Students and faculty of Morgan State University filed into the auditorium of the university’s new Behaviorial and Social Science Center on October 16 for the first of several events associated with the 2018 Campus Weeks Homestory: Deutschland exhibit. The small but powerful exhibit, produced by the Initiative of Black Germans (Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland e.V. – ISD-Bund e.V. by its German acronym), chronicles experiences of people of color in Germany from the early 19th century to recent years. It is being shown at Historically Black College and Universities this fall as part of the 2018 Campus Weeks project.
Dr. Fatima El-Tayeb, Professor of African-American Literature and Culture and Director of Critical Gender Studies and on the affiliated faculty for the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of CA at San Diego, gave a lecture titled “Homestory Deutschland: On the (Im)possibility of being Black and German.”
Dagmar Schulz’s film, “Audre Lorde: the Berlin Years,” was followed by a lively discussion led by Morgan State professors, Dr. Sandra Skene (Gender Studies) and Dr. Jewel Debnam (History). High school students from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute joined Morgan students for a round table discussion on “The African-American Scholar in Germany: a Morgan Perspective.” Dr. Zekeh Gbotokuma from the Department of Philosophy moderated the panel, which included four Morgan students who had studied in Berlin.
The final formal event was a showing of Branwen Okpako’s “The Valley of the Innocent,” a film that sparked a good deal of discussion about attitudes towards people of African descent in Germany.
Several units within the Gilliam College of Liberal Arts used the exhibit in their classes. History professors teaching the course on the “Black Diaspora” gave assignments on “Homestory Deutschland,” as did a colleague in Sociology and Anthropology. The director of Film Studies assigned the two films for his classes. German students created additional posters. These were entered in a contest judged by Dr. Marcos Bisticas-Cocoves (Philosophy), Dr. Darryl Peterkin (Honors College), and Dr. Ricardo Howell (Quarles Institute) and displayed.
Most gratifying were the spontaneous responses to the exhibit. Because of its location on the first floor of one of our most central classroom buildings, students, faculty and staff could easily stop to read the panels and to return to study them further. For example, the security guard in the building had this comment on “Homestory Deutschland”: “I read two or three panels a day.”
The event was sponsored by the Morgan State University’s department of World Languages and International Studies, the department of History and Geography, the Clara I. Adams Honors College and the Quarles Institute and supported by Vista Higher Learning. After its stay at Morgan State, the exhibit will travel to Morehouse College in Atlanta.
By Eva Santorini, German Embassy