‘Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up’ Exposure alumna anti-racism film released

May 13, 2021

Shakira Dyer outside Tottenham Hotspur stadium: photo by SparX Productions

Shakira Dyer launches bilingual film addressing discrimination in the UK and Germany

The ‘Wochen gegen Rassismus’ (Weeks against Racism) in Heidelberg, Germany is a period of action from March 15th to April 16th addressing the topic of racism in Germany and the whole of Europe.

As part of this, I – young Black German translator from Tottenham – and my German collaborator Jochen Kienzler – White event co-creator and blind accessibility official from the Beirat für Menschen mit Behinderung (Council of Disabled People) in Heidelberg, Germany – launched ‘Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up’.

This is a film exploring the impact of racism and the intricacies of Black identity in the UK and Germany, alongside the Zoom conference ‘Intellectualise my Blackness’, which explored the topics raised in more depth. You might notice that both titles are inspired by powerful songs by Black artists: those being Bob Marley, and Deborah Ann Dyer (aka Skin from multiracial rock band Skunk Anasie).

Racism is still sadly a worldwide problem and to highlight this the focus was on interviews with our guest speakers, from both the UK and Germany. Each had their own powerful messages, films, research and performance to bring.

Qays Moses Nsanja, young black filmmaker from Haringey spoke earnestly about his film series ‘UAHell’ discussing racism

Aicha Hasselbach, a German writer and singer at the Heidelberg Karlstorbahnhof Kulturhaus, explained her experiences with hair discrimination, calling for hair products in white-majority stylers, and more understanding of the effect of racism on people.

She explained that “people touching your hair, asking weird questions about it or making weird comments” had been an occurrence all her life, and highlighted her journey to pushing past the discrimination and celebrating Black hairstyles.

Qays Moses Nsanja, young black filmmaker from Haringey spoke earnestly about his film series ‘UAHell’ discussing racism, classism and the superficiality of addressing it at his former university. Read my film review for Exposure.

“You expect university to be this place that’s…inclusive and tolerant… yet sometimes I don’t feel that we’re really listened to… Teachers and even students can get away with being very elitist, racist and I feel that shouldn’t be happening in a place you’re meant to be safe.”

Qays has created a film company, ProQDuctions, and will launch the second part of UAHell ‘Race: Part 2’ in May.

Sandra Regina de Silva, Brazilian-German performer in Heidelberg, told us that she felt that Black people were rarely given control of their own stories in German theatre

‘Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up’ continued with a lecture by Floyd and Robin Anderson who explored the history of the religion Rastafarianism, how it didn’t just have its roots in Jamaica in the 1930s, but was also mentioned in the 1250 BCE Papyrus of Ani, in ancient Egypt. “Rasta was an order of priests in charge of enforcing righteousness,” they explained, drawing from books such as the Kebra Nagast and Rasology Keywords.

Sandra Regina de Silva, Brazilian-German performer in Heidelberg, told us that she felt that Black people were rarely given control of their own stories in German theatres, and her spoken-word piece ‘Utopie’ explored the way that this hidden discrimination “hides itself from the public.”

“Are we noticed? Are we listened to?” she asks, the film focusing on a central candle, with a portrait of Marielle Franco, black Brazilian activist, in the background.

I carried out the interviews in English, edited and translated the videos, and filmed part of the introduction in locations around Tottenham, including Tottenham Hotspur, the High Road and the Neighbourhood Resource Centre.

Meanwhile Jochen Kienzler established initial contact with the Internationales Zentrum (Heidelberg Intercultural Centre) from November (getting me into a Zoom chat with other German and international event creators to talk about our idea) acquired the German cooperation partners like freelance theatre practitioner Miriam Lembjadi, and the inclusive chior Beschwerdechor Heidelberg.

Jochen also helped organise the attendance of a later Zoom conference for our German-speaking audience, as I did with our English-speaking audience, and ensured the film was accessible, with German audio descriptions and summaries. He also decided that, as a White person, he didn’t want to be seen in the film, to direct attention to where it belonged: the Black communities of the UK and Germany.

I would recommend this film to anyone who wants to learn more about the continuing impact of racism around the world

We had discussions about what racism meant, what the scope of the film should be, the connections and differences between anti-racism and inclusion for disabled people.

I would recommend this film to anyone who wants to learn more about the continuing impact of racism around the world, and how it can be tackled with education, understanding and exploring other perspectives.

For a project we started since November 2020, during the pandemic, juggling international times, dodgy Internet connections, and even illness that meant one of the participants nearly couldn’t take part, I think it went pretty well, and I look forward to further connecting London and Heidelberg in the future.

Jochen and I are working in the Beschwerdechor Heidelberg on another exciting project. Hopefully more on this later!

The bibliography of ‘Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up’ is published on my Journalism and German blog, along with German translations, Easy Read (Einfache Sprache) summaries, and recordings of the audio descriptions in English.

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