12 March 2016

Afro-German Poet May Ayim Performs Poem Against German Nationalism

May Ayim. Photo by Dagmar Schulz
Afro-German poet May Ayim (1960 - 1996) began the year 1990 with the poem Borderless and brazen: a poem against the German “u-not y” .  She discovered that the German reunification in 1990 excluded everyone who was not white and German, and was part of a minority. The poem was published after her death in the book ' Grenzenlos und unverschämt' (in English: 'Borderless and Brazen').


  

“borderless and brazen: a poem against the German “u-not y.”
i will be African
even if you want me to be german
and i will be german
even if my blackness does not suit you
i will go
yet another step further
to the farthest edge
where my sisters – where my brothers stand
where
o u r
FREEDOM
begins
i will go
yet another step further and another step and
will return
when i want
and remain
borderless and brazen
1990

for Jaqueline and Katharina
(Translation by May Ayim)
She wrote:
For the first time since I had been living in Berlin I now had to protect myself almost daily against undisguised insults, hostile looks and / or openly racist offenses. As in earlier times I started again, when shopping and on public transportation, to look out for dark faces. A friend of mine, holding her Afro-German daughter on her lap in the S-Bahn,* was told “We don’t need your kind anymore. There are already more than enough of us!” A ten-year-old African boy was thrown out of a crowded UBahn train (S-Bahn: elevated train) to make room for a white German.

Those were incidents in West Berlin in November, 1989, and since 1990 reports of racially motivated attacks primarily on black people have increased, mostly in the eastern part of Germany. Reports like those were at first known only in circles of immigrants and black Germans, the official media reporters hardly taking notice of the violent assaults. I began the year 1990 with a poem:  “borderless and brazen: a poem against the German “u-not y.” The poem was published after her death in the book ' Grenzenlos und unverschämt'.

Who was May Ayim

May Ayim (3 May 1960 in Hamburg – 9 August 1996 in Berlin) is the pen name of May Opitz (born Sylvia Andler); she was an Afro-German poet, educator, and activist. The child of a German mother and Ghanaian medical student, she was adopted by a white German family when young. After reconnecting with her father and his family in Ghana, in 1992 she took his surname for a pen name.

Read more about May Ayim at Afro-Europe


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