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Event Review

The Amerika Haus opened its doors for the fifth event in the Black History Month in Berlin series on Thursday, 12th February, for a podium discussion and concert organised by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb) and the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD). Guests began to arrive at 6pm, with the refreshments, Guinean cuisine, and warm atmosphere providing a respite from a particularly cold evening after a day of snow. At 7pm the audience were seated in the auditorium and were welcomed by Mark Donfried, ICD director, to the event entitled ‘Cultural Perspectives of the African Diaspora in Germany’.

The programme began with a tribute to the late Mahoma Mwaungulu (1932-2004) by school friend and compatriot, Knollys Mwanyongo. Mwaungulu was born in present-day Tanzania and went on to become a highly influential and well-respected member of the African Diaspora. He became politically active in his student days in Africa; a ‘humanist, pacifist revolutionary’, and remained engaged in African politics as a student in Leipzig from 1960-64, and then later when he settled in East Germany in 1973. In 1997, he co-founded the Pan-African Forum e.V, and friend and colleague Dr. Wilfred Imoudu, General Secretary of the Pan-African Forum, joined Mwanyongo in praising Mwaungulu’s commitment and kind-hearted approach to his work.

Five high-profile members of the African Diaspora who live and work in Germany in the cultural sphere of German Society were then invited onto the stage to for a panel discussion that covered a number of topics. The moderator was once again Adetoun Adebisi-Küppers, who gave a few words about her own background and work as co-founder of the online media portal CyberNomads, before asking the panellists to introduce themselves. André Degbeon is the founder of Afro TV and Media Consultant for the African Union Diaspora Committee Deutschland; Franklin Mikangou is a journalist and founder of Béto e.V; Abenaa Adomako co-founded the Initiative Schwarzer Deutscher (ISD) and contributor to the landmark collection of essays by Afro-German women, ‘Farbe Bekennen: Afro-Deutsche Frauen auf der Spuren ihrer Geschichte’; and Natasha Kelly, publisher of X-Magazine.

All of the panellists mentioned the often one-sided depiction of Africa in the German media, which in turn shapes the public perception of the African Diaspora. Natasha Kelly referred to the ‘three K’s’: Krieg (war), Krise (crisis) und Katastroph (catastrophe) that are ever-present in reports about African societies. They spoke about the need for news broadcasts to offer a more balanced approach that does not incite fear but rather explores the multi-faceted nature of the continent.  The cultural work that each undertakes was given as an example of ‘creating a space’ for black voices in the media, since it is presently very difficult to penetrate the mainstream media. Abenaa Adomako was however positive about the future, stating her belief that the work of the African Diaspora will mean that her daughter will have better chances than her grandmother, her mother, and even she herself have had. All emphasised the importance of implementing changes in society in order to pave the way for the future generations; André Degbeon gave the example of the African-German Kindergarten he established in order to give those children with one or two black parents a less pronounced sense of Otherness. The audience was then given the opportunity to pose questions to the panel before the discussion was called to close and guests made their way into the foyer for refreshments and the opportunity to talk to each other and panel members about the issues raised.

The visitors to the event were then treated to a vibrant concert by Fuasi’s Latin Jazz Connection, described as a ‘melting pot of African and European harmonies, melodies and rhythms’. The programme of Salsa, Bolero, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha and Bossa Nova by saxophonist Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq, vocalist Pina Lopez, and their ensemble of talented musicians was infectious: not a single person was left standing as Lopez whirled around the room. The fusion music proved the perfect finish to the evening, and guests and staff alike danced into the early hours.