Writer, Bola Agbaje returns to the Royal Court in a new play Belong: a co-production with Tiata Fahodzi.
Election lost, speeches made and controversy stirred – Kayode’s hiding. He’s not even answering the door to the cleaner, and Rita is not going to start getting out the Hoover in her designer heels. Escaping the political heat in London he flees to Nigeria – a British MP and a self-made man. Once there, he gets caught up in a whole new power game.
Bola Agbaje’s satirical new play questions our notion of home.
26 April – 26 May at Royal Court Theatre
Tickets £20 / £15 / Mondays all tickets £10
Royal Court, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS
020 7565 5000 www.royalcourttheatre.com
As Lionel Ritchie prepares to return to Wales as part of his latest UK tour, he talks to Gavin Allen about his career renaissance, his love life and the death of black music
FOR a man synonymous with romantic ballads, Lionel Ritchie hasn’t been particularly lucky in love.
Ritchie started his career writing up-tempo club tunes with The Commodores, but found his niche as a solo artist with the likes of Hello and Endless Love; he is the smoothest of the smoothies.
Ritchie has lost count of the number of times strangers have told him they do the most intimate of things while his music is playing, which is a little too much information for a man who will be 60 in June.
“It’s too much information when it’s a 250lb man saying ‘I have made love to you many times Lionel’,” he chuckles.
“But on the other hand it also makes me nervous when ladies say ‘I’ve had four babies by you’. As long as their last names are not Ritchie I can handle that, but I brought a lot of babies into the world.”
Like many West European nations, Germany established colonies in Africa in the late 1800s in what later became Togo, Cameroon, Namibia, and Tanzania.
German genetic experiments began there, most notably involving prisoners taken from the 1904 Heroro Massacre that left 60,000 Africans dead, following a 4-year revolt against German colonisation. After the crushing defeat Germany received in World War I, it was stripped of its African colonies in 1918.
As a spoil of war, the French were allowed to occupy Germany in the Rhineland – a bitter fought piece of land that has gone back and forth between the two nations for centuries. The French willfully deployed their own colonised African soldiers as the occupying force.
Germans viewed this as the final insult of World War I, and, soon thereafter, 92% of them voted in the Nazi party.
Hundreds of the African Rhineland-based soldiers intermarried with German women and raised their children as Black Germans. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote about his plans for these “Rhineland Bastards”. When he came to power, one of his first directives was aimed at these mixed-race children.
Underscoring Hitler’s obsession with racial purity, by 1937, every identified mixed-race child in the Rhineland had been forcibly sterilized, in order to prevent further “race polluting”, as Hitler termed it.
Hans Hauck, a Black Holocaust survivor and a victim of Hitler’s mandatory sterilisation program, explained in the film “Hitler’s Forgotten Victims” that, when he was forced to undergo sterilisation as a teenager, he was given no anaesthetic.?Once he received his sterilisation certificate, he was “free to go”, so long as he agreed to have no sexual relations whatsoever with Germans.
Although most Black Germans attempted to escape their fatherland, heading for France where people like Josephine Baker were steadily aiding and supporting the French Underground, many still encountered problems elsewhere. Nations shut their doors to Germans, including the Black ones.
Some Black Germans were able to eke out a living during Hitler’s reign of terror by performing in Vaudeville shows, but many Blacks, steadfast in their belief that they were German first, Black second, opted to remain in Germany. Some fought with the Nazis (a few even became Lutwaffe pilots)!
Unfortunately, many Black Germans were arrested, charged with treason, and shipped in cattle cars to concentration camps. Often these trains were so packed with people and (equipped with no bathroom facilities or food), that, after the four-day journey, box car doors were opened to piles of the dead and dying.
Once inside the concentration camps, Blacks were given the worst jobs conceivable. Some Black American soldiers, who were captured and held as prisoners of war, recounted that, while they were being starved and forced into dangerous labour (violating the Geneva Convention), they were still better off than Black German concentration camp detainees, who were forced to do the unthinkable-man the crematoriums and work in labs where genetic experiments were being conducted.
As a final sacrifice, these Blacks were killed every three months so that they would never be able to reveal the inner workings of the “Final Solution”.
In every story of Black oppression, no matter how we were enslaved, shackled, or beaten, we always found a way to survive and to rescue others. As a case in point, consider Johnny Voste, a Belgian resistance fighter who was arrested in 1942 for alleged sabotage and then shipped to Dachau. One of his jobs was stacking vitamin crates. Risking his own life, he distributed hundreds of vitamins to camp detainees, which saved the lives of many who were starving, weak, and ill-conditions exacerbated by extreme vitamin deficiencies. His motto was “No, you can’t have my life; I will fight for it.”
According to Essex University’s Delroy Constantine-Simms, there were Black Germans who resisted Nazi Germany, such as Lari Gilges, who founded the Northwest Rann – an organisation of entertainers that fought the Nazis in his home town of Dusseldorf – and who was murdered by the SS in 1933, the year that Hitler came into power.
Little information remains about the numbers of Black Germans held in the camps or killed under the Nazi regime. Some victims of the Nazi sterilisation project and Black survivors of the Holocaust are still alive and telling their story in films such as “Black Survivors of the Nazi Holocaust”, but they must also speak out for justice, not just history.
Unlike Jews (in Israel and in Germany), Black Germans receive no war reparations because their German citizenship was revoked (even though they were German-born). The only pension they get is from those of us who are willing to tell the world their stories and continue their battle for recognition and compensation.
After the war, scores of Blacks who had somehow managed to survive the Nazi regime, were rounded up and tried as war criminals. Talk about the final insult! There are thousands of Black Holocaust stories, from the triangle trade, to slavery in America, to the gas ovens in Germany. We often shy away from hearing about our historical past because so much of it is painful; however, we are in this struggle together for rights, dignity, and, yes, reparations for wrongs done to us through the centuries. We need to always remember so that we can take steps to ensure that these atrocities never happen again.