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Black Media Congress - Berlin 2003

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The 2nd annual Black Media Congress took place between the 24-26 October 2003 at the Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung, Rosenthaler Str. 40/41 in Berlin Mitte. The Congress was organized by cyberNomads with sponsorship from the German Department of  Political Education amongst others and attend by members of diverse organizations, media professionals and academics of African descent from within and outside Germany. Afritopic participated at the event and reports below.
 
In the modern world, the media influences people's perceptions, lifestyles, tastes and even ways of thinking. Be it radio, television, internet or the print form, the media as a whole is a powerful instrument that impact on our lives. Despite the increasing number of African descendants living and working in the European Community, the mainstream media has generally ignored their cultural and socio-economic contributions to the multicultural European community. This fact is particularly vivid in Germany.

In an effort to create awareness and recognition of African descendants' community as a significant integral member of the multicultural community in Germany, CyberNomads was formed on behalf of ISD (Initiative Schwarze Deutsche/Initiative of Black Germans), Berlin. At the same time, the impact of the new internet technology as an electronic information medium was recognized. A digital architecture project for cyberNomads.net was started as a pilot community project for ISD (Initiative of Black Germans and Blacks in Germany)  with financial support from the German Department of  Political Education  in 2002. The goal is to provide a platform for interactions that would lead to self-empowerment of the Black community.

In the same year, having recognized the Media as a powerful tool that should be used by people of African descent to voice out their opinions, exchange ideas, create their own image and document their activities, the Black Media congress was organized under the title "Soul Power and Cyberspace" by cyberNomads and ISD with funding by the German Department of  Political Education. This year's Black Media Congress is organized under the title "Networking in Europe - Best Practices from Grassroots to Mainstream". It is aimed to establish a Black Media Network around Europe.

The congress started on Friday, 24 October in the evening with welcome speeches from Mr. Schilling of the German Department of Political Education as well as from members of ISD and cyberNomads. Discussions, short films and general socializing that culminated to a media lounge party followed. On Saturday, 25 October, the congress began with the formation of a panel consisting of ISD Bund e.V., ISD Berlin s.V., BpB and cyberNomads members. The panel was responsible for the moderation of the key presentations by various registered organizations.  -->continue

Donald Griffith - Fountainhead Dance Theatre
Abdel Rahman Satti - cyberNomads
Tyron Ricketts - Panthertainment
 
Robert Ajani - African Courier
After a brief welcome speech, Abdel Rahman Satti and Michael Kueppers introduced cyberNomads including her goals, strategies and philosophy as well as the purpose of the Black Media Congress. This was followed by historical snapshots of ISD and her activities presented by executive members of ISD. The event continued with various organizations from Germany, Holland and England presenting their projects and organizing workshops for those who are interested in detailed information about their  projects. Several issues concerning the black community in Europe were covered by the presentations including political, socio-economical, migration laws, refugee camps' situation, image of African descendants in the mainstream media etc. Short coffee breaks, unconventional discussions and extended lunch with soul food gave the event a relaxing atmosphere.

The last day of the event, Sunday, 26 October was devoted to cultural, social, political and business issues. The opening presentations included speakers from the following organizations: ADEFRA(Maisha Eggers), ISD Bund e.V(Eleonore Wiedenroth-Coulibaly), Refugee Initiative, Brandenburg(Abdel Amine) and Immigrants and Politics Association, Berlin(Yonas Endrias). Clarence Lusane, an assistant professor at School of Internatinal Service, American University, Washington DC, USA, gave a factual presentation that showed how the media was used in the US to manipulate people's opinions and gain support for the war against Iraq. Answering a question  relating to multiculturalism in the US from the audience, Dr. Lusane explained the complexity of multiculturalism in the US, due to the mixed relationships between people from different origins over many generations.  -->continue

 
Another highlight of the presentations is an inspiring and thoughtful presentation by Prof. Donald Griffith, the co-founder of Fountainhead Dance Theatre, Germany-US. In his presentation, titled 'Success-Work in Progress or Both; The Equation', Griffith analyzed 'Success' from different perspectives. The presentation began with an inspiring poem by Maya Angelou that reads thus:

"Still I Rise"

You may write me down in history   With your bitter twisted lies,              You may trod me in the very dirt         But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?             Why are you beset with gloom?    ‘Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,                 With the certainty of tides,                      Just like hopes springing high,                Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?         Don't you take it awful hard                    ‘Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with you eyes,       You may kill me with your hatefulness,  But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?                Does it come as a surprise?                   That I dance like I've got diamonds       At the meeting of my thighs?                   Out of the huts of history's shame          I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain        I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear                                                          I rise

Into a daybreak that's a wondrously clear                                                        I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise                                                         I rise                                                         I rise.

Using people from different backgrounds as examples, Prof. Griffith analyzed the factors such as ethnicity, socio-economics, luck/opportunity and behavior/character, that may determine success. He suggested replacing the term 'positive' with 'constructive' and the careful utilization of criticism in relation to the task and individuals involved in the task. The message of the presentation could be summed up in the words of Darrel Royal "The harder I work, the luckier I get".

Tyron Ricketts, the founder/owner of Panthertainment GmbH, Germany, delivered a motivating presentation on marketing, focusing on the HipHop/young urban consumer. He described the business areas of Panthertainment, the processes involved in conceptualization of advert video clips and how firms segment target groups for their products. Tyron also explained how tough it is for blacks to win contracts in the mainstream media and be engaged in roles that are not stereotypical. However, by running the business since 1997, Tyron Ricketts has proven that it is possible for African descendants to build up businesses in Germany and be successful. -->continue

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Mbegane Ndour, the executive producer at Emma Production, France, and a member of the organization  "African Consciences" provided an insight into the Hip Hop music scene and showed two recent videos produced by his group. During the questions and answers session, Mbegane discussed issues concerning the exploitation of innovative black music by the whites and the discriminatory attitudes of the major music companies towards up-coming black musicians in general. After the presentation, open discussions followed and finally the event came to end with farewell speeches from cyberNomads (Abdel Rahman Satti and Michael Kueppers).
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