Since I interviewed couple of people who have dealt or still dealing with grief, I have gained different insight and perspectives of death. Few months ago, I came along and read about Samantha White from the United States. She is a solo mama to two beautiful children and a widow. Samantha became a widow in a young age since her husband passed away in 2016. Sam took some time and answered me some questions about her life as a mother and being a widow at the same time. Read the whole interview below:
SW: Hi everyone, my name is Samantha, but I often go by Sam or Sami. I am a blogger and social media influencer. I encourage others to cling to hope and yet also be real and true to themselves as we go through this journey called life.
Q: I have been following you for a while. You are mother of 2 beautiful kids. Tell me a bit about the life as a single mother…..
SW: Solo parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done to be honest with you. I have a son (5) and a daughter (3). They are the greatest, most beautiful gifts from God. Through the different stages of childhood, I am constantly having to reevaluate and reestablish my ways of parenting, but thankfully we have all survived well so far.
Q: What would you like to teach your children in a world where we often see injustice and hate?
SW: As a parent, I do my best to balance telling my children the truth and protecting them from the truth. The truth is that the world is not all sunshine and rainbows. Some of this is because life just happens, but some of it is also because people are rude. So although I often explain life situations to them, even at this young age, I also try to instill in them love, compassion, and kindness. As a white, single mother raising biracial children, I know how some people look at me. Those are the looks I want to protect my children from and teach them to love others no matter how they may look or act. We are all created beautifully unique. I want my children to grow to embrace that, not resent it.
Q: As I already said, you are a single mother. The reason for that is a sad one because your man passed away. Can you tell me what happened?
SW: My husband passed away in May 2016, so yes, I am a young widowed mom. He passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident. He was only 25 years old. We had been married for just three years. I was 22 and pregnant with our daughter. Our son was almost two years old.
Q: What has changed until he passed away? What do you especially miss? Did you take something positive out of that experience – if yes what?
SW: Everything has changed. I know that may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s so true. Everything from my perspective of life, my faith, the way I look, how I parent, what I find important, etc. I look at pictures of myself before he died, and I just do not recognize that girl anymore. Although I miss everything about him, I think I miss having someone to parent and do life with the most. He is no longer here to bounce ideas off of, help around the house or with the kids, hug me when I need comfort, etc. So many things that I miss! As far as something positive coming from this experience, that’s a tough one. Yes, I do believe that being a widow has given me a certain wisdom that I didn’t have before, and that’s a good thing. However, I would not say that my husband’s death was a good thing- I simply say that I trust God in the plan that He has for me as promised in Romans 8:28.
Q: What gives you strength in the process of grief?
SW: Definitely my children. I have no idea where I would be without them. For a long time, they were the only reason I woke up in the mornings. Now almost four years into widowhood, I’ve found more reasons to love life, but my children still keep me going. God is my absolute constant through all the ups and downs.
Q:How would you describe the process of grief?
SW: I could not rightfully describe the whole process of grief in a simple paragraph, but grief is just that: a process. It is not a straight path or even a smooth hill, it’s ups and downs, turns and u-turns. Grief is a journey that never truly ends. It can feel light one day and then hit you in the face the next. It involves denial, mourning, anger, pain, and yet also acceptance, hope, and bittersweet moments.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to people who are in the same situation as you? What would be an advice?
SW: I will tell you that my heart breaks any time I find out a mom has become a widow. That is why I am so open with my story. I want them to know that they are not alone. I would also tell people in my situation to hold on, tight. There is no other way through grief than to actually allow yourself to go through it. Cry, scream, mourn, feel all the feelings, write, talk about it. Teach yourself to look for silver linings, little blessings, in your every day life. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed of your story. We often find our greatest testimony in the area of our greatest pain.
Q: What do you wish for your future?
SW: This is a tough one. Ultimately, I want to live in God’s will, whatever that may be. And maybe that looks different than my own hopes and dreams. I know my hopes and dreams have changed throughout the years. I want to trust in Him to use me and my story for His glory.
Q: Do you have special wishes regarding your future? What exactly and why?
SW: Well, I do know that I want to be a published author. I would love to one day publish a book about my personal grief journey, but also a book for grief support for others, specifically widows. Until then, I would love for my blog and writing to reach others around the world who may need encouragement in their own grief journeys. Other than that, I truly live day by day, trusting that God will provide all my needs and put me where I need to be.
Q: After all you have been through, do you think that everything has a propose and that it was God’s will? If yes, please explain…
SW: I do honestly believe that everything has a purpose. That can be so tough to wrap my head around sometimes though. I am constantly having to remind myself that my life is not just about me, but about glorifying God. This does not make my grief nonexistent or easy, it simply gives me a hope that after this life, I get to spend eternity in Heaven in perfection with my Savior. Humans die, and we most likely will never know why, but I continue to trust that God has us living this life for a reason.
I am so honored and grateful that I got the chance to interview you. I cannot imagine how hard it must be for you to speak about what happened to you. But, without any doubt – you are such an inspiration for many women who are dealing with death and grief. I wish you nothing but the best for you and your kids.
In this blog, I interviewed a young lady, who’s origin lies like mine in Togo. Her name: Faourouz Sadaoutchi, 27 and currently living in Duisburg, Germany. Faourouz has two interesting professions: read below what makes her so special.
Q: Tell me, how did it come that you have such special professions?
FS: First, I did an apprenticeship as an assistant tax adviser because my parents wanted me to do something useful. Therefore, I finished my apprenticeship and started studying fashion design. Shortly before I had finished my studies in fashion, a friend of mine who was working for Lufthansa and asked me if I was interested working for the company – so that’s how I became a flight attendant now.
Q: Which of both professions do you like most and why?
FS: Fashion is my passion! I love to create art, to accoutre people and to distract them from their worries and problems.
Q: Have your ever experienced any difficulties being a black flight attendant? If yes, which kind of difficluties?
FS: Unfortunately, yes. There was a passenger on board who did not want to be served by me because of my skin colour. I was glad that my whole crew stood behind me.
Q: To which places have you been so far as working as a flight attendant? Which place did you like the most?
FS: Oh, I have seen a lot of quite a lot of places. I have visited all continents besides Australia. The life-enhancing thing about my job is that I still visit places which I think would never have visited like Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.
Q: As I already mentioned, you are also a designer. What do you like the most about this job?
FS: As a fashion designer, I like the fact that most of the people do not care where I am from because it is my art which speaks for me- that makes me happy. I can be myself without being judged.
Q: What do you want to express with your designs/ clothes?
FS: I want to create fashion for everyone. My costumers shall wear my designs and should be able to see themselves. I use my fashion to reclaim political issues and to inform people.
Q: Do you think that it is more difficult for an African designer to work in Germany? If yes, why?
FS: I cannot say much to that question because I have not tried to break into the German fashion industry yet.
Q: You are from Togo, but you live in Germany. Could you imagine going back one day? What would be a reason to go back to Togo?
FS: I will definitely go back to Africa. But I do not know if it will be Togo, Ghana or another African country. What I can say is that all my designs will be produced in in Africa. Now, some prototypes are being sewed. I would like to give something back to Africa, that is why I try to generate new jobs and ensuring a fair and competitive marketplace.
Q: Which advice would you give young people who would like to fill in your shoes?
FS: Do not ever stop doing what you love, not matter what people say. If you have a passion for something – DO IT. If you do not take chance, you will never know how you do it better or even to get where you want to be.
Q: If you had three wishes free, what would that be?
FS: I would wish my parents wealth. A world without wars and peace for every human being.
It makes me super happy seeing another sister of mine having such a success. I am excited seeing African women following their dreams and paving the way for the younger generation. Dear, Faourouz thank you for being a role model, especially for young African ladies out there! I wish you nothing but the BEST for you and your work as a fashion designer and flight attendant.
ANNABELLE: Hi, my name is Annabelle Mandeng. I am a 48 years old German actress, presenter and dubbing actress that loves to run, workout, paint, cook and live a healthy life with loads of fresh juices!
ALM: Your parents are from Germany and Cameroon – so your half German and African. How do you identify yourself? Do you see yourself more as a German or an African?
ANNALBELLE: I clearly see myself as a German as I was born and raised here. I have only visited Cameroon a couple of times for a week or so in my life as my parents divorced when I was a baby so I don’t have any connection with Cameroon.
ALM: What is your thought about being raced from parents with different nationalities? Would you say it was difficult? If yes, why ?
ANNABELLE: My parents divorced when I was 1 1/2 and my brother 6 1/2. We stayed with our mom whereas my father went back to Cameroon after writing his PhD in economics in Germany. So the only culture we knew was that of my German mother.
ALM: Your mother worked for the German Entwicklungsdienst in Togo. You also lived in Pakistan, therefore you lived in different countries and cultures. What did you learn the most while living in those countries / cultures?
ANNABELLE: What I learned most is tolerance and respect towards different cultures, needs, behavior and traditions. It opened my horizon and made me also understand that I will always be black in Germany and white in Africa. Or simply „different“ in Pakistan. A conflict at first but finally it taught me to be happy with my individuality.
ALM: What do you enjoy the most living about the German society?
ANNABELLE: I love the openness, I love to talk to people openly, to move around in the clothes I prefer, to watch the change in our society into a multicultural melting pot. I love the humor of the people in the north where I grew up and going skiing in the south. There is a lot I love!
ALM: You are an actor, dubbing actor and TV presenter. Which of those profession do you like the most and why? What are the difficulties of such jobs?
ANNABELLE: I love all three jobs but I prefer most to act and dub. Working in the German media being 5’11“ 1/2 (1m80) and black is really not that easy. As an actress I have played in a couple of big productions but only now – due to the change towards diversity – I played a leading role in a cinema movie which be will be out next spring („Berlin-Alexanderplatz“ by Burhan Qurbani). As a dubbing actress I have SO much fun! First of all, the only thing that counts is my voice, not my height, not my looks, not my skin color. Second: since I was a child I loved to play around with my voice, reading out loud, recording, ect., so I simply feel at home. As a presenter I love the intellectual challenge as I work with big companies, the Berlinale, the government simultaneously in German and English and sometimes in French.
ALM: Have you ever experienced any kind of troubles because of your appearance? If yes, what exactly
ANNABELE: Honestly? Not really. I guess because of my height, posture, education and appearance. People think twice before making such a move towards me. Still I have experienced racist remarks, was sometime pushed by elderly men while walking somewhere but it has nothing to do with what happens to others. The only thing that is finally getting on my nerves is the need to explain in roles why the character is black. If you take a look in Kindergardens you can see that these reflects how diverse our society has become This should be much more reflected in the German media. I know that things change but too slowly in my eyes.
ALM: Which advice would you give young black women which would like to work in the media industry?
ANNABELLE: The only advice I can give which goes for any young woman no matter what skin color: rely on your brains, work hard and be respectful and kind.
ALM: How do you deal with people who criticise you?
ANNABELLE: Openly as I love to learn!
ALM: You are also an athletic person. What does sport mean to you? How do you handle your weaker self on days you do not feel like working out?
ANNABELLE: I have always worked out since I was a toddler basically. It is part of my life and always will be. And it is a necessity, too, as my spine had to be stabilized with titan bars and screws. Plus my left arm is handicapped since a major car accident when I was 17. Sport for me is like sleep, food, drink or hygiene. If I don’t feel like working out it is mostly simply due to the fact that my body needs a break. If not, I know that I always – with no exception – feel better after a run in the park or a couple of exercises or what not. Also as a balance to being so alert in my jobs.
ALM: What or which people inspire you and why?
ANNABELLE: I feel inspired by courage, talent and creativity.
ALM: If you had three wishes, what would that be?
ANNABELLE: I would wish for a political and economical change in countries such as Serbia. I would wish for more tolerance towards other cultures, religions, sexual preferences, gender, skin colors. And I would simply wish for a couple of million Euros to support projects such as ocean care and to buy living spaces for myself and my family and friends.
Dear Annabelle, thank you so much for being a part of those people who inspire me. You are an example of a living multi talent and a kind-hearted soul. Thank you for your time and interest. All the best 🙂
me, how would you describe depression in your own words?
IP: To me depression is my true self rebelling against the definitions and ideas that were imposed by me or even others on it. Meaning becoming so wrapped up in the notion of who you are supposed to be that you forget to simply be. The root might be a trauma, insecurities installed in you by others that grew to a size you can no longer internalize without loosing sight of yourself. Depression is a crisis of hope. I don’t mean hope in relation to optimism. I mean hope in a sense of hoping for a better day without expecting something better to happen. I see hope more as quest of giving your life meaning that tomorrow is as valuable as today and yesterday that the decisions you make enables you to influence the flow of your own life. During depression hope and the belief that what you do can give your life meaning diminishes and makes all efforts you make seem to be for naught. You feel as if you are only existing, walking aimlessly so you might as well do nothing and suffer, at least that makes you feel alive. You know it’s not helpful, but you don’t care. Depression also means to me to be planted. A flower is planted in the dark before it blooms. Depression is me testing myself. Testing my resilience, how bad I want to be (Be in a sense of personal growth not the Michael Jackson Bad) and how much I am willing to take upon myself to achieve the goals I’m striving for.
2. How would you describe depression to people who do not understand what depression is?
IP: Imagine your mind being ill and your brain deceiving you into believing that it is a lie. Depression is basically a coward that will never show himself, hide in your mind and cause you pain, if you let him. That is the where the emphasis lies. If you let him. She will hurt you anyway. You cannot reason with her. The question is what you are going to do about it. Imagine your mental health being a car. You got depression sitting on the passenger seat. She does not respect your car at all. Her shoes are all muddy, he is moody, takes out his anger on you, complains all the time, blames everybody but herself and you take it because, well she is paying the gas for your mental health car. You feel obligated to deal with depression because you are seemingly indebted. On your road trip, which can be understood as life,are many stops at which you could have kicked this obnoxious passenger out, but you do not because you do not have the courage and believe that you need him. Depression does not only emotionally abuse you claiming how useless you are and how terrible your driving is she also regularly takes over the steering wheel completely ignoring your emotions. You are never safe. It does not matter how happy you are. Depression will take the steering wheel, if you do not pay attention and let her, putting both of you in mortal danger. Yup, depression tends to be suicidal and if she is hurting you obviously have to hurt too. Depression’s tantrums exhaust you; they abolish any motivation to drive in other words to live. You just want to sleep, pity yourself, do nothing and be alone committing to every unhealthy behavior possible. You are missing out on your journey, on life and that is a conscious decision. What you genuinely want is often hidden underneath all these fears, insecurities underneath all this guilt. You want to be understood, you want to be talked to, to be accepted, to be embraced, to be loved. The truth is that you can kick him out at any given time, but you grant him more compassion than yourself. I am not saying it is easy. I am saying it is entirely possible. It is really up to me and you. At the end of the day shit happens anyway. We have to take responsibility regardless, which does not imply that you are automatically at fault it implies that you decide how you are going to react to the situation you are facing. It implies that nobody can bring you down but yourself, if you grant people the right to do so. Depression is negatively labelled in society. Why do you think why so many people are ashamed of speaking up about this issue?
3. Depression is negatively labelled in society. Why do you think why so many people are ashamed of speaking up about this issue?
IP: Out of shame or guilt. We have been socialized to perceive mental illness as a personal failure. Kind of like “How can you do that to yourself? How can you do that to us, we gave you everything you needed. How dare you?!”. To this day many people still believe that depressed people are either exaggerating or faking it. The majority is simply not educated on the matter. I mean most people do not know the difference between a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a therapist. To them it is that scary doctor that asks you 20-times in a hour how you are doing while you are lying flat on your back on a couch prescribing you an insufferable amount of medications of which, in the general public perception, depressive people get high off. Culturally speaking depressed people are “weird”, don’t want to communicate, are always dark and sad and should be somebody else’s problem. As an ex-depressed person, myself I can tell you this at least. You are afraid of being ridiculed or in the worst case of being thrown away like trash bag.
4. What would be your advice for people dealing with depression? What helped you while dealing with depression?
IP: I had a great support system. Great friends, my siblings, my dad etc. I guess I just started talking positively about myself to others and to myself. Your spirit doesn’t differentiate between positive and negative self-talk. I learned that the hard way. What intrigued me was being comfortable in uncertainty. Seeking discomfort so to speak. I started cutting off doubters, negativity, toxic relationships, and people. My circle became smaller. Meditation helped a lot and the fact that I started doing things on my own. What I did became means and end. I went to the cinema to go to the cinema. No longer to socialize or possibly date. I started doing things I always wanted to and was too afraid to do before. I pushed forward and surpassed my limitations countless times. Learning that the only thing people can do is to say “No” or “leave” liberated me. Coming to the realization that everybody sees me differently and that the person they know is still me and that nobody actually knows me was blissful and still is blissful. You are not a stagnant point. You are fluid therefore steadily becoming. As I am writing this I am simultaneously evolving, undergoing changes. I asked myself what I want to do and how, what my legacy on this earth would be. Everything I disliked about myself I changed or at least tried to change until, it changed. Not to mention, that I failed countless times, but I stood up countless + 1 times (I love language. It makes no sense, but you can still make sense of it.) As soon as I started doing things that I wanted to do, following people on social media that inspired me and surrounded myself with the energy I would love to give out, I attracted like-minded people. There is no shame in being weak. But it is shameful to remain weak willingly. I do not know anything and that leaves room for constant improvement. So, I invite failure in my house at any given time. Struggle has become my best teacher and I am already a winner for trying. I concluded that depression does not help me, that it breaks me, that it prevents me from hoping aka making decisions for betterment. Now, I say thank you depression, you only made me stronger. I do not hope for a better me. I am and become a better me.
5. Would you say that media plays a role in how people with depression view themselves? If yes, in which way?
IP: Most definitely. Unfortunately, depression has received such a wide mainstream coverage in an aesthetic sense that it became trendy to be sad furthermore to harm oneself. You got depressed people being exposed to depressive music, movies etc. and in turn becoming even more depressed. A vicious cycle. You got series like “13 reasons why” creating the grotesque illusion of depression and suicidal thoughts being cool. Artists are glorifying drug abuse, it is cool to feel “dead inside”, aesthetic to cut yourself and post it online. Young adults are literally being talked into identifying with suicidal thoughts and depression as an art form as a positive, beautiful form of expression and fed anything that sustains it instead of teaching them how to work with it to finally get over it. The media should raise awareness, educate on the subject, and refer to experts and specialists so that depressed individuals can overcome their depression instead of dwelling on it and in it as if it were a delicious chocolate fountain. The media, artists etc. should stop profiting off it, promoting something they themselves do not do respectively are not part of anymore. Just like Future who admitted to being depessed and addressed also to have stopped drinking lean, but still promoted it as if he were still heavily consuming it. I feel as if a subculture immersed out of rock, punk, goth, hip hop mixed with heavy drugs, self-harm, and self-pity. Sadly, in unhealthy doses. Insecurities, anxiety, fear, depression, and suicidal thoughts are being used as a marketing tool, have been commercialized and it works quite well. That needs to change asap!
6. Could you please tell me, what was the reason/ incident where you thought that you might be depressive?
IP: I have been sexually abused 2 times as a child and my mind could not handle it back then. I had nightmares, could not sleep, hated myself, wanted to die, could not find beauty neither in my body nor in my mind. In search of constant validation my energy was drained. I isolated myself, was often very tired, did not leave the house, thought about ways to die, became sad or irritated in the most unexpected moments when I was supposed to be happy and that for periods of weeks and months. I harmed myself not physically, thankfully, but emotionally and believed that I do not deserve happiness, that I do not deserve to live, that my life is miserable, and that suffering is my only way of redemption for having allowed somebody to sexually abuse me. What I basically did were the things I had to do: Going to school, eat, socialize and the rest to not be bothered. There were weeks, even months were food tasted like nothing, where I did not feel anything, days went by without me noticing, I slept for hours, was constantly tired, stopped hanging out with friends or family. I only did it when I absolutely had to. I was smiling but deep inside I was hurting, suffocating, and felt abandoned by everyone, by the world. I felt lonely to say the least. I did not know what I wanted from life, had no big aspirations, and simply existed without a why.
7. Concerning depression, if you had 3 wishes free – what would that be?
IP: I want the subject of depression to become a day-to-day subject therefore implemented in school curriculums and education at home.
I want us to be able to openly and honestly talk to each other about our emotions of any kind.
I want to see more refuges for depressed people where they can feel understood, appreciated, and loved if their family, friends, and peers fail to do so.
8. What do you think could be done, in order to change the stigma of depression?
IP: Talk about it! Educate yourself on it. Do not shy away from the uncomfortable situations. Support, try to understand, have empathy. We need to recognize depression as an illness just as fever and chicken pox are seen as illnesses. We need to realize that depression is treatable. We need to understand that all of our assumptions about depressed people that we learned from movies and books are probably wrong. Depressions are not something that somebody willingly chooses to attract. We need to start taking care of our mental health and emotional intelligence that we so earnestly neglect. We need to realize that mental health issues are a serious global issue that needs to be tackled. We need to comprehend that depressed people are not broken or less human they are, we are simply in need of support. We need to understand that depression knows all genders, all ages, all cultures, all circumstances. All we need is crutches until we can finally stand on our own again.
Dear brave interview partner,
thank you so much for opening up to such a difficult and sensitive topic. It is more than brave to be that honest and speaking about such an issue. I am sure that your answers will (hopefully) reach to those who need it. You are such an inspiration for all those people dealing with depression . Thank you!
Q: So, I read a lot about you and you were and still are, a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter Movement. What do you want to achieve? What is your wish for black people in the US?
Ms. Fagbamila : So, what I want to achieve in my work with BLM is to advocate for a political system, a social system, that will essentially make it, so that black people have equal access to the law, equal access to justice in this land. That black people are able to move throughout the world and know that they actually have the ability to have equal access to opportunity So, that they know that it is not because of institutional racism or institutional anti-blackness that they are not able to live up to their fullest compacity because of some kind of bias system. So really, it is just advocating for equal access. And once that occurs, then black will be able to live healthier more fulfilled lives, and not have to be worried about navigating institutional inequality.
Q: Do you think that it will be possible for Blacks to live in the US without being oppressed? What can black people do, in order to be heard and taken seriously?
Ms. Fagbamila: I do think that it is possible for black people to live in the United States without being oppressed. I think that, it will take transformative movement, in order for that to happen. I do not think that black people will be liberated overnight. I think that it will take sustained movements that would encourage the transformation of legislation, the transformation of criminal justice in this country and beyond. And a number of different things will have to take place, in order for black people to actually be freed in this land and so, I believe that it is possible, but I do not think that it will be just a matter of people being nice to each other and that will end racism and oppression.[…]. The end of systemic oppression of particular groups, the only thing for that to happen is, if there is transformational, institutional change and not just change of opinion or change of feeling, or some other kind of surface level unsubstantial, kind of representational, cultural shift. […] Black people can advocate for themselves without being worried about how external groups may view them […].
Q: What do you think is the main problem in the US, regarding oppression of different ethnicities?
Ms. Fagbamila: I would say for my own personal opinion, that I think that the main problem in the United States is that there are a core intellectual level of fear and intimidation, of difference or intimidation by difference. I personally believe that people are conditioned and trained really early on to be intimidated by that which is different.And that is why we have so many different kinds of xenophobic behaviours and laws and cultural practices that exists in the United States and beyond.
Q: You are a Nigerian-American scholar, activist, playwright and artist. Which of those works, do you prefer to do and why?
Ms. Fagbamila: I would say that they are deeply intertwined, but it will be really difficult for me to choose one and to announce that as my primary identity. I identify as a scholar… specifically, not necessarily as an academic. Because yes, while I work within academia, scholarship is just the everlasting pursuit of knowledge, pursuit of information… and that is the center of my life and experience in this world. […] In any real way I consider myself as an activist because I think we all should be activists. I feel like really at the core of it, we should all fell compelled to do something, if there is something wrong… that we should all feel compelled to attempt to be helpful and to shift society, if there is something societally/ socially wrong. I think that we should feel compelled to engage when something needs to be changed. So, rather than viewing myself as an activist, that should be acknowledged for her social/ political contributions, I think that it would be an amazing thing, of we could culturally normalise activism and make it, so we all feel compelled to do something when something is wrong, rather than uplifting the activist in this world. Playwright: …I write stories, I think that stories move people. I feel like stories move the heart…they move the emotion in a way that studying cannot necessarily. I think that people can consume data, stats and logistical information, and they can understand something intellectually but not feel moved or feel compelled to do anything about it, until they hear a story or see some type of compelling imagery that brigs to life , the information that they have just consumed via (whatever) intellectual process. And as an artist, my duty is to move people at a heart level and almost I would say cellular level, so they feel compelled to do something about what they know, rather than just knowing and knowing more and knowing more.
Q: You are the founder of #TheIntersection: WokeBlackFolk, which is a stage play. Tell me, what inspired you to create it and which message do you want to share?
Ms. Fagbamila: The stage play I was encouraged to write this story because I saw the contentions and difficulties that existed in the political spaces that I was occupying as an activist, as a community organizer, as an academic. I was in all of these different black social political spaces and I was hearing the ways that each group was talking about the other groups. And I identified four different types of groups and I created characters that were reflections of what I was seeing in my actual everyday life. People that I know truly in person, but I wanted to personify them, to humanize them in a way…because we live in a social media era that is very much and can be depersonalized, that can almost be dehumanizing because we are looking at people through a screen, we are looking at peoples images and their brands online and were are not seeing real humans in real life. What inspired me to created it was my ignition to communicate more effectively across political difference, across the difference of political ideology. And I made character, who is a black afro-centric cultural nationalist, I would call him… and also can held a many patriarchal tendencies but he feel very much what he is doing is the best bet for black people and their straight for liberation. The second character that I made, was a black feminist academic. She can be very pompous […]. She takes on with her academic training, but she is also very much advocating for the people that are un-advocated, for unseen, unheard and underappreciated and underacknowledged often times in black communities. So, there is a complexity there. The third character was an activist who was always on the front line, always protesting, always marching, always picketing, always at the meeting, always organizing and is doing the ground work, the foot work which is necessary to challenge social norms and systems that are harmful and dehumanizing and threatening black lives. But also, they can be quite judgmental in their kind of critique of black people or of people who do not do grassroots organizing the way that THEY (emphasized by Ms. Fagbamila) do. And of course, activism for social justice looks like many things, grassroots organizing and engaging in public demonstrations is one articulation of political engagement. And so, I think that that person is very much represented in black communities as well. And the last character was what I identify as a “political moderate”, who thinks that maybe they are on the left, or kind of liberal. But their political ideologies are informed by a lot of what we will call respectability politics. One minute they are a respectable person, but also this person even though they have some kind of force rules in their political assessment about black peoples kind of state in the country, they really have every intention on advocating for greater community incapability for black people to be more countable to themselves in their communities and stop necessarily always looking externally to name the problem as something that we have no control over; that somebody is doing to us; that we do not have any control over changing because the boogie man is racism and nothing that we have done to our own self, which can be a very complicated and complex conversation. Again, it can easily spill into a conservative, avoidance of systemic inequality, but I think the character has good intensions and my intention is to observe that characters intentions and see whether or not we can engage her with the necessary nuance.
Q: People like Erykah Badu and Angela Davis honoured your work #WokeBlackFolk. What does this mean to you?
Ms. Fagbamila: It means a great deal to me. It means so much that people that I have looked up to could look at my work and be inspired by or appreciate it or to see value and worth in it. It is absolutely moving to be honest…like to speak about this all day but I am honoured that I can offer this contribution and that those who had offered beautiful contributions in the past see it and feel moved by it.
Q: I saw a video in which you were performing “Black Girl Fly”. It is obvious that this is dedicated to black women/ girls. What was the reason you wrote that piece and what did you especially want to trigger towards black girls?
Ms. Fagbamila: I wrote that peace because I was asked to write something for Black History Month. […] And throughout my adult life, I have considered the condition of black people and even more specifically the condition of black women and girls under a system that I can identify as a white supremacist patriarchy. And the way which that can limit the potential of black women and girls, and I wanted to advocate in this poem that I wrote, I wanted to advocate for black girls being freed to be, to thrive, to learn , to grow, nor not feel their human being is going to be intimidating or challenging to others. And even if it is, to continue, to pursue their evolution, admits pushback socially. Or even, whatever personal of pushback and resistance they may experience in their own lives, so I relay just encouraging black girls to fly. You know, its is called ‘Back Girl Fly’. Speak, write, lead, learn. Do not worry about if your advancement and abolition, brilliance, your brilliance and your brilliance is intimidating to a system that assumes that you are not supposed to personify by those things within your black girl body. So, it is really a message to say that black girls can do whatever it is what they desire, admits racism and patriarchy, that we can still strive and that we will challenge these systems that say that we are less than.
Q: To which degree a do you think, society has an influence on the way, black girls see themselves? And what do you think could be done in order to change the negative self awareness of black people/girls?
Ms. Fagbamila: I think the society has a very huge influence on the way black girls see themselves. If we are talking about the way the world views women and girls in general, limiting girls are judged more on their physical attributes, the way they look more than what is in their mind and what they have to offer intellectually. Culturally, that is starting to shift in the West a lot and in the world in general, where women are more being appreciated for what they have to offer via their minds and their menAgain, women and girls are more heavily policed via their physical appearance. Black girls specifically, are not afforded the same leniency that often times their white counterparts are, for the same behaviours that they might engage in. For instance, black girls are much more likely to be criminalized in the classroom setting, whether that being sent to an authority’s office, or even having the authorities called into the school on them for engaging the same behaviours for their white male or female counterparts. tal capacity […] . I think that socially, the resources need to be made available for black women to hear for black people to heal. So, even within black communities there can be greater dialogue around what healing looks like, so that future generations do not have to take on [ the kind of] intergenerational traumas and passed those down. […]in order to change the kind of negative self-imagery, we need to be very careful of what kind of media little black girls are consuming, so we can let them know that even though, that television screen might tell them that loose crawly hair is the best natural hair. That their kinky curly afro hair is just as good: it is beautiful, it is perfect, it is divine, it is ideal and that their beautiful black skin is perfect, beautiful, divine and ideal[…].
Q: On which topic would you like to work on in the future and why?
Ms. Fagbamila: The topic that I like to work on in the future is the relationship between black people throughout, the Africans or the Black diaspora. So, one thing that I would like to explore in my future work, is the relationship, for instance, West-Africans or Nigerians and Black Americans. I plan to do that and discuss the way blackness is viewed or engaged globally.
Q: If you had 3 wishes free? What would that be?
Ms. Fagbamila: I never really thought of that, but I think if I had 3 wishes free, I would wish: 1) a greater compassion in the world and logic, for people to employ logic and compassion together. Because I think it would eliminate so much of the pain and suffering in the world. I think that if the majority of the world’s population or if all of the world’s inhabitants were really employing logic and compassion in their behaviours, that there would be no poverty and hunger and a lot of the other things that cause harm. There would be less greed etc. 2) I guess my number one wish is my primary wish. But another wish I would have is, for people to be able to deal with difference with a greater grace and dignity. Meaning, they are no longer afraid of engaging things that are different from them or that they are unfamiliar to them. And one other wish would be reverse a great deal of the damage that has been done, historically. So, that people can be healthier and not have to deal with the damage of the trauma that has already been done […].
Dear Ms. Fagbamila,
thank you very much for all the detailed answers. I thank you for working on so many important issues, regarding Black people. You inspire many people out there, including me. Thank your for your precious time and your dedication to such interesting and important topics. I wish you all the best!
ALM: The aim of this interview is to focus on Afro-German actors and theire experiences. As far as I know, you were born in Hamburg, but your biological parents are from Ghana. Do you feel more German or African and why?
JK: This is not an easy question. First, I feel like I am from Hamburg. This is the city I was born in. As well the most important thing about Hamburg is, that the people accept you as you are.You are seen as a German no matter wherever your roots lie. In my case, I grew up in a German family and not with my Ghanaian parents. So, I feel more German than Ghananian. But, with the years I developed a strong interest in Ghana . It started with interests in Ghanaian food. When I was teenager, I started having contact with my siblings living in Ghana;that also increased my interest. Getting to know them better and getting to know what is important to them. Even though, I have not been to Ghana yet, it is on my wishlist. But Germany is my home and I work hard in the public eye to show that we Afro-Germans are part of Germany too. If you look in the media, people do not know much about Afro-Germans. They do not see us as Germans in the media. We are always foreigner . That is why I work very hard to establish a new definition of the word “German”. I want a definition which includes us and not a definition that only fixates on the colour of our skin. It is getting better in the media, but it is still a long way to go. I believe that the people in Germany, are much more understanding and have accepted that fact long ago. Of course, you have some people who cannot get their head around that fact, but well…. like I said. It is a long way.
ALM: How close are to Ghana?
JK: Well, honestly, I am not that close yet. But I would love to be much closer to Ghana. Certainly, my family resides in Ghana and they are very important to me, but I have not had the opportunity to explore the country yet. I am looking forward to that experience and how it will impact me.
ALM: How did you become an actor? What was the reason why you wanted to become an actor
JK: I always wanted to become an actor since I was a young boy. I loved movies and TV shows. Stuff like Robin Hood, The A-Team, MacGyver, The Intouchables. I loved the gangster movies but the ones, in which the gangsters were that smart that they got away with everything. You know? The ones who were that charming that no one saw the “bad guy” in them. Or the old James Bond movies. I wanted to do the same. Getting away with stuff because I was that charming. Later, I played a bit in our school theatre and when I was on stage, I could feel the energy of the audience. This was when I knew I like that feeling. I wanted to entertain people. This feeling stuck in me ever since. I still love to get up every day and go to a set and work. I really love my job and I could not imagine doing anything else.
ALM: Is it difficult to be a black actor in Germany? If yes, why?
JK: Yes. It is difficult. But first, let me say it is difficult to be a working actor. Period. If you want to act and get paid for it, then you need to follow the rules of the business. And the business does not have opportunities for us all. But, in my opinion it is more difficult for “POC” actors since we are not seen as Germans. So, we do not get invited to castings. We only get invited if the character we audition for is written for a black person. Most of the time it is an African and very often a refugee. All the black persons that have lived in Germany over the history are never mentioned. In the industry they do not see “POC” as “normal” people. They believe they need to explain to the audience why this particular character is in the story and why they can speak German. Actors who do not look “typically” German, are often asked to speak with an accent while acting. So, I believe what is missing, is that stories which are told from a “POC” perspective. I think, the German school system is also a problem. Black-German history is not taught in schools; therefore, they do not know anything about black Germans. Therefore, the roles that we get offered are very limited and, in my opinion, more than for any other actors. But it is getting better since the importance of international stories are more visible than before. By that, I mean that the world is growing “smaller”. We watch a lot of American, French, Swedish, Scandinavian movies and if the German movies want to continue to matter in that world, they need to show different perspectives in their stories, and this will need to include Afro-Germans. Because I do not believe that you can only make stories for only a white audience. Me, personally, I do not like watching movies in which I do not see people like me, and I hardly watch them. To be completely honest, I do not watch movies or shows where there are no “POC” actors. It does not need to be “all-black”, but Asian, Indian etc need to be included in the story.
ALM: Have you ever dealt with racism in the German film industry and if yes, what can you say about the issue of racism?
JK: Well, I have never dealt with direct racism in the film industry and I do not believe that there are many racists in our industry, at least that is my hope, but I believe that discrimination exist in our industry, by not acknowledging black people as Germans and show them without any explanation, like why they are speaking German or how they got to Germany. I believe that it is absolutely necessary to show „POC“ characters without explaining in every movie and TV show that is made in Germany; excpet of few stories. I think, in our industry, they hold the opinion that viewers cannot accept „POC „characters as a leading character without any explanation, and I do not believe it so. But, even if that would be the case, at least the state TV has an obligation to show „POC“ characters as „normal“ and as a part of the German society, in order to integrate them in the media. Especially, in these times, it is very necessary that the public sees „People of Color“ as their neighbours and citizens and not as foreigners. Black people have been living in Germany for a long time. So, it should not be a surprise that there are Afro-Germans with all kinds of jobs and stories. This should be shown more on our TV shows and movies.
ALM: Who are your role models regarding acting and why?
JK: I do not have any role models per se, but I am inspired by a lot of different actors. I grew up with Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes and Jackie Chan movies, but at the same time I was inspired by Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington. Today, I love movies with Idris Elba, Samuel L. Jackson or Omari Hardwick. Why? Because they did what I wanted to do in acting. They played the parts of the hero and not the villain. They were the smooth and charming characters who saved the day. The reason why I wanted to become an actor. But, I also like actors like George Clooney, Viola Davis, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie etc. I do not mention any German actors, but that is not because they do not have an effect on me. Their impact was a different one. I love actors and works of Götz George, Til Schweiger, Katja Riemann or Jürgen Vogel, just to name a few of them. And even though, I really enjoy watching all of their work as acctors, but the stories that were told did not speak to me because the movies were not made for me, but for a white German audience that did not include me. Therefore, I was more inspired by British and American actors.
ALM: Which roles would you like to play? And why?
JK: I would love to play a role like James Bond, not the British agent, but maybe a German version of it. Like Tom Cruise did with the “Mission Impossible” movies. I like action movies with big emotions. I am a “physical” guy with big emotions. I guess that goes well together.
ALM: Is there anything you would like to address to the German viewer regarding your acting?
JK: Well, that is not an easy question. I would like if the German viewers like watching my movies, like what I am doing and keep on watching and demanding for me and “POC” actors like me. If the audience want more stories in which we take part, the studios have to tell more and different stories. Do not get me wrong, I want the German industry to continue with the projects they are doing now, but at the same time, I want them to give us the opportunity to tell the story from a different perspective. Our perspective, because you can tell a story over and over again, but it always will be different if you change the perspective.
ALM: What does acting mean to you?
JK: It is more than a job! Acting to me is… to be someone that I am not. To put myself in somebody else’s skin… To walk a mile in someone’s shoes. To tell a story to an audience and to entertain them, touch them, make them think. The greatest present to me is, when viewers come to me and tell me that the story and my performance touched them. That is the greatest gift. To be an actor is a calling. It is not just a job, it is what you are.
ALM: If you had 3 wishes free, what would that be ?
JK: Well, first I would love to speak all the languages in the world. Second, to be able to continue to work as an actor and to keep doing it, as long as my body allows it. Third, health, love and success to my family.
your answers show me that it was the right decision to pick you as one of my interview partners. Thank you so much for making time. I wish you all the best for your acting career. It was a pleasure. Thank you.
!!! Disclaimer: This blog post contains ethnic slurs !!!!
ALM: Thank you for making time interviewing you. Please tell me more about you..
CF: I moved to Düsseldorf to study tourism and eventmanagement and after that went to Cape Town for 10 months to see something of the world and Africa. Currently I am back and working in Munich but I am constantly planning my next trip.
Well, I am 25 years old. It is hard to tell you where I reside, since I really enjoy travelling and do not feel like I found my place in the world yet. But I am currently residing in Bavaria. I was born in Baden-Württemberg and I was raised in Bavaria. My mother’s side of the family is Jamaican. Therefore, I consider myself a Jamaican. Although, other Jamaicans call me German since I was born here. The Germans though always ask me where I am from, therefore in their minds I can’t be German. “How can a black person be German?”
What might also be interesting for you is that I actually spent my first 6 years living in small Bavarian villages and went to a boarding school in Allgäu from age 11 to 14. Therefore, I first got in contact with black people especially African culture when I moved to Augsburg with 14. That also was the time when I made the conscious decision to go find black people and see if I feel more welcome or at home while being with them. Conclusion yes and no. There are certain personal traits that I do share with them and then there are certain things that are just very strange to me and unwelcoming. That is probably also the main reason why I do not consider myself an African either. I am Jamaican and feel most at home while being around Caribbean or Latin people.
ALM: The topic of this interview is racism (especially as a German with a darker skin). Please tell me more about your experiences in Germany regarding racism…
CF: The first thing I have to say is, I do not consider myself a German even though I was born and raised here. I will not deny that I do have German tendencies, I still don’t call myself German.
I also have not experienced too much racism in Germany, I have heard the word „nigga“ once or twice in my life while I was walking past (mainly teenagers or children) but if you get offended by a small child calling you names when you reach a certain level of experience you might have some thinking to do. Why does something a small child get you emotional?
Anyways, as I said, I was raised in small Bavarian villages therefore there where many elderly people saying things like “Oh look at this cute Neger Baby” or “Ah du meinst das Neger Kindle.” (engl.: Ah, you mean this Nigger child). I also know the song “10 kleine Negerlein” all of that was part of me growing up but I also always had a strong mother who wouldn’t let anybody call me “Neger” sometimes she would argue with the people. But most of the time, I remember her just being like “do not say that” most of the time the elders would ask “but why cannot we say that” or “Oh, we did not mean no harm, that’s just how we say it” But my mother would not accept that. She well argue/educate the people why it is wrong or hurtful to say these things. I adapted that and I believe that is one off the reason why, when I think of racism in my life, I do not get upset. I just know that I choose my battles wisely and I will not put myself in harm’s way to prove a point. I will not bend my back to make people think differently. I will always try but as soon as I feel like the person standing in front of me does not want to understand I do not go any further. My time and my energy is too valuable to waste on anything or anybody who refuses to change his/hers point of view.
ALM: What do you do when people judge you because of your skin colour?
CF: It always depends on who it is and how they judge me. When it is in a work environment I just work 100% harder than my “white” colleagues. When it happens during my spare time it also depends on who is in front of me. Usually, I am all about love and education but if I feel like the person I am talking to does not want to learn, is just stuck in his/her believe and does not care about seeing the others persons perspective. I do not argue. I do not educate. I just keep my distance.
ALM: What would you like to advice other people who are facing racism in the German society?
CF: Do not bow down. Do not be afraid to speak up. But be smart and know when to hold your tongue. Also do not get upset right away. There are many very uneducated people in this world. Which just need to understand where they are wrong and I always find switching positions and showing them what it feels like being at the receiving end of racism is always the best way to let them understand. I am not talking about bullying, I mean, speak to each other and keep calm, keep your cool. Also it helps putting yourself in that persons shoe. Imaging not knowing. If you think about what the media says or what the typical stereotypes are you might understand why the person thinks the way s/he is thinking especially if they have never talked to a black person.
ALM: Do you think there is something positive of being offended racially? If yes, what exactly?
CF: No! If there is anything you can take out of it is, you learn how to work harder, how to read people faster and how to keep yourself cool even if you feel like going to war. But not everybody gets out stronger, many people breake and many just become angry.
ALM: What would you like to say to the black community living in Germany?
CF: Love more. Stop being so strict to your own people. Do not project your feelings and experience onto others. Do not envy an others persons success. Find happiness for your black community even if you do not agree with how they find their happiness.
ALM: What would you like to change in the German society if you could? And why?
CF: I would get rid of the envy. Maybe also of self-hatred for some, or let me put it this way, I would emphasize self-love.
ALM: I was searching for someone who faced racism in the German society, why did you volunteer?
CF: Because I felt like many people that volunteer will only focus on how bad they have been treated and on the negative. But I feel like you need to see the light in the dark in order to change anything. Just complaining and pointing the finger does not help anybody. If you want the world to change. You have to be the change in the world you want to see first! I am not blaming the black community nor am I saying it is there fault, racism exists. I mean, we in Germany for the most part are not facing racism nearly as hard as most other parts of the world. So don not focus on the bad things that are happening around you. Focus on the good things that you see and embrace them. Do not let the darkness swallow you. Be the light!
ALM: What can German citizens do regarding racism?
CF: Stop assuming every black person is an asylee, since there are so many in Germany now. Also do not let the first word you say to us be in English, French or any other foreign language when we are in Germany. Also when you are abroad, do not forget that you also do have black people in Germany. I was working for a Hotel in Jamaica for a few months and obviously I was advised to cater to the German guests. Every single one of them was shocked by how good my German was and did not seem to grasp the fact that I was born in Germany. That is very rude! Also maybe be more open minded and do not blindly believe everything you see on TV or what your colleagues tell you after visiting one country in Africa for a few weeks where the main part of the trip they have been in a hotel. Talk to foreigners, you might learn something interesting!
ALM: If you had 3 free wishes, what would they be?
CF: I dont wish for much. I like money 🙂 But regading racism, I only have two wishes: Talk to each other and listen to each other.
Thank you Candy, for speaking up about the issue of racism in the German society and your honesty. Your way of facing racism inspired me very much and I hope some people follow you as an example.
ALM: You recently shared your story about your miscarriage on social media. Why did you decide to make this public?
AD: I have decided to go public with such a topic because I want to encourage other women. I cannot hide my pregnancy for ever, since I am a weather presenter. In the last 4 years, I have exchanged my experiences with other women who experienced the same, something similar or even worse than I have experienced. Strangely enough, not every woman exchanges her experience. This behaviour has several reasons, some are ashamed and the feeling of having failed as a woman, the latter is the main reason. Nowadays, or especially in social networks, people connote the “perfect life”. Therefore, people connote how a „perfect“ woman should be. Not having children is therefore no option, and the pressure on women is immense.
ALM: After your miscarriages, you decided to become pregnant via a test tube fertilisation. Tell me more about that journey…
AD: After the fourth miscarriage, there was no possibility to get pregnant in the normal way. The reason for that had been found out years later. One of my fallopian tube is impermeable, and the other one is hardly permeable. In addition, my Anti-Mullerian hormone is bad. Therefore, I could not afford any more waste of time. That is the reason why I have decided to perform a test-tube fertilization.
How did you cope with your miscarriages? If you could give other women any advice, what would it be?
AD: The important thing is to look for a source of strength. One should regain one’s strength after such a loss and destiny. But sometimes it is also tough because your body struggles with all the hormones. I think that meeting up with like-minded people and exchanging experiences might be very helpful. To know that one is not alone with the pain. It is also helpful to have a good relationship with your partner and this should absolutely kept alive.
ALM: Since you decided to talk about this issue in public, do you think that this issue is still a taboo subject and if yes, why do you think it is?
AD: Recently, a lot has changed. The #MeToo- Movement has set the ball rolling for many women. I think, the issue of miscarriage and everything that has to do with such an issue, belongs to that movement. There must be more help for women, more educational advertising and more openness. I think there will still be women who will choose to remain silent, but if I can motivate some women, I am happy. For example, Michelle Obama talked about her miscarriages and her test-tube fertilization on “Good Morning America”. THAT really helps! She is a fantastic woman and is respected all over the world. It is great that she speaks about such a topic. I have always been a fan of her.
ALM: I can imagine how emotional this journey might have been for you. Did you struggle with issues such as depression when you realized you won’t be able to become pregnant in the normal way?
AD: When I realized I cannot get pregnant in the normal way, I was shocked for a short time. But this was not significant. I tried to look at the situation realistically and therefore looked for other opportunities to get pregnant. I do not tend to have depression. But I can understand people who do, after going through such a loss. This is also not an issue to be ashamed of. One should think if one makes a use of a professional help.
ALM: Since you are a public person, can you tell me how your family and colleagues reacted when you decided to make this issue public?
AD: At the beginning, my family was sceptical, but it was my decision which I made, and I felt confident about it. My friends, overwhelmingly supported and encouraged me. That meant a lot to me and bolstered me.
ALM: You also started blogging about your pregnancy journey. Tell me more about your blog….
AD: On my blog (annekebekommteinbaby.de), I want to share my journey. Namely, in all what I do. There are funny videos but also serious topics such as miscarriage. I have interviewed a therapist and this interview will be uploaded in several parts at the beginning of next year. I think, most of the questions of my followers will be answered with that video.
ALM: Did your journey somehow impact your relationship with your partner? How did he help you to cope with all the issues?
AD: The past years have left traces regarding my relationship. But my man and I are closer to another now. Our commitment is stronger than ever before. Of course, there were tough times in which everyone mourned in his/her own way. I think, that is normal because we two are different individuals and not a symbiosis. I see us as a team. In a team, not everything runs properly, but you pull together.
ALM: What would you wish for the future regarding the issue of miscarriage and test tube fertilisation in the German society?
AD: I would be happy if there would be more educational advertising because that would help many women. Moreover, financial assistance regarding IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) would also be desirable.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
thank you very much for speaking up about such a difficult issue. It takes a huge courage to do so. It has been a pleasure interviewing you. You have inspired me in many ways and I am sure, you are inspiring a lot more people by going public. For your pragncancy, I wish you nothing but the BEST!
CR:My name is Corinna and I am a 32 year old anthropologist from Freiburg, Germany. After graduating I worked as a project manager of development projects mainly funded by the EU or World-Bank. Then last year I decided to quit my job to put a long-standing idea into practice: to make a film about European border, migration and refugee policy.
ALM: Several weeks ago, you gave a presentation about your work – you are trying to make aware of the current refugee crisis. Please, tell me more about your work and your documentary Beyond Borders.
CR: Since 2015 the term ‘refugee crisis’ has become synonymous across the Northern hemisphere with the deluge of pictures of people wearing orange life jackets; their rubber boats, masses of people walking hundreds of miles and bodies of drowned people washing ashore. The ‘emergency situation’ has been widely broadcasted and was made publicly accessible. Newspapers, talk-shows, political speeches and documentary films have appeared showing many angles of the ‘crisis’. Confronted with the overwhelming magnitude of the hardship, a feeling of powerlessness has crept up on many Europeans and the political suggestion that the ‘crisis’ can only be averted, and lives can only be saved by “closing the border” has become what appears to be the only tenable resolution in many contexts.
Yet, if we look at the situation along the European external borders over the last decades it becomes apparent that the public has a short memory span. These ‘crises’ have repeatedly emerged at different ‘hotspots’ (e.g. Canaries 2006 or Lampedusa 2011/13) since the Schengen agreement in the 90s. It was then that first migrant boats appeared, and the first migrant lives were lost. Despite massive EU investment in border control and surveillance1, people have continuously arrived on the continent in increasingly dire circumstances: The EU’s approach is evidently failing.
As opposed to the many documentaries on border control and externalisation already in existence, our film will stand out by not focussing on a singular ’spectacular‘ crisis at one current EU-border ‘hotspot’ but rather examines the underlying causes of the many humanitarian crises that have evolved at the ‘hotspots’.
This enables us to look beyond the geography and beyond only problematising the suffering and deaths. The film evolves around the question: If the approach of increasing border control has been failing, what humane alternatives could be implemented instead? The film primarily focusses on the journey of the two young filmmakers, who set out to find answers to that question. What role does development aid play in this? Which legal pathways should or already do exist? And what can ‘we’, the people in Europe, do to ease the situation along ‘our’ borders and beyond?
We will visit projects and organisations that work on answering these questions; they speak to scientists and experts from Africa, Europe and the Middle-East, they visit border ‘hotspots’, and most importantly hear alternative ideas from people most affected by the EU policies – migrants and refugees themselves.
ALM: What was the reason for you to start this kind of work and project?
CR: It all started in 2011 when I was conducting research in the border area between Arizona, USA and Nogales, Mexico. During this time, I learnt a lot about the global connections of migration: About the underlying economic dynamics between low-income and high-income countries, and its consequences for small farmers – in this case – in Mexico; about the power of security companies lobbying in the field of border enforcement; about the fact that goods I consume come from companies that make people work in unworthy conditions; about the circumstance that the bank that stores and manages my money, has shares in security companies that earn billions with border security and deportation.
Ever since that experience I knew that I will have to dedicate my life to the subject of borders, refugees and migration. Already then, I knew that at one point in my life I want to bring all this rich knowledge that exists in social science about borders and migration into the format of a film.
ALM: What is the purpose of what you are doing? What do you want to achieve?
CR: The film Beyond Borders Documentary will provide the (mainly European) audience with arguments that lead away from the common standpoint “We cannot let them all in”. It will empower the viewers to enrich the public discourse and to put pressure on politics, in order to argue for a more compassionate and humanitarian response.
ALM: Did you have any situation which touched you the most during your work?
CR: There were many moments that touched me deeply during our research trip for the film project. From June to September 2017 Dschafar and I already conducted a three-phased research trip to several (former) border ‘crisis’ hotspots to simply listen and talk to people affected, NGOs and scientists to get a first feel for the situation. We participated on a two-week rescue mission off the Libyan coast in the small and rusty GDR-fishing cutter ‘Seefuchs’ from the NGO Sea-Eye. We spend another week in Malta to talk to more NGOs and experts. In August we spent three weeks in Northern Morocco and spent time with Philip Zulu from Sierra Leone who showed us around and introduced us to his thoughts and friends. Here we also had the honour of talking to the archbishop of Tangier who is very active in supporting migrants. This was followed by one week in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave on the African continent. In Ceuta we met with two grassroot NGOs. In September we took the car and drove down the so-called West-Balkan route for 2.5 weeks and made stops at the border between Croatia and Serbia, Belgrade, Northern Greece and Chios island. We met refugees and migrants and visited several NGOs in Serbia and Greece.
What stuck to me most is the many people you meet who are somehow influenced by the restrictive border regime of the EU. In many cases we listened to life stories that are hard to comprehend, if you have been growing up in Germany. You listen and try to comprehend the story the person is telling you that let him or her leave his/her home. You feel devastated and powerless… and then you take your German passport and leave. Leaving the person behind, because he or she has not been lucky enough to be born on German soil.
ALM: What would you like to say to people who are against accommodation of refugees/ What did you learn for your personal life, since you have been doing this work/ What do you think should change, in order to live in a better place?
CR: Stay informed and consult sources that are trustworthy.
Realize that much that we do – living and consuming in the Global North – has an influence on people’s life in other countries.
Listened to the people most affected by the deadly border and migration policy, and realize we are all just human beings with flaws and positive attributes.
ALM: Where can my followers find your documentary “Beyond Borders”?
ALM: If you had 3 wishes free, what would that be?
CR: A world, where everyone has the chance to live in peace
A world, where everyone has the chance to have perspective in life
A world, in which everyone realizes that we are all equals
1The border security market, valued at more than 16 billion euros in 2017 and estimated to grow 8 percent annually in coming years.
thank you so much for giving me such an informative interview. You are doing an incredible work and it was a pleasure for me. Thank your for accepting my interview request. You are paving the way for a better understanding of the current refugee crisis. Thanks and all the best.