#DEPRESSION – AN INTERVIEW WITH RIDAL CAREL TCHOUKUEGNO

IP in the following means Interview partner
  1. Tell 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!

FUNMILOLA FAGBAMILA – A LEADING FIGURE IN THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT, A SCHOLAR, AN ACTIVIST, A PLAYWRIGHT AND AN ARTIST

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!

ANNEKE DÜRKOPP – MISCARRIAGE AND TEST-TUBE FERTILIZATION SHOULD NOT BE A TABOO SUBJECT

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© ANNEKE DÜRKOPP / FACEBOOK

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Dear Anneke,

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!

CORINNA RAUER -BEYOND BORDERS DOCUMENTARY (MIGRATION AND REFUGEE POLICY)

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© Corinna Rauer © Dschafar El Kassem

ALM: Please, introduce yourself to my followers

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”?

CR: We are still working on it and are currently still in pre-production phase. You can see the trailer from the research trip here: www.startnext.com/en/beyond-borders-documentary

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.

Dear Corinna,

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.

KELSEY NEAL – THYROID CANCER DID NOT DEFINE ME, IT CHANGED ME

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© Kelsey Neal

Please introduce yourself to my followers….

A: My name is Kelsey Neal. I am from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I am 30 year old young. Entrepreneur, network marketing mentor and Thyroid Cancer survivor!

Q: I contacted you via Instagram after I have realized that your post have been always positive. Where do you take all the positive vibes from?

A: My positive vibes? They come from everyone around me, that vibrates good energy… you know the things that make you feel really good all around, that put a smile on your face! That kind of positivity… the little things, everyday. It can be tricky thing to maintain, but I surround myself with many things that give me gratitude, hope and inspiration. Which includes music, people and travel.

Q: You had been diagnosed with cancer and (thank God) you survived. Please, tell me ore about your journey…

A: After my diagnosis in 2015, I started to see the bigger picture of my life being painted differently. I cannot describe the feeling but all of the sudden, I felt like… I was supposed to start going in another direction that I could not control. I was going to start doing bigger things, dreaming bigger and grabbing hold of every new opportunity possible cause my time was important to me. Before thyroid cancer, life was good. I had a full time career, was working away, saving for vacations, enjoying our dog and I had a beautiful new home, I was 26 at the time and ready to start the next chapter of my life with my husband. The dreams of starting a family was in the process and then when I had my yearly physical exam, everything changed. They found cancer. They found a lump in my right thyroid bed and then after everything happened something came over me, that this was going to ALL change whether I wanted it to or not… the moment it all changed was when I woke up in the hospital, I cried and said to my family  “I am alive”.

Q: What exactly has changed in your life since your diagnosis?

A: I learned many things along the way… I learned to accept this diagnosis, it was hard. The hardest thing to ever experience, I had the “why me” moments time and time again. I slept for days, I was angry, miserable and tired (always tired). After all I was missing my thyroid, it was removed due to the cancer and it was not functioning properly anymore. For those who do not know, your thyroid controls so much of your body and brain. It controls the hormonal system, which also includes energy levels, emotions, metabolism and so much more. My thyroid was removed, and now I live on medication for the rest of my life, to ensure the hormone levels are balanced as best as possible. This is a tricky act. I have an invisible illness, that does not define me and my good days have finally began to outweigh the bad. After learning to accept this diagnosis and grieve the loss of my organ. I began to slowly, but surely get out of this lifeless body and start turning my thoughts into positive vibes only. At the time of my journey, I was experiencing hair loss, hair thinning and my confidence was dwindling. I stumbled across a company that could help me with those challenging experiences. I am grateful that I learned to say „Yes“ to new things, cause if I did not I may be on a different path. I am now a top leader in my industry, helping those who struggle with this illness, hair loss and help other discover their self worth. I am motivational speaker now, something I always dreamed of doing, but did not feel I had a story of my own to share… and well… Now I do. Who knew right?! I learned to take risks, because.. What is the best thing that could happen!

Q:  What would you advise people who are going through a difficult time ? What helped you while you had cancer ?

A: The best advice I can share with someone who has been recently diagnosed with Thyroid cancer or any type of illness, is that….Never forget where you came from, hold your past life close to you. Because moving forward you will become someone brand new and different but always carry those special moments, childhood memories and experiences of your previously life near and dear. All the sweet times, all the laughter, all the joy and love that brings you life… hold it close and never let it go. This will help you with your dark times, your struggles and challenges that you will face. Remember your younger days, your past life experiences (the good ones) and embrace the new you. It is like a second chance to have anything you want, do anything and BE anything without having any commitment to others opinions, any other negativity that was once drawn into your life. During my journey for example, I attended Young Adult Cancer retreats and also had the honor to facilitate one of my own. I surround myself with like minded people going through similar experiences. I connected myself to social media, woman from all over the world facing this thyroid illness that felt uncontrollable to them too. I felt safe talking to people who had been there. Family and friends supported me in a different way, they offered so much love and care. I am thankful to have let my family in during these times. Hold them close and do not be afraid to open up and be vulnerable with the world, this is where the magic can happen and you start to know your worth and place in life, even during the worst times. A little piece of you, still remains hopeful and strong. NEVER LET IT GO!

Q: Is there anything you would have done differently since your diagnosis? If yes what and why?

A: There is absolutely nothing I would change about this diagnosis and illness. Not one thing! Why? Because it is lead me to the person I am today. This was my path, it was chosen for me for a reason. Thyroid cancer was a blessing in disguise. Remember earlier you asked me about my life before this illness and what I was doing… well now since then.. I have climbed mountains I never thought I could. I have had more obstacles during this time, than anything I ever experienced in my life, and after all obstacles and hurdles are the path to success and fulfillment.  I have travelled alone and only told a select few about it and will continue to travel to soak it in while I still can. I have dug deep to what it is I want in my life moving forward. I have taken risks, opened new doors, closed old ones, let go of anything that has not helped me grow which includes relationships, people, jobs, places and more. I see life now in a different lense and my time is so valuable to me. You go through big chunks of time in your life, when you think this is impossible… I can not do this anymore… but then you keep going and just keep going… and all of the sudden you sort of do the possible!

If you had 3 wishes free – what would that be ?

A: 3 wishes? Hmmm…. Wow.. I have not been asked that type of question, since I was little
1. I wish that I could connect with everyone… there are so many beautiful, unique people in the world with so many stories.. All backgrounds, all walks of life… getting to know people and being open to new connections.. Gratitude, it is the memory of the heart!

2. I wish I could meet my musical Idol Michael Jackson! I have been a fan since I was little his voice, song and dance has inspired in my aspects of my life. Raw, real talent and his lyrics are moving. He was a big influence to many around the world. I wish I could have had the chance to see him in concert.

3. I wish for more time. Unfortuantely, I cannot control this. But if I could… give me more time. I am not talking about the 24 hours in a day like for work.. I make sure I balance this clock and use my time with intention. I am talking about… when your in a moment, experience or place.. And you just wish you had “a bit more time”… like when your on a hot beach and it is the last day of vacation! That  kind of time… a snap of my fingers and I could lay there just a few more days in the sun !

FIND KELSEY NEAL ON FACEBOOK

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Dear Kelsey,

I am glad to get to know such a inspiring person as you are. I am sure that this interviw will open eyes and change some people’s point of view. It was a pleasure interviewing you. Your answers definitely have an impact on me. Thank you so much for your time. You are an inspiration to me and I am glad to have had you as my interview parter. You deserve nothing but the BEST.