"Germany has not come to grips with colour".

Author:Hadji, Petar

Germany's first national "black congress" was held last October. The movement that emerged from it is now fighting for the "dignity and human rights" of all black people in the country. Petar Hadji reports from Berlin.

The moment for the final farewells in the "Friends of Nature" youth hostel aptly located in a pine forest near the northern German city of Bielefeld was rich in symbolism. No one knows exactly when the first Africans arrived on German soil or when the first black German was born, but surviving portraits of Africans living in Germany date back several centuries.

Now 49 people, mostly Germans of African descent (and a sprinkle of recent arrivals from Africa), are meeting in the "Friends of Nature" hostel to outline a strategy for the battle for the "dignity and human rights" of Germany's black community.

"It's the first step. We've broken the ice," says Ekpenyong Ani, 36, an editor with the Orlando Publishing House and a member of the national organisation ADEFRA (Black Women in Germany).

She uses the word "step" with deliberation. German's "black" community is on a journey together. This began in earnest with a "declaration" in the little town of Lohne-Gohfeld last October and will continue until they reach their goal of civil rights for all in Germany.

Six working groups were set up by the national congress. These are now meeting regularly to discuss how to move forward. Their reports will be presented to the second national congress planned for November this year. Top of the agenda will be the establishment of a single "umbrella" organisation to represent all black German and African associations in the country.

"We want to participate in politics," says Judy Gummich unequivocally. She is also an ADEFRA member and campaign worker. "On the one hand, we are visible; on the other hand, we're invisible," she adds.

An umbrella organisation with elected representatives from all sections of the black and African community might suddenly force German bureaucrats and politicians to open their eyes to the existence of the "black community" -- and listen to their voice.

It was the shooting of a young mother from Senegal, Mareame Sarr, in July 2001 by the German police (see NA, Sept 2001) that brought the black community painfully face to face with their powerlessness in the country. There were calls for a public inquiry. There were protest marches in Aschaffenburg, the city in the state of Bavaria where the shooting rook place, and finally Berlin, the national capital. The question was: How could a domestic tug-of-war over the custody of a two-year-old child taken from his...

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