Foundation of Black-German Activism

1986

Germany

Activism & Resistance Identity & Belonging

In 1986, the book “Show our colors: Afro-German women speak out” is published. It represents an important step towards the establishment of self-organizations by black people in Germany, such as ADEFRA (Afro-German Women) and ISD (Initiative of Black People in Germany).

The emergence of a self-conscious Black Community in West Germany in mid-1980s was decisively influenced by the professor, poet, and author Audre Lorde. Through her visits to West Berlin, she sought to create a space for black people, especially women, to encounter and exchange ideas with one another. Borrowing from the term “African American”, the designation “Afro-German” was coined to unite black people in Germany and overcome racist designations imposed by others.

The book Farbebekennen: Afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spurenihrer Geschichte (Show your colors: Afro-German women on the trail of their own history) was first published in 1986. Its basis was a graduate dissertation written by the educator and poet May (Optiz) Ayim [see: The May Ayim Embankment and the struggle to decolonize the politics of commemoration, 2010]. The book told the stories of Afro-German women and their experiences of racism, homophobia, and sexism, and demonstrated the historical interconnections between Black History and Germany. Out of its editorial meetings a group emerged that eventually, after growing in membership, led the way to establishing the Association of Afro-German Women (ADEFRA) and the Black People’s Initiative in Germany (ISD).

ADEFRA (currently Adefrae.V Black Women in Germany) was founded in the middle of the 1980s. Its goal was to create a concrete space for anti-racism activism and to engage the majority German population with the issues raised by the book Farbebekennen, thus shaping a positive identity for and of black women. Literary interventions in this vein were published in the journal AFREKETE. At first based in Munich, they gradually established further ADEFRA groups in cities such as Erfurt and Hamburg. In 1994, these groups resolved to join together and a Germany-wide organization was founded. ADFERA has since networked with other organizations internationally and engages in areas such as politics, empowerment, and education.

The ISD, originally calling itself the “Black German Initiative”, also emerged in the mid-1980s, at first out of several independent initiatives which had formed in various West German cities and which took part in lively exchanges of ideas with ADEFRA. The ISD was involved in the publication of several journals such as Afrolook(1986-1999) and the youth magazine Blite (1999-2002). Since its establishment, it has continuously organized various informational and community events as well as political campaigns. Local groups across Germany, for example, continue to organize public Black History Month events in February, in order to deal with and reflect upon the history and everyday experiences of black people in Germany.

Black people also organized in the GDR, founding initiatives in East Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig with the common goals of exploring the history of black Germans, illuminating racism within the society, and shaping their own individual destinies. Following the reunification, various initiatives joined together, changing the ways in which they understood themselves. Thus, the ISD adopted “Black People’s Initiative in Germany”
as its name to also acknowledge the experiences and interests of those people of color who had immigrated to Germany and/or were residing in Germany for only a limited period of time.