February 2017
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728  

My Article on Black Lives in Germany Published by The Root

Working in mass media often means making a choice: do you work for smaller outlets with less reach but who will give you more control and depth or do you seek to publish your work in bigger media, if you’re lucky enough to get them interested?

With my project on Afro-Europeans I have experienced the best of both worlds. Last year I produced a multi-part radio series that aired on KSFR’s Here and There with Dave Marash.

This week an article based on that work was published in The Root, America’s leading African American news website.

Both experiences have been great. I enjoyed the ability to dive deeply through the radio pieces and I’m very excited that this work will have a larger audience online!

Overwatch

And, as always… El Comandante

Swinging for the Fences

Cuba is one of the few countries as excited about baseball as America.

Primary Colors

Cuba had some of the richest colors I’ve ever seen.

A New Vision

Cuba doesn’t have billboards selling soft drinks or cars but they do have some very interesting murals.

Havana Days

A visit by an American President for the first time in nearly a century is a good reason for me to think back to my time in Cuba.

So this week I’ll be posting images from the island. And why not have a read too while you’re at it?

Listen Up!

I’m excited to announce that an audio artwork I’ve created has been featured on Earlid! It’s an online gallery of evolving exhibits of sound art. I’m one of ten artists selected for their second Liminal Sounds exhibition and I hope you’ll take a listen.

Growing up I always listened to the radio as I fell asleep. Sometimes I’d tune into the local news channel; other times it would be classical music or jazz. But I always had something playing in the background.

When I began work on The Europeans I brought an audio recorder with me. At first it was just to record the interviews I did for the articles I occasionally wrote but soon I began collecting ambient audio as well for no particular reason. As my project evolved I realized that I could use these words and sounds to, along with my photographs, help connect the viewer to a time and place they had never been. This piece you hear is a shorter version of an hour long audio installation I’ve created. I’m looking forward to exploring the nexus of imagery and sound more deeply as I complete this project.

Death Be Not Proud

Last year while I was back in New York a very good friend died and I’ve been struggling with his death ever since. It was both unexpected and predictable as he was struggling with a long term illness. As we age the people around us begin to leave us. Usually at first it’s a relative, a grandparent or uncle. As we reach our teens and twenties a few of us will be shocked by the death of someone our own age or a parent. As we get to our thirties and beyond the actuarial tables only become more demanding as we start to see co-workers, friends and family members pass away.

For me I’ve had three close friends who have died before their 50th birthday and before I reached my 40th. The reasons were as varied as the lives they led. Some knew what was coming and prepared themselves; others had no warning.

This latest death was the most difficult for me because he was the closest of them all. For twenty years, more than half my life and certainly all of my adult life, he was there like an older brother and mentor. The simple idea that there was someone who I could both call on and count on was a revelation to my seventeen year-old self. As we grew older we actually grew closer, another revelation though like so many others in his life I always felt he kept some part of himself hidden. That part I would learn in the last years of his life was his disease.

But even with that remove we shared a great deal. I left and traveled and lived abroad but he was, above all others, the person I stayed closest to despite our lack of physical proximity.

And now he’s gone.

Every day I find myself wanting to share something strange or interesting I discovered online. Every week I think of the trips that we planned but never got to take together, his disease a constant impediment. Every month I find myself wondering what more I could have done to help him (the answer is always the same: nothing).

And so I find myself wandering through life knowing that his laughter and wisdom is forever beyond me and I find that a difficult future to reconcile myself to.

For me death always begs the question: are you really living your life? We live in the belief that our time, while not infinite, extends well beyond the horizon we can now observe. But my growing experience and loss tells me that is far from true.

So I check myself and ask if I’m happy. Am I doing what I find rewarding? If I died tomorrow would I have regrets?

Of course. For me it’s less about what I have not done but more about what I have yet to do. I’m largely lived life on my own terms and been rewarded, if not financially then certainly emotionally. Every day I wake up and know how lucky I’ve been and how fortunate I am.

But a new chapter will start in my life soon and for the first time as an adult my path is unclear. And my lighthouse has been obscured by the fog of death. But I must continue to blunder through, trying in vain to remember the directions I’ve been given and recall the destination.

But for all that I have what death cannot rob me of until its steals away my own breath. I have the years and the memories and the way his life shaped my own.

Past to Present

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day! As an aside can you believe it’s 2016? Growing up in the 1980’s it was hard enough to imagine the year 2000 and here we are beyond 2015. One of the problems I have is keeping in perspective everything I’ve accomplished in a year when all I can think about is what I did not get done that I wanted to. So it’s good to take a moment to remember what I actually did last year.

I made a short!

Time Will Tell is an experimental short I wrote, shot and directed. It’s actually a kind of test for another project I’d like to do some day. It was also a test for me. Having worked in journalism and documentary for so long it was interesting to push myself into the narrative world.

I went to Ireland and had a show and a talk!

The Europeans was featured in The Irish Times as well.

And we had a great discussion about the Future of Europe and Ireland’s Place in it.

Then I returned to Germany and went to Poland to explore the lives of people of African descent in a three part series that aired on KSFR’s Here and There with Dave Marash.

I wrote about the closing of Europe’s open door recently for the World Policy Blog and talked about it on the World Policy On Air podcast.

So, while I didn’t get everything that I wanted accomplished it was still a busy and productive year. I’m hoping that 2016 is even better!

Refugees Welcome?

It’s strange when something you’ve been paying attention to for a long time suddenly becomes interesting to those around you.

But Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis has become large enough that even though who don’t want to are paying attention. I wrote about the closing of Europe’s open door recently for the World Policy Blog and talked about it on the World Policy On Air podcast. I hope you take some time to read and listen.

A late night on the streets of Vienna. © Damaso Reyes

The City of Light

Paris is a place I’ve spent some time but not nearly enough. It’s hard to see a place that you are familiar with suffer. From my own experience in New York during September 11th it seems clear that both war and terrorism impacts the innocent the most.

Hearing Black Lives

For those of you who missed my three part series about the experiences of people of African descent in Germany and Poland that aired on KSFR’s Here and There with Dave Marash you’re in luck! You can now listen to all three programs.

Click here to listen to my report about West Germany.

Click here to listen to my report about East Germany.

Click here to listen to my report about Poland.

Each story is accompanied by a discussion with the legendary Dave Marash through which we dig deeper into the issues raised in each report. Thanks for listening!

Poland For Poles

Tonight the third and final radio documentary piece, this time focusing on the lives and experiences of people of African descent in Poland airs at 7:05pm Eastern time on ksfr.org.

“The system didn’t support racism officially but the wave… after the fall of this system… people felt free… there are this group of people that think ‘now we are free now we can be like the rest of white people.. we can be racists’ and these skinheads started developing rampantly.” -Larry Okey Ugwu, Afro-Polish artist.

Join me in an exploration of a hidden history…

“As a child there were some times that I just wanted to be white and normal… I just wanted to be and have all this problem go away just be accepted by the rest of the kids.” -Damian Abushe, Afro-Polish hacktavist.

East Is East

Part two of my three part radio documentary series airs on KSFR.org at 7:05pm Eastern Time on Here and There with Dave Marash. Today we’ll hear the stories of people of African descent who grew up under Communist Rule in East Germany. Unlike in West Germany, where the influence of American soldiers was widely felt, in East Germany it was the thousands of students brought from Africa to study that laid the basis for that nation’s Afro-German population.

Aminata Cisse Schleicher

“Sometimes I felt something without being aware of what it was exactly. I thought it depended on my color somehow but because it was a socialist or a kind of communist country and it was said that everybody is treated equal and there is no racism and there is no discrimination at all… It was more or less not allowed this kind of feelings. It was even problematic to talk to my mother about this,” Aminata Cisse Schleicher told me.

The Lives of Black Folks

You might have noticed a decrease in posts over the past few months. That’s because this summer I spent several weeks working on a series of radio documentaries about the history and experiences of people in color in Germany and Poland thanks to a Holbrooke Fellowship from the International Center for Journalists.

Today the first of these three documentaries airs of KSFR Santa Fe on Here and There, hosted by Dave Marash at 5:05 p.m. Mountain Time/7:05 p.m. Eastern Time and you’ll be able to listen to the podcast of each show here. Following each of the documentaries Dave and I talk about what I found and expand upon the profound stories that each of my interview subjects shared. In total I interviewed over three dozen people for these reports and while many people’s stories didn’t make it to air I know I learned from everyone I spoke to and I thank them deeply.

Thomas Hurst for example spoke about the mental health impact of growing up biracial in Germany had on him.

Afro-German Thomas Hurst stands in front of a section of the old Berlin Wall.

“I believe there is some post traumatic stress syndrome as a part of growing up in Germany. You never know if you can go through the day without any racism. I really believe I do have some mental problems a part of racism.”

Fashion designer Tanja Herring at a show.

Fashion designer Tanja Herring spoke about a multi-generational struggle for acceptance.

“I would say I’m nation-less. The Blacks don’t really accept you because you’re too light and the white people say ‘no you’re too dark for us’…. You always feel kind of lonely.”

These are just a few of the stories you’ll hear today. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!