Liberation Struggles

Jamie Schearer

 

Liberation Struggles

As time passes by and I reflect on my work,

I realise that the struggle to be free is being constantly fought inside of me

You might not see it, but I am fighting battles

Fighting the expectations to be…

The stereotypes projected onto me, the role ascriptions, the normativity.

Society should value my individuality but instead tells me what I am supposed to be.

But really, I just want to unearth myself and understand who I really am,

Stripping loose the layers of WomanHood, WifeDom, Blackness and MotherHood.

Only when I can see this naked version of me, then and only then can I be free!

March 13, 2017

International Women’s Day

Jamie Schearer

Today is International Women’s Day, a reminder of how far we have come and a reminder of the many battles that we are yet to fight and spaces to break into. Here a promotion clip for today’s demonstration in Berlin if you can join the march!

March 8, 2017

Why Zwarte Piet shows us that we are not over colonialism…

Jamie Schearer

A reflection on why Zwarte Piete is racist and a legacy of the Netherlands’ history of colonialism and slavery.

As a people raised in Europe we are taught to believe in Human Rights and in democracy. We believe that these are rights that we own, rights that are guaranteed to us. We believe that it is one of our fundamental rights to not only express our opinion freely, but to do so especially when it is about our human dignity, when it is about standing up for the inalienable rights that we were supposedly given. The Dutch constitution, as well as the German one, state that people have the right to a life free of discrimination whether on the basis of race, gender or belief. However, our daily realities look very different.

During this last weekend I was reminded that these rights are only granted to certain people in society, not to those who stand against the legacy of colonialism and enslavement of Black people and highlight its continuity until today. The effects of colonialism and enslavement linger on. The controversy about Black Pete is just one form of racism as Black communities deal with higher unemployment rates, police violence, racial profiling and an educational gap.

The events in Gouda at the national parade of Sinterklaas and his ’helpers’ the Zwarte Piets this last weekend, have shown that the Netherlands is not only holding on to and perpetuating colonial imagery of Black people,
it is also silencing any protest against it. The children’s festivity, where Sinterklaas, an equivalent to Santa Claus, is accompanied by his ’helpers’ who are blackfaced, is not an innocent children’s celebration.
It is actually an initialising moment of framing Black people as ’the others’, as servants and jolly and dumb entertainers, while handing out candy, reproducing the image of colonial subjects. This form of representation of Blackness through the colonial lense makes a strong case for whereZwartePietNiet_Berlin Embassy we stand in 2014 as European countries. The mere presence of Black people with ’Zwarte Piet Niet’ (No to Black Pete) T-shirts even led to arrests. We, as people who were peacefully protesting, were arrested, making clear how little criticism of the current system is allowed.

Because blackfacing isn’t just a problem in the Netherlands. You find racist blackfacing across Europe, including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and so on. Often these events are not only organised through official entities, but the people financing them include Black citizens, through their tax money.

In Germany we had two cases of blackfacing on the public TV station last year. One incident took place during the Holocaust memorial day, stating that it would be censorship to change the N-word in childrens’ books. Blackfacing most of the time becomes a tool to emphasize the position of Black people in our societies. It shows us Black people that we do not have the power to define images about us. Instead they are shaped and reinforced for us by the dominant society. Hence, the protest in Gouda was about much more than a children’s celebration, it was about colonial continuity and the emancipation of Black people in 2014, about the right to self-definition and equality. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that we can live as equals in Europe, so think about what you can bring to the table to make it happen.

July 28, 2016

Podiumsdiskussion zum Buch des Europäischen Netzwerks gegen Rassismus (ENAR) “Invisible Visible Minority: Launch of ENAR book on people of African descent”

Jamie Schearer

ENARSchwarze Menschen sind in Deutschland keine offiziell anerkannte Minderheitengruppe. Die UN hingegen sagt, dass Schwarze Menschen einer jener Gruppen ist, die besonders von Rassismus betroffen sind und somit besonderen Schutz brauchen. Somit wäre die gesetzliche Anerkennung als nationale Minderheit durchaus wichtig, um auch politisch Instrumente zu implementieren, die der Gruppe mehr Schutz garantieren. Die UN Arbeitsgruppe “Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination” (CERD) hat sogar ein Empfehlungskatalog nur für Menschen Afrikanischer Herkunft herausgegeben. In den meisten anderen europäischen Ländern ist die Lage Schwarzer Menschen ähnlich. Continue reading “Podiumsdiskussion zum Buch des Europäischen Netzwerks gegen Rassismus (ENAR) “Invisible Visible Minority: Launch of ENAR book on people of African descent””

January 23, 2016

Missy Interview — Vorbilder

Jamie Schearer

Direkt zu Beginn des Jahres habe ich mit dem Missy Magazin über meine Vorbilder sprechen dürfen. Ausgesucht hatte ich mir Jill Scott, eine US-amerikanische Sängerin, deren Texte mich zu hinterfragen von Rassismus und Sexismus inspiriert haben.

Hier der Artikel in Gänze

February 23, 2015

Enriching the Public Discourse by highlighting Colonial Continuities

Jamie Schearer

The Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD) has been actively working on the empowerment of people of African descent and Black people in Germany for almost 30 years. Its aim is to raise their voices and also to generate visibility for their perspectives and realities in the German society. The ISD is dedicated to challenging the discourse that does not want to see nor acknowledge Black presence in Germany. For more than three hundred years, people of African descent have been born and raised in Germany, have made Germany their place of home, but narratives about the Black experience in Germany often remain silenced in the public discourse. While their stories do not exist in the dominant historiography, stereotypical clichés dominate the images of the Black Diaspora. Racist pictures and beliefs need to be understood as a historically developed relationship of power – blurring past and present depictions of Black people’s realities.

This must also be interpreted through the lense of colonialism. There is almost no awareness in German society about the atrocities committed during colonialism. The fact that the first concentration camps were built in Namibia, former German South-West Africa, usually remains unknown to the wider German public. This is particularly ignored in the education sector. The genocide against the Herero and Nama and the traces it has left, affecting these communities until today, remain obscured with no effort of reparations made from the German side¹. Hence, it is especially offending that Germany’s `development aid´ is inadequately being advertised as a form of reparations for the genocide against the Herero and Nama. Development aid is clearly not working towards healing the trauma of the colonized peoples, who suffered a “war of extermination (1904 -1908)”². This strategy of the German government deflects from the cruelties that took place and once again imply that the colonizer takes the lead in the defining what is needed to repair the suffering of the affected groups, rather than inquiring about and respecting the way in which the Namibian society wishes to come to terms with the past and its repercussions in present times.

Groups like AfricaVenir, Berlin-Postkolonial e.V., AK Panafrikanismus e.V. – Bündnis Decolonize München and Tanzania Network e.V. as well as the ISD and ADEFRA have been standing in solidarity with demands for reparations from the global South. In 2011 20 human remains of Herero and Nama were handed over to a Namibian delegation. The skulls were taken from Namibia after the genocide between 1904-1908 for experiments³. A second handover took place early this year. Many more human remains are still in Germany’s research hospitals and archives. The active support and campaigning in Germany have strengthened the position of the Namibian side. Tools like interventions, media outreaches, inquiries to the German Parliament were used to increase the pressure on the German government to deal with the topic.

The ISD does not view reparations solely as a mechanism of financial compensation for people of African descent / Black people. Instead there is a need for a structural approach that will allow for the rectification of a broken system. A system that was not built to equally protect and provide for everyone. The Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires (CRAN) in its dossier “Esclavage et Réparation”  highlights the need to actively tackle racism through “legally, morally, culturally and symbolically”4 repairing the broken system that leaves Black people disenfranchised.

The lacking recognition of colonialism as a crime against humanity as well as the factual disregard for the genocide against the Herero and Nama in Namibia allow for the perpetuation of an imagery of the burden of the white man and of colonialism seen as civilizationally worthwhile for the so-called developing countries.

Through the missing education (or miseducation) regarding Germany’s colonial past, colonial racism is being passed on as valid knowledge. These historical (mis-)concepts are hidden behind offensive terminology. Accordingly, linguistic norms become extremely important for the public reappraisal of colonial practices today.

One approach of re-education has been fostered since the 1990s through multiple initiatives  such as Berlin-Postkolonial e.V. (freedom roads!), München Postkolonial, AK Panafrikanismus e. V., EDEWA, No Humbolt 21 etc. They have mainly been working on the topic of the postcolonial city. This includes:

  • active lobbying for the renaming of streets that glorify colonialism and colonial rulers
  • exhibitions identifying and discussing urban manifestations of colonial continuities
  • workshops, city tours, performances and lectures about the colonial past and its present day relevance
  • educating pupils, residents and artists about the silenced history of their environment

These concrete actions and examples resemble the earlier mentioned symbolic dimension of reparation. However, in order to unfold their full potential they must be paired with the moral component which is most powerfully represented through public debate. Public debate educates and informs the wide public and thereby works toward unlearning racist knowledge in society.

In the German context, these debates are very much centered around left-wing academic spaces and therefore raise the question of how to successfully introduce knowledge about structural dimensions of racism to those who do not pertain to these circles.

ISD is actively trying to challenge the white German narrative that deems Black People, their history and Germany’s involvement in colonialism and enslavement irrelevant by enriching the public discourse through decolonizing it.

by Keshia Fredua-Mensah & Jamie Schearer


¹Ursula Trüper (21.05.2011): „Gewalt ist meine Politik“ in Berliner Zeitung, http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/archiv/deutschland-errichtete-schon-als-kolonialmacht-in-afrika-erste-konzentrationslager-und-beutete-brutal-die-einheimischen-in-namibia-aus–davon-will-die-bundesregierung-offenbar-nichts-mehr-hoeren–gewalt-ist-meine-politik-,10810590,10788292.html

²Joshua Kwesi Aikins (2008): “Alltägliche Gegenwart der kolonialen Vergangenheit – Ertinnerung, Erinnerung und Verantwortung in der Kolonialmeteropole Berlin” in Herta Däubler-Gmelin/ Ann Kathrin Helfrich/ Ekkehard Münzing/ Christian Walther (ed.), “Afrika: Europas verkannter Nachbar”, pp. 52.

³Simone Knapp (2013): “Der Völkermord in Namibia: Anerkennung und Wiedergutmachung stehen immer noch aus”http://www.no-humboldt21.de/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/knapp_2013_voelkermord_in_namibia.pdf

4CRAN – Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires: “Esclavage et réparation” http://www.le-cran.fr/document-cran-associations-noires-de-france/18-brochure-sur-les-reparations-relatives-a-l-esclavage-.pdf

September 3, 2014

“Why our communities need us to be active? On being the change…”

Jamie Schearer

Being a young Black women in Germany isn’t easy. In fact, being a Black woman in this world contains many obstacles. One isn’t just confronted with sexism but also with racism or if you want to put it the other way around: One is not only confronted with racism but with sexism, too. These debates that concern us, around the issues of racism don’t happen in Germany and they certainly don’t happen regarding sexism towards Black women. Have you lately seen a Black women in Germany in power. A CEO of a DAX company? A politician in power? A board member of an international NGO? This is no surprise, we are here hidden behind closed doors. As a Black young educated women it seems you have three choices, which either are staying and working in a position that you are totally over qualified for, secondly leaving and working in a country where the conditions are better for Black people in general or the third option is fighting, fighting for political representation and the change of the situation.

One could limit this fight to the German context but we, Lioba Hirsch, Miriam Ajayi, Madina Mohamed and Jamie Schearer, thought why limit ourselves to the national context, when we live in a more and more globalized world that is shaping our realities.

We decided to join forces in our struggles with Black activists from all over Europe and for that purpose we organized a Network Meeting for People of African Descent from February 13 – 16, 2014 in Berlin. We think that a network is mandatory, that empowers us marginalized communities to demand change everywhere in the Europe. Hence, all Black representatives from advocacy groups that participated in the meeting were asked in advance to bring 5 demands for the improvement of Black communities in their counties. These demands were the basis for the working group sessions during the Network Meeting.The groups were set up to work in 5 categories: Asylum, Employment, Justice, Civic Education and Institutional Education.

The results will be put together in a demand catalogue sent to the Members of the European Parliament prior to the elections in May 2014. From the catalogue we will also draw questions to send to the European parties to answer. They will allow us to see what the parties in the European parliament are planning to do to tackle the issues that Black people in Europe are facing.

In the course of the Network Meeting the South African Embassy Berlin, holding the 6. Region mandate for the African Diaspora, hosted the event on Friday. On Saturday the Heinrich Böll Foundation opened their doors, where further activists of African Descent joined us to focus on the asylum demands. On Sunday the network meeting took its end at a late brunch at the Black owned Aicy & Mimy’s at the Werkstatt der Kulturen.

Why are we telling you this? We think it is important to build on the legacy of Black People in Europe, to make the African Diaspora visible and stand up for recognition. The history of Black people in Europe is a truth that goes back many hundred years and our aim is to change and fight for the unacceptable conditions, we are still confronted with today.

We, Black Women, are part of this change. We can be leaders, speakers, lobbyist of our self-defined, self – fought change. Recently I read an inspiring quote:

“The Black woman is the most unprotected, unloved woman on earth…she is the only flower on earth…that grows unwatered.” We may grow unwatered, yet we grow fast.

 

Jamie Schearer & Madina Mohamed

March 3, 2014