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Brothers' Keepers; "YES I AM"
By Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo

When Flame was sixteen, he left his parents’ place to live in a home where he learnt the “gangsta” trade. When Mamadee was ten, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) collapsed, dashing her dreams of wearing the Thälmann pioneers’ red scarf. When Adé was fifteen, his father was killed and he left Nigeria for Leverkusen in Germany. Xavier Naidoo learnt early from his parents that owning a car made one respectable in the community.

These artists grew up as German children of African fathers and German mothers (except for Xavier whose father had some Indian ancestry and D-Flame whose father was an African-American GI soldier), and all of them finally grew up without their fathers. Yet they have made it big time through determination, self-will and religious faith. Their paths never crossed till an African from Mozambique, Alberto Adriano, was brutally killed by three Nazi youths in a park in the Eastern German city of Dessau. Following the murder, more than twenty of the best-known African-German musicians joined up to found the band project Brothers Keepers. They recorded the maxi Adriano (Last Warning) and the album Lightkultur on which they were partnered by their female counterpart, Sisters Keepers. And they visited, and still visit, schools in East Germany to talk to schoolchildren. The documentary film- Yes I Am - tells the story of Flame, Mamadee, Xavier and Adé and the story of the Brothers Keepers / Sisters Keepers. It tells of the power of music and shows how good it feels to raise one’s voice as a group. Looming large in the background is of course the tragic story of Alberto Adriano.

I remember the League of Nation’s so-called humanitarian, Gilbert Murray, who blatantly asserted: There is in the world a hierarchy of races...those nations which eat more, claim more, and get higher wages, will direct and rule the others, and the lower work of the world will tend in the long-run to be done by lower breeds of men. This much we of the ruling colour will no doubt accept as obvious.

So much for civilised Christian values.
There is an increase of racist-motivated violent crimes in Germany, directed at dark-skinned people or those who do not look “Northern European” enough. If one is the “typical” Spaniard, Portuguese, Greek, Albanian or Italian, one is no better off than a Sri Lankan, Chinese, Philippine, Japanese or Indian. The perpetrators come mainly from the right radical neo-nazis, especially the jobless youth. But there are to date many cases pending in courts where the German police have shot Africans (allegedly attempting to escape) on the streets or, in one case, torched an African detainee in his cell. The defence is that the detainee set his mattress and himself on fire. But how a chained detainee who had been searched and stripped of any “dangerous” objects can set himself on fire and burn to death before any help arrives, is the puzzle of the century.

German politics has a lot to do with it as well. In a country where elections seem to run non-stop (if not the general federal elections, then local government elections are running in one state or the other), the German electorate is wooed variously by blaming foreigners for taking jobs away from the Germans or living off the German taxpayers’ money as recipients of the welfare benefits. Granted, the German social welfare institution is rather generous and lawfully bound to make sure that anybody living in the country, whether German or not, and has no adequate income, still has a roof over their head, a bite to eat, adequate medical support, extra money at Christmas and clothes and shoes to wear in summer and in winter – and that for the entire family however large or small.

Things like television sets, radios, telephones, fridges and cookers are deemed a necessity for living a decent human life and nobody should lack any of them. Needless to say, there are those who find it more lucrative to live off the dole than to work, “real” Germans included and obviously in the majority. But politicians are quick to incite the public with phrases like “the boat is full” or “Kinder statt Inder – children instead of Indians”. This latter slogan became in vogue when the German capital (employers) badly and urgently needed computer programmers and made a bid to “import” such employees from India. A politician got famous in the media when he recommended that Germans make more babies to be trained as programmers. There are dramatic changes in the German demography – the aged are living longer while the young prefer careers rather than starting families. The aged are outnumbering the young and both groups are worried about their pension – should the aged work several years longer, and who will contribute to the pension funds of the young when they become the aged pensioners?
Germans in general seem to have tremendous trouble taking it as a matter of fact that someone of a dark complexion could be German. I do not encounter such assumptions in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland or the USA – in these countries I’m “innocent until proved guilty”. Curious to notice however, is how the German media is all fire and brimstone when it comes to polishing the German colonial stakes in Africa.

Namibia for example is first and foremost Deutschsüdwest before it is explained that now, of course, the country is called Namibia. Months prior to the Football World Cup Championships, a media concern shoved the campaign Du bist Deutschland - You Are Germany – down the throats of the German citizenry. The models were well known celebrities of the country in all the colours of the rainbow. This was supposed to promote a friendly atmosphere for all visitors coming for the championships. Being a history junkie, I had read about the fascists using this very slogan to agitate Germans against non-Germans and get the Germans to take up arms as far back as 1935, in the city of Ludwigshafen: DENN DU BIST DEUTSCHLAND, with a placard of Hitler’s head towering over the words. Lately German politics has been trying a different tack because they have a huge problem with calling every German citizen a German.

There are a whole range of entities from ausländische MitbürgerInnen (foreign fellow citizens), XYth generation of Gastarbeiter (guest worker) descendants, over Ausländer mit deutschen Pass (foreigners with a German passport), around to Personen mit deutschem Pass (Persons with German passports) into whatever-land-of-original such as Kenianer mit deutschem Pass (Kenyan with a German Passport), Deutsch-Libanese (German-Lebanese) and so on. We cannot get away with simply being Germans, the heavens would come tumbling down on the “ruling colour’s” Vaterland. The very latest tack is that we are citizens with Migrationshintergrund (emigrational background). These attributes are imperative. The wheat has to be sorted from the chaff.
Back to Brothers’ Keepers.

The death of Alberto Adriano, an African young man beaten to death by three youths in a public park in the Eastern German city of Dessau in the year 2000, for no other reason than the colour of his skin, was the reason for the musician Adé Bantu to join the best-known African-German musicians in a band project called “Brothers Keepers”, which also involved the band’s female counterpart, "Sisters Keepers". By joining together, the musicians have become representatives for a German minority and have taken a stand against fear and a lack of courage in the civil society. For Adé as the initiator of the project, it is also a personal success story. The Brothers’ Keepers are still engaged in fighting right wing violence – not only with their music but also – among many other activities – by visiting schools in Eastern Germany in order to talk to the kids and youths of all shades and whatever religious convictions, about the everyday racism and about what each and every one of them can contribute to the building of a counterculture. The press conference on the occasion of one such school tours, was also attended by the Speaker of the German Parliament. Racism is more pronounced in East Germany, the racist violence there more frequent.
Sven Halfar, the director, states: “The origin of the Brothers Keepers project, in connection with the biographies of some of the African-German artists, touched me deeply and at the same time made me angry and curious. I wanted to take a closer look. That’s how the film about growing up as a German citizen in a black skin came into being. To me it was very important to show the protagonists not as victims but as strong personalities who took a stand by joining forces and making music.”

The Film’s Main Story

He found a home in Dessau, East Germany.
Alberto Adriano had lived in Germany for more than 20 years, had a steady job as a butcher in a slaughtering factory and a big circle of friends. He had been married to the German Angelika Adriano for 10 years. He lived a happy life with his wife and three children in Dessau, a small town near Dresden. Today all that remains is a memorial of breast-high pale red stone, in a small park. It marks the spot on which Alberto Adriano was brutally murdered in 2000.

Adriano was on his way home. He had been watching the European Football Cup with friends, where Holland won the match against the Czechs 1:0. They had grilled and drank beer, talked about Adriano’s planned trip to visit his parents in Mozambique for which he had already booked his flight ticket. Late at night he made his way home taking the usual shortcut he normally used through the park. Suddenly three young Germans barred his way. Adriano requested the three screaming skinheads to at least lower their voices, perhaps fearing that the noise would wake up his young children in the nearby block of flats where he lived. It was a clear night and the noise carried far. In any case he would not have wanted his children to be woken up with screams of Foreigners out! and Nigger piss off! Monkeys have no place here!

The young men continued to block his way even when he tried to appease them and explain to them that he had been living in Germany for decades. The three began to beat him up brutally and indiscriminately on the head and kicking him in the stomach. As Adriano began losing consciousness and fell to the ground, the three continued kicking and beating him, intoxicated with their brutality. They finally undressed the unconscious Adriano and draped his clothes on the branches of a tree, dragged his naked body 40 meters while eating the food Adriano had meant to bring home to his family. Again, so much for civilised Christian values. This execution ended only when police siren was heard approaching the scene. Despite all medical efforts, the thirty-nine-year-old Adriano died three days later on 14 June 2000 in a Dessau hospital. The three skinheads were arrested and sentenced to two nine-year sentences each and one lifelong in a juvenile prison.

Photos from left to right: Nazi right radicals torching homes and flats of foreigners, asylum-seekers and refugees;
A victim of skinheads’ brutal public beating; a picture of Alberto Adriano at his memorial stone in Dessau, East Germany

The Brothers Keepers recorded the song Adriano – Letzte Warnung (Adriano – Last Warning) in 2001, and the proceeds were used to financially assist the family of Alberto Adriano. Adriano is an aggressive expression of the rage and horror that the artistes felt for the dreadful murder of Adriano. The radical text prompted heavy controversies in Germany, including instituting legal proceedings for incitement of the public. All the same or perhaps because of all this, Adriano was constantly played in the music channels VIVA and MTV, selling more than 250,000 albums and remaining on the first place in the Hit Parade for weeks. As a result, the German language Rap steadily rose in the Top 20 German Charts, so much so that the Goethe-Institut now sends abroad Hip-Hop Acts as representatives. Every hairdresser now has an opinion about the German Rap graffiti and even researchers of literature have discovered a niche for German Rap. Rhyming German words to the heavy beats has become a matter of course.

Xavier with schoolchildren – working from the “grass roots” to eliminate racism

It is no exaggeration when one says that the German Hip-Hop found its way back to the American roots through Brothers Keepers. Flaring up and resistance against discrimination, and expression of one’s own identity and opinion is what the music is all about. After years of commercialising and rebellious glitter without substance, Brothers Keepers have turned Hip-Hop into a dialogue in the social and political themes. The complete works of Brothers Keepers was recorded last year under „Lightkultur“. There are 23 male and female musicians in the album. They each express their experiences and adventures about living in Germany as an Afro ancestral or as an African-German, in their own languages and texts. All the proceeds they make at concerts are used to financially assist the victim families of right radical violence, who often have a lifelong suffering before them because of such racist crimes. The widowed Angelika Adriano was the first such victim to receive assistance from Brothers Keepers. She had married Alberto out of love and never thought about what colour his skin is, nor did she actually comprehend the animosities and discrimination. The death of Alberto confronted her with the reality of what it is like to be married to an Afro ancestral in Germany. Because of the psychological pressure, the constant fear for her three children whom she has to keep an eye on permanently, Angelika is seriously planning to leave Germany for Mozambique.

Brothers Keepers Group of Afro ancestrals & African-Germans
Adé “Bantu” Odukoya

Adé „Bantu“ Odukoya is today thirty years old and has lived in Cologne for 15 years. The first half of his life was spent in Nigeria. His mother Barbara was born in Berlin, where he met Adé’s father in 1980. The father was studying engineering. After completing his studies they moved to England together, where Adé and his brother Abi were born before finally returning with the family to Nigeria. At first life in Nigeria was fine. The paternal family branch was related to their ethnic group’s royal family. Living among Africans was for the young bi-cultural family without any racism or discrimination. Barbara and her children’s skin colour was of no consequence. Until the night robbers broke into their home at night and murdered the father, taking off with all they could carry including the TV sets and jewellery. This sudden death destroyed the intact family and the society began applying pressure on the single parent. She decided to go back to Germany. Adé was 15 at the time, and was suddenly in a country he only knew through stories told by visiting relatives. Despite being a German citizen, it dawned on him from the onset that his skin colour made him unwelcome and an outsider. All the same he and his younger brother and a sister did their best to learn German and passed their Abitur, the German certificate for entry into a university.

Adé’s parents in the halcyon days (above)

Young Adé (left) and his new younger brother with their proud parents

To this day, Adé describes his growing up without a father as a great loss. He would have needed his advice and support in all the many years of daily discrimination, since his mother could not provide these for her children all by herself. Indeed she was herself shouted at in the public as a “Negerschlampe” – a nigger slut – and couldn’t even find employment for a long time. It is only later in 1990s that music for Adé became the venue for expressing his psychological pain and fight against being in the role of an outsider. The beginning of the 1990s saw a wave of right radical murder attempts against all foreigners through torching homes and flats where foreigners, asylum-seekers and refugees lived in East Germany. He started his band, “Exponential-Enjoyment“, the beginning of German Hip-Hop music, where he became internationally known as Rapper T., leading to his present band “Bantu”. With his brother Don Abi they widened their Hip-Hop spectrum with elements of West African music and Dance Hall Reggae.

Today Adé Odukoya is a self-confident young man whose life history is strengthened rather than embittered. He is himself a father of a three-year-old son and knows what it is like to grow up as an Afro ancestral child in Germany. With his Rwandese girlfriend, Ingrid, they have found a true home in Cologne, one of the few cities where he is not confronted daily with his bi-culturalism. Three years ago he drummed up children and the youth to do the rap musical “Coloured Children”, and he supports many projects including UNESCO’s anti-AIDS campaign in Germany. The murder of Alberto Adriano led him and other African-German musicians to form the band project: Brothers Keepers. “It took more than ten years for me to overcome the crises in my life, “says Adé. "It is after that, that I realised how much I really have achieved. Despite all the breakdowns, I didn’t fail; I didn’t become somebody on the peripheries of the society. With Brothers Keepers I fulfilled my dream, a dream that has not ended yet“

Adé and his son in the underground

D-Flame the “Gangsta”

D-Flame alias Danny Kretschmar was born in 1971 in East Germany. His father’s drug dealing resulted in the father being expelled out of Germany shortly after Flame was born. His mother Helma had met his father, a US GI soldier, in the 1960s in Frankfurt. D-Flame quickly developed into a problem child. The youth welfare department, child psychologists and youth employment all failed. He walked out of school at standard six. His quarrels with his mother got worse and she tried to drown her problems in alcohol. Life was hard for both of them. “I often had to watch how my mother was being abused as a „Nigger slut“, how people spat on the ground before her when she came to pick me up from the kindergarten.” D-Flame simply hang around with his clique, no longer had any interest in school and began to regard himself as Robin Hood – stealing from “the rich” to keep himself above water. It all became too much for his mother and D-Flame decided to go to a home.

D-Flame, the “gangsta”, a member of the Brothers Keepers

All efforts made to lead a solid life failed. His criminal career landed him in prison, in the same cell where his best friend had committed suicide. When he himself became a father, he decided to start a new life. He concentrated on his music. During the following years he became one of the most renowned musicians in Germany. He worked out his biography in his new album „ Daniel X - eine deutsche schwarze Geschichte“ ( Daniel X – a German black story). In the meantime he is a father of four children from four different mothers. He lives with his wife and youngest son in Frankfurt-Nordwest where he grew up.

D-Flame, voluntarily “behind the bars”

Xavier Naidoo

Xavier Naidoo teamed up with Adé, D-Flame, and others to start the Brothers Keepers and then the Sisters Keepers project in 2001. Within a short time these groups became the most popular artists in the African-German Hip-Hop, Soul, Reggae and Dance Floor. With his international success and popularity, Xavier Naidoo lent the projects both musical and media striking power. ”In those days we all had the feeling that any of us at anytime could be the victim, but we did not want to remain in the role of passive victims any longer:” 

When he joined Brothers Keepers, he suddenly had to refer to himself as African-German, whereas he had so far felt himself to be simply German. The pop star Xavier Naidoo with his Mannheim dialect is a role model German in the music branch. He has his inward peace from his faith in God. He has set himself apart from all trends and as a Soul Poet he has given many people hope with his Psalms.

Xavier Naidoo is the son of a South African woman and a father with some Indian ancestry. The mother is a Gospel singer and the father was a member of the Mannheim Men’s Choir. His love of music ties him to the memory of his father who died early in his life. Although he can’t read musical notes, he has been singing since his childhood in the choral society of his pupils’ band. In July 1998 his debut album came out and the success was pre-programmed. The album remained on the Top 20 for more than a year, the singles from it became hits, the song "Sie sieht mich nicht" (She doesn’t see me) achieved the platinum status, triumphed in tours and festival appearances, and the live album sold like hot cakes.

Xavier Naidoo, one of the most successful pop stars in Europe
The self-willed religiousness in his text has become Xavier Naidoo’s hallmark. They are like prayers set to music, but which one can also easily understand and interpret as love songs. Xavier Naidoo is today in league with the best international artists. The Soul Poet has become Germany’s most successful pop star. His album „Nicht von Dieser Welt“ ( Not of This World) sold a million. He has received prizes from Echo to MTV Awards. His style has been described as „soulful, coloured and faithful.” And Yes I Am! is not his first film.

Despite his popularity, Naidoo is still confronted with animosity and discrimination. “In many day to day situations, I’m mistaken for a black drug dealer,” he says, because he drives Porsches or dresses well. But he is actively engaged with other artists in the fight against right radical racism in East Germany, firmly believing in the Bible doctrine of loving your neighbour. Still he admits that his fury about the criminal deeds of these radical skinheads was what made him most determined to join and work with Brothers Keepers.

Xavier Naidoo in concert and at leisure

An Interview with Mr Sven Halfar, the Director of Yes I Am!

APKY:   Mr Sven Halfar, could you please tell me something about your life, how you got involved in scriptwriting and filming, and especially how you came to do the documentary Yes I Am?

SH:   I’ve been living with my wife and two children in Hamburg for fifteen years. After undergoing various trainings with film production and breaking off my studies in economics, I began studying film production in 1998 at the Hamburg Film Academy. During my studies, I got interested in scriptwriting and work as a director. All my filmlets were finally co-authored by myself and I worked as the director in many of them. The film for my diploma, “Ist Gut Jetzt”, where I was co-director, author and producer, won several renowned prizes. Then I started my own film production company and produced the film “30 Jahre Peter Maffey” which became nominated for the Bavarian Television Prize. I got out of the company in 2001 and produced a few music videos as the director. At the end of that year, in an interview by the weekly newsmagazine Spiegel titled Wir sind stolz Deutsche zu sein [We are proud to be Germans], with photos of two black people, Adé Odukoya and Xavier Naidoo, I had to change my view of German ness and rethink.
It awakened my interest and curiosity. I wanted to know more about what is really behind these people. Moreover as a film-maker I see it as my duty to argue with the relevant topics in social criticism. In this context, it doesn’t involve black or white, the colour is irrelevant and should play no role at all in the future. But that’s easier thought. None of them could really imagine that they would be portrayed by me in the politically correct way, and that I (white) would understand them as black Germans. It took a long time for me to win their trust – I never won the trust of some of them and that’s why they are not in the film. But after seeing the film, D-Flame, Mamadee and Adé were very happy over the results, especially about the kind of emotion and acceptance the film got. The film gives an insight in the growing up of black Germans without pointing a pedagogic finger and without the usual accusations from the ever boring viewpoint of the victimized – anyone – and everybody can identify with the film. The reason for this being that the personalities in the film are self-confident people who have found their inner peace. Out of this is a film that is personal, that tells the emotional family stories whose conflicts are familiar and can be related to by anybody.
APKY:   Did you know the main characters and their stories before deciding on doing the documentary? If not, how did you get to know them?

SH:   Before embarking on the film, I knew that Adé Odukoya, the founder of Brothers Keepers, would be the main protagonist. Of all the main characters, I knew his music and his name, and had a vague idea of his personality. Shortly before meeting him for the first time I informed myself through the internet about his life. Through his interviews and his music which I had bought for myself, I learnt enough to warrant a first appointment. His life had really touched me and there was a great urge to know more about him. Adé grew up in Nigeria. Following the murder of his father, his German mother and three siblings came back to Germany, the country they had left behind 15 years previously. I was from the very beginning very interested in the father-topic, because I could personally relate with the fact of growing up without a father. The feelings are the same whatever the colour of the skin. But the difference was that in the cases of all the three, fathers played a very big role in the search for the self-identity. They look in the mirror and are instantly reminded of the father because of their skin colour. Their mothers were not in a position to give them this identity. They [the mothers] were not prepared to travel to the countries where their fathers came from – apart from Adé’s mother! They [the mothers] had involved themselves so very little with African culture that they could not pass much on to them [the children].

D-Flame and Mamadee came into the scene later. I had previously talked with and interviewed many musicians from the bands projects of Brothers- and Sisters Keepers. Some, such as Germ, Samy de Luxe, Afrob or Meli, from Sisters Keepers, I accompanied for a long period of time. But finally in the cutting room, many have been carved out because their stories were very similar to those of D-Flame and Mamadee and would have made the film repetitive. My first meeting with Flame was rather cloaked in rejection and aggression. We were actually not far from bashing each other’s heads. It was basically triviality – he felt falsely understood and then directly provoked me. Today we laugh over it. The life of D-Flame, apart from the fact that I’m not black, is my life. I’ve also made a lot of shitty mistakes in my life than I really care for and my mother had often threatened me with her sending me to a home for good.

APKY:   In my opinion there are only two ethnic groups worldwide who are referred to or refer to themselves as skin colours: the so-called whites and the so-called blacks. What is your view of these artificial colour tags that do not in any way represent the reality or truth?

SH:   I’ve experienced the other extreme when I and Adé were in Nigeria with my [film] team. We were all white, everybody stared at us, but it was different from what goes on here for many blacks. We didn’t feel excluded or provoked by the Nigerians or offended. We were received and treated very respectfully and fondly. But here [Germany] it is the other way around. It became clear to me that in Germany people are first and foremost judged by their appearance. Too little is done to understand other people and above all too little contact is sought or made. We all suffer from a terrible fear of contact. We have to fight more for tolerance and togetherness and stop to think categorically in preconceived models. It is an unbelievable enrichment to speak with people who are at home in two cultures. First of all, people who are marginalised because of the way they look are often more German than everybody else, because they are constantly confronted with their German ness and a few other additional points, than the Germans. They bring with them so much knowledge and we could learn a lot from them – it broadens the mind and this is important in these times of radical changes. It is important to strengthen the feeling of sticking together; otherwise things are made easier for people with right radical racial leanings to draw disorientated young people into following them because the latter begin to believe that neither the public nor the state promises them much of a future. It is my wish that this film be seen and that it contributes its part in finally making a stop to the fact that people with other skin colours are hunted, beaten and murdered openly in the streets.
APKY:   You have been extremely diplomatic in answering this question and we all need a bit of diplomacy. For the time being, I’ll have the grace not to force any answers out of you that you’re not willing to voluntarily give. Thank you, Mr Halfar, for your cooperation.
An Interview with Mamadee, the female protagonist of Yes I Am!

APKY:   Mamadee, if you compare life in the former German Democratic Republic time and life today in a united Germany, are there differences? Are the differences positive or negative?

M:   I cannot answer this one in 5 sentences and it is sure not easy. But I will try my best! Important to know is that I was born in 1979 so I just was 10 years old living in a village when Germany became united. I was a child living in the GDR, so I am sure it was different. For example for my Mom, who was 34 years old and an adult in 1989.  Life in the GDR time from my viewpoint and memories: I had a protected and peaceful childhood and we (my 2 sisters and me) were accepted in our village. The state gave everybody in this country same conditions starting with the school system. We did not have private schools or Waldorf schools. There was one way for the school system. Or I remember that there were just two different kinds of cars (or TVs, couches, tables...) in the GDR. In case they – the people – could afford  a car, they drove a Trabant or a Wartburg. You had to order a Trabant 18 years before you could get it – really true! We did not have different brands for clothes, that was not important. Sure we tried to look good, but it was no pressure like today in FRG [Federal Republic of Germany] schools. We were proud to be "Pioneers ". You know, it was communism. Same chances for everybody. Positive is also that everybody had a job and I think because of that there was no poverty, not too much jealousy, no competition. At the same time we were not allowed to really leave this place. We could at best travel to countries like Hungary or Poland. My Mom never had the money for that with 3 children. If you had connections (which was important to have), you could get some fruits. Sometimes our relatives from West Germany sent us packages  full of West chocolates and other sweets, West coffee or little other things and I remember how the whole house smelled soooo good and intensively. That was very special for us and I do not smell this today any more, but I remember it. GDR – it was like a different planet, but that’s how we knew it.

APKY:   It would not be fair to ask you why there were shortages of banal commodities like fruits, chocolates and coffee, since you were only a child then, and secondly, you were not responsible for the system, but...

M:   After Germany became one in 1989 and we crossed the Wall for the first time, I realized how grey streets and buildings had been in the GDR, because West Germany felt like a dream I never even dreamed before. Everything was colourful and people smiled at us, they screamed "Welcome!!", everybody was given a "Greetings Money" and it was just amazing and almost a bit too much information. Soooo many choices of just about everything! I felt like Alice in Wonderland. After 1989, people [from the GDR] expected a lot from the freedom they had wanted for so long. Some could not feel this new way of life, because they were used to the old ways. People lost jobs, became disappointed [by unfulfilled] promises of the Federal State. The GDR people said: foreigners take our jobs away. Racism became more and more a major topic. We did not know this in the GDR. The [Berlin] Wall was standing from 1961-1989 and in this time people in West Germany developed differently from the people in East Germany.

APKY:   So your childhood was comparatively happy and protected in the GDR?

M:   Today, I often feel that I grew up [happily] in the GDR because it was not the dog-eat-dog society like [it is in the FRG]. It was more a helping-each-other (in my eyes) kind of society, and in some situations I think I am a bit naïve here. Sure we enjoy travelling, having new and enough possibilities! It is really hard to say, not that I wished [to have] the GDR back, but not everything there was bad!!

Mamadee (singer of the group Sisters Keepers), was ten when the GDR was reunited to the Federal Republic of Germany

APKY:   Do you often go to the East?
M:   Today I live in Cologne, since 1999, because I think it is a very tolerant city with different nationalities. You can tell that people are very open and do not [stare at] you that much, just because you look different. I love that! I do not live in the East because I am scared. Life isn't easy anyway, and the fact that my sisters and me had too many experiences with Nazis there or day to day racism, makes me not really want to move there again. We visit our Mom, who still lives there but we really do not try to go too much into the city [when we are in the East]. I think racism is an international problem and this movie [Yes I Am!] , is hopefully a next step and a next sign to show that we are all human beings, looking for identity and trying to struggle through life no matter whether we are black, white or green.

APKY: Peace, Mamadee, and thanks a lot for sharing your feelings with us.

Mamadee in action on stage

(Adé met Mamadee in a Soul & Jazz Club in Cologne, where she had made her first appearance as a singer. He introduced her to the female counterpart, Sisters Keepers. With and in this organisation, she had her first contact with Afro ancestral female musicians).  
Xavier in action on stage


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Darkest Europe … ”Europe’s politics in Europe & Africa and Africa’s politics in Africa & Europe.”

Bound to Tradition … “When a potential adoptive father & daughter experience forbidden attractions.”

Khiras Traum … “Rich man poor in love.”


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