Black arts and activism in Germany to be highlighted in upcoming panel

A “Black Arts & Black Lives Matter in Germany” discussion will be held virtually via Zoom on Nov. 10 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event, organized by Assistant Professor of German Vanessa Plumly, aims to discuss the social movements for Black Germans in Germany and the impact of racism in a global context. 

In the panel, invited speakers will include three activists: Lara-Sophie Milagro, actress and co-artistic director at professional Black German Theater Ensemble LABEL NOIR, Mekonnen Mesghena, head of the Migration and Diversity Division at Heinrich Böll Foundation, A Green Think Tank for policy reform and an international network, and Angelo Camufingo, anti-racism advisor on students’ committee at the University of Potsdam. Associate Professor of Twentieth-Century European Women’s and Gender History Dr. Tiffany Florvil, from the University of New Mexico, will also speak at the event. 

The panelists will each be given 10 minutes to introduce themselves and present their work on anti-racism. Then Plumly will propose questions about their motivation, progress and contributions to dismantling systemic racism to initiate the conversation. Attendees will also have the opportunity to ask their own questions to the panelists.

Camufingo has been working as an anti-racism and education consultant ever since he became an activist in 2017 and began to conduct anti-racism workshops for teachers. Many of the conversations about topics including racism, police brutality, inability to formally collect Black German population statistics due to Germany’s past genocidal practices and refugees in Germany, have been ongoing in Germany following the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Camufingo said.

Camufingo emphasizes the importance of formulating connection between Black arts and activism. When people are not allowed to express their ideas about racial oppressions, Camufingo said, they make arts as a depiction of resistance and fighting against inequality. Camufingo also stresses the importance to expand the understandings about Black art and Black resistance to the rest of the world. 

“Obviously, there is reason why the things happen in the States in the way they do and the reason why they are visible as they are, comparing to other countries,” Camufingo said. “But it doesn’t mean it’s not happening anywhere else.”

The Black Lives Matter movement has been in existence since 2013, Plumly said, and it is becoming a global approach to anti-racism. Plumly believes it is important to interpret racism beyond the context of the U.S. and interconnects the occurrence of racism with other nations in a global perspective. Though there are many differences in terms of how racism is formed and how racism transformed itself throughout time between Germany and the U.S., Plumly said, there are also commonalities in the structures of oppressions. 

“There are differences, but there’s also a power hierarchy, asymmetry in power,” Plumly said. “It’s important to listen to other racialized individuals in a different geographical context.”

Racism is embedded within the system, and it is hidden from people’s view unless it is brought to their consciousness, Plumly said. Resembling the discussions on race and equity, Plumly believes it is important to think about how Lawrence University, as a predominantly white institution, should implement efforts on inclusion in a way that facilitates the sense of belonging.

The discussion will be the last event in the series of virtual collaborative conversation between Lawrence University and Davidson College in Davidson, S.C., in efforts to open discussion opportunities for students in German studies and other majors, according to Plumly.