themes that ranged from Black German history to African literature in Europe to South African Apartheid to U.S. Civil Rights activism. BHM committee members, who included members from ISD and other minority organizations, actively made these events not only cultural and political, but also intellectual. They were events at which Black Germans, Africans, African Americans as well as other People of Color from Brazil and Britain (to name a few), produced and disseminated knowledge and where attendees learned about the diversity of African diasporic histories in Europe and elsewhere. As a result, BHM represented a culture of everyday intellectualism that marked Black Germans as thinkers and doers. Starting in Berlin and spreading to Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Munich, these annual events emboldened Black Germans to pursue a spatial politic that showed their resilience and agency and rooted them in both the German nation and the global diaspora.

The BHMs, along with the Black German movement more generally, brought a variety of people together from different backgrounds. Black Germans were often scattered across white neighborhoods in West and East Germany with limited or no contact with other Black people or relatives. They were often individuals of mixed-race descent with ancestry in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and the United States. They were also sometimes non-Black People of Color, like Asian Germans, who envisioned Black as a political identity for solidarity against racism. The BHMs also helped Black Germans socialize and forge connections with their diverse counterparts and others in Germany.

Read entire article at Black Perspectives

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