Why the Initiative Black and White was founded
In the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of refugees came to Germany. Some parties proposed changing the asylum law to prevent this. Accusations against the refugees that they were only coming to live at the expense of Germans without any real reasons for fleeing dominated the public discourse. Immigrants were also blamed for economic problems, unemployment and public debt. Also incited by this, there were many violent attacks on refugee homes and also murders of refugees and migrants.
We tried to contribute to the objectification of the discussion. The initiators of our association saw reasons for the rejection of accepting refugees in the lack of knowledge about the situation in the countries of origin and in the lack of personal experience with people with different skin or hair colour or different religion. We also saw a reason in the non-knowledge or non-co-support of the basic right that Germans have according to their Basic Law to stand up for justice, peace and human rights in the world and thus for the elimination of the causes of flight. From the beginning, our association was jointly supported by migrants, especially from Africa, and local people. Of the initiators, the current chairperson, Christina Eulenkamp, and Wolfgang Lieberknecht are still active in the association today.
We developed a programme for schools, but also for church congregations, in order to create encounters and shared experiences between locals and refugees. The association formed an African-German tour group Black and White, which has since organised project days in thousands of schools. We focused on making music, singing, dancing and drumming together and on information and discussions that better enable people, especially children and young people, to empathise with the living situation of people in the refugees' countries of origin. In doing so, we also passed on the norms of the Basic Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a fellow human obligation. We also make clear the division of the world in the past 500 years, organised above all through the slave trade and the colonial conquests of the European states and the subjugation and exploitation of large parts of the earth. And we show the connection of our lives with the African one: The cocoa beans from Africa that are used to make chocolate here, the coltan from Congo in mobile phones, cobalt for the batteries of electric vehicles. Rusty materials that African countries, instead of prosperity, often
war for their control. We also highlighted the efforts of the North-South Commission led by Willy Brandt, who predicted that without decolonisation and a new balance of interests between North and South, there was no chance for humanity to survive and called for international cooperation and decisive disarmament. The refugees in the group also earned their living through their own work in the tour group and were thus able to get a right of residence as artists.
Again and again we were asked what schools, teachers and students could do if they wanted to contribute to change. Wolfgang Lieberknecht, one of the initiators, wanted to see for himself the countries of origin of refugees, travelled to Ghana and visited schools there. There he met the French teacher, Eunice Oduro Bentum. She was very interested in his ideas. After moving to Germany, Eunice has been touring with the music group Black and White for seven years, singing and dancing at the group's performances, giving PowerPoint presentations about the living conditions in her home country Ghana and her hometown Sunyani, and teaching African dance steps in the dance workshops at the school project days. At the same time, she has been working with
former teacher colleagues in Sunyani for the cooperation of the partner association "Initiative Black and White Ghana". In the meantime, a well-founded cooperation with various schools and initiatives has developed, which we consolidate and deepen through webinars and Zoom conferences. We learn from each other and to understand each other. We see this as a trend-setting and exemplary development for North-South relations.