Greeting at the start of the Black History Weeks in Erlangen


Dear Prof. Lubkoll

Dear Prof. Ribbe

Dear fellow Black History Weeks,"

Dear friends of the Black History Weeks

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the opening event of this year's Erlangen "Black History Weeks".

It is thanks to the American scholar Carter Godwin Woodson that "Black History Weeks" are invited worldwide. Woodson's impulse was to counter the perspective on the past that predominates in history books with a "Black" perspective and to focus on the cultural, economic and social contributions and achievements of African-American citizens. In 1926, he initiated the first "Negro History Week".

In 2015, the United Nations proclaimed the Decade of People of African Descent under the motto 'Recognition, Justice and Development'. This initiative had prompted me to found the Erlangen "Black History Weeks" in the same year.

Africa festivals and Africa days have their justification in their colourfulness, in the variety of delicious smells, lively music and colourful costumes, and I would not want to miss them. The "Black History Weeks" in Erlangen, on the other hand, were born out of the motivation to overcome common clichés and to address areas of black culture, but also the involvement of black people in German history.

With this year's flyer, we can see very clearly the pitfalls that we, as anti-racist activists, sometimes cannot avoid due to carelessness. We know that the eternal repetition of stereotypes and clichés ensures that they become entrenched instead of dissolved.

Josephine Baker will be buried in Paris on 30 November 2021 in the presence of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, as the first Black woman to be buried in the "Pantheon", or rather her remains will be transferred there. The Pantheon is not just a mausoleum in Paris, it is the hall of fame of French heroines. Baker was an entertainer, but also a resistance fighter, activist and idealist. The image on our flyer may seem unproblematic to a certain audience - because they are used to the racist portrayal of black people or because they know so much about Josephine Baker that they are aware of the irony in her portrayals. For the cause we are working for, however, and also for me personally, the flyer designed in this way is a faux pas for which I would like to apologise on behalf of the entire team. We hope that at least the advertising effectiveness of naked skin has made its contribution.

This year's Erlangen "Black History Weeks" have set out to highlight racism in art and culture. Public representations as well as internal structures in certain artistic disciplines can unfortunately be seen as the epitome of what racism is. It is therefore necessary to strengthen exchange and encounter, discourse and debate in this field.

So we are delighted that Professor Ribbe from Paris will speak today about the Chevalier de Saint-George, a Black composer and violin virtuoso from the 18th century.

On 20 November we will hear a concert with a selection from his work in the Hugenottenkirche. It is also our pleasure to present Germany's first BiPoC publishing company at the Erlangen City Library on 11 November. We are also looking forward to the panel discussion on 15 November at the Erlangen Theatre on the topic of diversity in theatre and we are also excited about the lecture by Dr Katharina Gerund, who will speak on 17 November about - and here I have come full circle - Josephine Baker.

No one can remember things he or she has never heard of and no one can muster respect for achievements or events that are completely unknown to him or her. To eradicate ignorance, to increase knowledge of Black history, we need events like this. Here I am thinking above all of the children of today who will be the adults of tomorrow. A child needs role models on its respective educational path, on its path of practice and trial and error. And if a child never or rarely finds itself in "the great ones", then it has a problem - which it sometimes knows how to solve in a positive way and often only in a negative way. The young British black star cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason once expressed this very meekly:

 "If you're doing something and you never see anyone who looks like you, it's complicated."

My vision is that "Black History Weeks" will become part of the event repertoire of many more Bavarian cities and communities. Any form of making Black History visible is helpful in increasing knowledge and understanding and exchanging fear for a desire for solidarity.

With this in mind, I wish us all inspiration and new insights during this "Black History Weeks -Erlangen 2021."

Good to have you with us!