The book Showing Our Colors (Farbe Bekennen) is a landmark in the Afro-German movement that not only introduced Black German women’s issues to the public, but also played an integral role in the development of an Afro-German community.
Before the dawning of the Afro-German movement in Germany in the 1980s, many Afro-German women lived in isolation from other Afro-Germans and struggled with their racial and cultural identities in Germany—a country that repressed its colonial past and largely disregarded its Black population. During her trip abroad to Berlin in 1984, American poet and activist Audre Lorde aimed to meet Black women and learn about their experiences by bringing them together for lectures and a poetry workshop at the Free University. Over the course of these interactions, Afro-German women articulated the need to create a community and share their experiences. Ending the silence among Afro-German women through the publication of Showing Our Colors would be a first step toward confronting their exclusion.
Edited by May Opitz, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz, Showing Our Colors features a forward by Audre Lorde, and includes essays on Black German history, critiques of racist German propaganda and advertisements, and autobiographical sketches with selected family photographs from thirteen Afro-German women. The contributions highlight the importance of gender solidarity among German women of all colors in the face of a white feminist movement that excluded Black women and ignored intersections between racism and sexism. Showing Our Colors introduced the topic of racial oppression into feminist conversations in Germany and was thus central in Afro-German women’s development of identities, self-definitions, and communities.
Showing Our Colors also aimed to provide Afro-German women a platform for entering public discourse and educating a white German readership. Where Germanness was equated with whiteness, white Germans often assumed that Black women were either African or African American, thereby denying Afro-German women their identities. In speaking out about their life experiences in the book, these women made themselves visible to the German public while demanding recognition as both Germans and women of the African diaspora. Introducing the term “Afro-Germans,” the book helped its readers to rethink and redefine what it means to be German while encouraging women of the African Diaspora to embrace all aspects of their identity.
For many, Showing Our Colors offered a first exposure to Afro-German literature and history, and the book has had an enduring legacy in German and European discourses on race, gender, and ethnicity. Its editors and contributors were also centrally involved in other community-building projects, including the first national meeting of Black Germans (1985), the founding of the Initiative of Black Germans (1985, now the Initiative of Black People in Germany), ADEFRA, the first activist group for Afro-German women (1986), and the first international conference on Afro-Germans (1991). Showing Our Colors was a vital initiative that empowered Afro-German women to break the silence and share their experiences.
Source: Katharina Oguntoye, May Opitz, and Dagmar Schultz (eds.), Farbe bekennen: Afro-deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte (Berlin: Orlando Frauenverlag, 1986)
Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out (1986) by Kata Bowen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://blackcentraleurope.com/who-we-are/.