Wer seid ihr? Wie ist der Name eurer Gruppe?
We are a group of students of color at the University of Magdeburg. We choose to call ourselves “PoC Hochschulgruppe Magdeburg” because our aim is to create a safe space for all people of color (PoC) in or around Magdeburg where it is possible for us to speak without fear of any judgement and share experiences so that we can learn from each other. Although our name says “Hochschulgruppe”, we do not want to restrict ourselves to University students alone.
Wie ist es dazu gekommen, dass sich eure Initiative gegründet hat und wie ist es mit der Gruppe ins Rollen gekommen?
For us here in Germany, racism is a matter of everyday experience. From the elevator to public transportation to sometimes even white friends or colleagues. Nasty comments about race, skin color, and other stereotypes used to “otherize” us are very common. Sometimes there is an additional threat of violence and even then we are the ones who are supposed to adhere to the idea of a “guter Ausländer”. But the worst part is that one cannot even talk about it freely because most people choose to either dismiss our experience as invalid or would begin to justify discriminatory behavior. Forums and safe-spaces addressing issues of racism faced by people like us are missing.
This is why we felt that there was a pressing need for a platform where all PoCs in Magdeburg could come together and share common experiences of systemic racism with each other. So we started this initiative together in December 2017. The very act of sharing ideas or our way of dealing with racist situations can be a liberating and empowering experience. For example, many of us do not speak up because we are not confident with the German language but being fluent in the language is not necessary at all for holding your ground! The group is also aimed as a platform for organizing events and discussions around experiences of PoCs. This includes not only issues of racism and xenophobia, but also the intersectionality with respect to gender, class, caste. etc.
Wieviele Leute sind gerade involviert oder treffen sich regelmäßig?
We are five University students at the moment who are directly involved in organizing events and meetings. In our first meeting which took place in April this year, we had 10 participants in total. And we continue to find more people who are enthused with the idea when we explain about it. Since we are a very new group, we think that this is a good sign for the group’s future.
Seid ihr an der Uni oder in der Stadt gut vernetzt?
As individuals we all have been regularly involved in organizing various events throughout the city. Some of us are also active in other projects and organizations in Magdeburg like (un)sichtbar, Begin Nebenan and Borderless Solidarity. Until now, other groups and organizations in Magdeburg have been quite supportive. But we are only just starting out and aim to further build solidarity with other active groups in the city.
Ihr habt erste Veranstaltungen geplant und durchgeführt, was habt ihr genau ist passiert beim Colors of Rebellion – Dalit History Month Magdeburg und wie ist es gelaufen?
We organized two events in celebration of Dalit History Month in the April this year. A photo-art exhibition called ‘Colors of Rebellion’ was displayed at the einewelt haus with an opening talk by activist, artist and co-founder of Dalit History Month – Thenomozhi Soundararajan on the topic of Dalit history and futurism. We also screened the documentary film Caste Aside – which deals with the British government’s controversial decision to introduce legislation against caste discrimination in the UK. Although there are many Indian cultural events and people interested in Indian history and culture – many often are unaware of the reality of Caste based discrimination which affects millions of people living not only in India, but also among diaspora communities. Through Dalit History Month events our aim was to highlight the rich history of assertion by Dalits and create awareness around one of the oldest resistance movement in the world. The Dalit movement is even more relevant in present day India – which is seeing a rise in atrocities against Dalits and the rise of Hindu right wing.
BACKGROUND The system of “caste” is based on the premise of structural social inequality. As its direct consequence, Dalits (formerly “Untouchables”) are relegated as inferior human beings and are ostracized socially, politically, and economically. This is not just a South Asian phenomenon, it affects approximately 260 million people worldwide. Although Indian law prohibits discrimination and violence against Dalit people, in reality atrocities are a daily occurrence. On average per week, 13 Dalits are murdered, 5 Dalit homes are torched, 6 Dalit people are kidnapped or abducted and 21 Dalit women raped. Outside India, social boycotts and discrimination are quite common and often go unnoticed due to a lack of awareness among the people of this hierarchical system. In recent years, experiences of caste-based discrimination among South Asian migrants in the UK, Europe and North America have been surfacing within the public domain as Dalits increasingly assert themselves.
There are critically important forums that address issues like race and gender. In order to further enrich these critical conversations as well to promote solidarity with other resistance movements worldwide, it is crucial to bring Dalit voices to the fore through commemoration of Dalit History Month in the month of April, in honor of Dr B. R. Ambedkar – dedicated human rights activist and founding father of modern India. As the Chief Architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar brought forth equal rights for all genders, rights for the oppressed castes and classes and protection for minorities. He envisioned the modern Indian state as built on the pillars of democracy. Buddhism played an important role in his fight for social justice. His conversion to Buddhism, along with half a million of his followers, sparked the revival of Buddhism in India – and at the same time, the fight against Indian caste-apartheid. Our effort is to foster a discussion about the long struggle of Dalits and their discourses.
EXHIBITION: COLORS OF REBELLION
The ongoing exhibition entitled “Colors of Rebellion” at the einewelthaus Magdeburg features paintings from Savi Sawarkar, Malvika Raj, Priyadarshini Ohol and photographs by Sudharak Olwe. It aspires to bring to the fore the rebellious and rich tradition of Dalit art and aesthetics that at its very core poses a challenge to Brahminical hegemony. The exhibition is unique in that it brings together art spanning distinctive expressions as well as artists from different generations on one platform. In their art they weave their life experiences as Dalit artists as well as their own unique perspectives of it. Together, the exhibition provides a glimpse into the powerful political history of assertion and the process of Dalit consientization sparked by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. The exhibition has been successful in breaking the silence around caste-apartheid, and presents a window into a form of Indian art that not only yearns for liberation but also seeks justice and equality.
Through this exhibition as well as screening of the movie “Caste Aside”, we managed to open up discussions among the international audience about the hidden apartheid of caste in India as well as in Europe. It also fostered a much-needed space for critical questions on how to build solidarity among different resistance movements of the marginalized with an awareness of caste as a human rights issue.
Wer wird angesprochen dabei zu sein und wie können Menschen dazu kommen?
Our group meetings are open to everyone who identifies themselves as BPoC. Since we aim to maintain an environment of “safe space”, this restriction is essential for the meetings. At the same time, we also plan to organize frequent public events where everyone who is interested in the anti-discrimination discourse can interact and take part. We are a group of people who believe in being vocal about our issues and welcome everyone who feels the same way to come join us. We can be reached via email or through our Facebook page.
Gibt es Ideen, wo Menschen euch unterstützen können? Die vielleicht nicht der Initiative beitreten, aber sagen: “Ich finde es gut, dass es euch gibt und würde euch gern Ressourcen zur Verfügung stellen oder irgendwie unterstützen.”
Of course! We need all kinds of support in our organizational activities – but this doesn’t mean one has to be physically present in order to help. For example, we often need help with designing publicity material, writing funding applications, and reserving physical spaces for events or meetings. Just write to us!
Was habt ihr für die Zukunft geplant, was ist euer Wunsch für/ an Magdeburg
We wish to eradicate the unfair prejudices that plague our minds. We want freedom as a basic principle of the society around us. We wish for us to see each other as humans first – not more and not less! And for this purpose, we plan to organize many more anti-discrimination events in Magdeburg in the future, perhaps even in co-operation with other groups in the city. Movie screenings and inviting guest speakers are always a good way to open up dialogue around the topics of race or gender equality. We aim to also include the international student community at the University because they are relatively isolated due to the language barrier.