The Alafia Forum on Friday, September 8th, 2023, organized by the Black Community Coalition for Justice and Self-Defence, brought together a diverse group of speakers and advocates, each offering their unique perspective on the urgent need for decolonization. Under the theme "Decolonize! Was ist das?" (What is it?), this gathering aimed to shed light on the critical process of decolonization, which encompasses reflection, recognition, and the imperative for compensatory change to address historical and contemporary injustices stemming from colonial and neo-colonial legacies. The event took place at Afrotopia in Hamburg.
In his address titled "Decolonize! Was ist das?" Brother Mwayemudza eloquently argued that decolonization is a critical process involving reflection, recognition, and the imperative for compensatory change to address both past and present colonial and neo-colonial injustices. He offered a poignant critique of Germany's selective approach to historical reconciliation, highlighting the nation's active confrontation of its fascist past while neglecting its colonial history. Brother Mwayemudza pointed out the inconsistency in how Germany treats monuments and street names tied to its colonial and National Socialist histories, drawing attention to the continued existence of colonial-era monuments and street names. He passionately emphasized that this double standard continues to humiliate victims and survivors, advocating for a unified approach to addressing all forms of historical injustices.
Advocate and educator, Jennifer Kamau, shared a powerful reading from the book "We Exist, We Are Here." In her heartfelt presentation, she went beyond mere storytelling, emphasizing that she was amplifying the voices and experiences of marginalized members of society, specifically migrant women. Through her reading, Jennifer shed light on the intricate lives and struggles of various women, focusing on the complexities and challenges that refugee women face, including legal hurdles related to immigration, police violence, brutality, and social acceptance. She declared her aim to stimulate discussion and raise awareness, underlining the importance of understanding the issues that refugee women encounter and calling on all to listen and act in support of these underrepresented women.
Desmond John Beddy:
Desmond John Beddy's talk transcended a mere presentation of his book, "The History of Ghanaians in Germany." He delved into the motivations and concepts behind his book as a collaborative project, emphasizing the power of coming together, staying united, and working collectively. Desmond underscored the importance of individual agency in telling one's own stories, noting that narratives written by those who lived them tend to be more authentic, providing a counterpoint to stereotypical or one-sided accounts.
Audience suggestions to introduce the book into school curricula in Hamburg highlighted its educational significance. The incorporation of diverse perspectives into education enriches students' understanding of history and society, fostering critical thinking by challenging the often-singular narratives presented in traditional educational settings. Moreover, it helps African students in Germany see themselves reflected in their studies, ultimately empowering them. Desmond passionately described his work as not just a historical account but as a tool for education and empowerment, advocating for the importance of community-driven storytelling.
Professor Koudzo Sewodo Komlanvi:
During his presentation, Professor Koudzo Sewodo Komlanvi provided inspiring examples of New Entrepreneurship in Africa. He accentuated the vast, untapped potential and diverse opportunities available on the African continent. Professor Komlanvi passionately urged the younger generation to visit Africa frequently, not only to reconnect with family but also to explore various prospects for development, business, or academia. Africa, he highlighted, boasts abundant resources and talent, offering a wide array of possibilities for contribution and growth. Returning to Africa, he explained, provides a unique opportunity for a meaningful, mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources.
Sipua Ngnoubamdjum delivered a compelling concluding talk, placing significant emphasis on community involvement in the decolonization process in Hamburg. He stressed the belief that systemic change is most effective when it is participatory, declaring, "Decolonization is not just a matter of policy or academic discourse; it involves each of us reshaping social and institutional frameworks influenced by a history of colonialism." For a city like Hamburg, which has its own colonial past, Sipua underscored that active community engagement should encompass various aspects, from challenging historical narratives and renaming streets or buildings to advocating for a more inclusive education curriculum that reflects diverse perspectives. He firmly stated that community engagement is vital for achieving a meaningful and lasting impact in decolonization efforts.
Sista Oloruntoyin passionately articulated the need for collective strategies to address the enduring legacies of colonialism. She advocated for increased proactive, community-led efforts, including regular meetings among various organizations. She underscored the power of collective action as a stronger platform from which to negotiate with state authorities, ensuring that decolonization efforts transcend mere symbolism and become substantial, sustainable, and responsive to the needs of our communities. Sista Oloruntoyin argued that state-led initiatives often lack the understanding that comes from lived experience, highlighting the potential pitfalls of well-intentioned, state-organized Decolonisation Festivals that might miss deeper, structural issues that require addressing. She proposed that the community should not only have a seat at the table but should also play a pivotal role in setting the agenda. This multifaceted approach could encompass various strategies to address the harm of colonialism, including historical and generational traumas, such as acknowledgment of the harm, public apologies, reparations, and educational reforms. Therapeutic interventions, storytelling, cultural revitalization, and community-building activities, she asserted, are all essential not only to heal the wounds of the past but also to break the cycle of persistent traumatization. She strongly emphasized that decolonization is not a passive process to be implemented from above but an active, ongoing project that requires the engagement and agency of individuals on an equal footing.
Angelina Akpovo set the stage for the forum by focusing on addressing the long-term effects of colonialism. As the founder of the Alafia-Afrika Festival in Hamburg, she shared her role in safeguarding and promoting African and Afro-diasporic culture in Hamburg. Angelina pointed out the often-overlooked issue of how colonialism suppressed indigenous cultures and traditions. She demonstrated how the Alafia-Afrika Festival serves as a platform for cultural renewal and revitalization by committing to preserving this cultural knowledge. Additionally, she discussed the vital role of artists in the decolonization process, noting that the Alafia Festival invites both traditional and contemporary artists to use the Alafia stage as a platform to challenge stereotypical views, create new stories, and represent marginalized communities. Angelina concluded by summing up her view, stating that decolonization is not solely a political or economic issue but also involves reclaiming and revitalizing our diverse cultural heritage.
Gerhard Heiland addressed the financial challenges facing the Afrika festival in Hamburg, Alafia 2023. Despite increased operational costs and reduced vendor income, he painted a positive vision for the future. He expressed gratitude to members of diverse communities and civil society for their support of this year's transitional event at Afrotopia. Gerhard underscored the pivotal role of community involvement in ensuring the success of the festival. He expressed optimism that, with continued community support, the festival would return to its open-air format in 2024.
Sista Oloruntoyin and Desmond John Beddy