Black Lives Matter – Allyship Workshop

Shamefully remembering its past, German society has marked racism as despicable and evil. While the condemnation is correct, that understanding has lead to an ignorance regarding the ongoing, sometimes involuntary racism in everyday life. Racism is far from over, but must be fought with courage and responsibility by all of us.

The Cologne based collective minha galera consists of about 30 people united in friendship and shared values, who organize diverse cultural events and shape their living and working environment towards the needs of a sustainable future. Doing so, the everyday discussion and exploration of societal issues is an intensive practice of the group. The brutal murder of George Floyd in Mai 2020 was the trigger for the collective to try its own examination of racism. The common understanding being absolute rejection and condemnation of any form of racism. The protests all over the world, following up on the murder of yet another Black Person, added to the already existing feeling of having to intensify the confrontation with racism.

On June 8th 2020, the collective called for a workshop at their venue and workshop area Hasenkaule, to discuss the topic and then create a protest action. The participants were invited verbally from the circle of acquaintances. Being an active member of minha galera, Leo Le Bot co-organized the workshop and created a visual for the protest action with fellow designer Johannes Mechler. The visual was printed on paper and clothing the same day, over the course of an integrated screen printing skill sharing also guided by Johannes Mechler and Leo Le Bot. The Products were then sold online and at the collectives retail shop minhafaktur, to collect donations for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The workshop started by having an open discussion about racism and how to best approach the topic. While initially devastated by the obvious most recent racist violence in the United States, the group soon questioned their own behavior and supposed security, realizing already the voluntary nature of dealing with racism being a white privilege. The issue of racism often presents itself as being a simple matter of good and evil, while in reality is far more complex.

The Video shows fragments of the group discussion leading towards the protest action. It illustrates personal insecurities and thoughts, highlighting the open and honest talk about societal and individual wrong doing, as absolutely essential. It seeks to empower a culture of communication, that is brave enough to make and admit its mistakes. Racism is reaching far beyond the typically associated right wing extremist into the very middle of society. Drifting from anger and despair towards guilt and perplexity, the talk ended with a feeling of collective responsibility.

Concluding the first part of the workshop, the group formulated statements and hashtags, that fit their understanding of the issue. „Wir stehen hinter euch“ (we support you / we got your back) describes the allyship in anti-racism. #itsinthesystem and #quitracsim express the urgency to address structural and systemic racism and its absolut wrongness. In the second part of the workshop, these statements were then visualized in a variety of ways by all the participants, using traditional paper cut stencil making for screen printing and spray paint.

The whole group agreed on ultimately using a visual created by Johannes Mechler and Leo Le Bot for the production of high quality prints on A2 paper and cotton shirts. The visual was cut from a single piece of black paper, partly extended by pieces of different textured foils. It shows two humans, who embrace each other in sprawling movement, surrounded by further human extremities. Thus the issue of racism is declared to a matter of relevance and field of action for everybody to join in.

While one of the humans in centre is textured in a variety of patterns, the other one is left completely blank. In combination with form and movement of the figures, that contrast illustrates inclusivity and respectful support.

The screen printed posters and shirts were produced at the screen printing workshop area at Hasenkaule, using water based ink and second hand textiles only. The graphic emphasizes the collectives process of producing. Screen printing is easily teachable and the whole group was able to participate in the process of creating the screens and printing.

By promoting the clothing and paper prints on social media, minha galera was able to collect 800 € for donation. The money was then given to the campaign KOP – Berlin/Bremen & Kiel, a campaign for victims of racist police violence, which aims to counter institutional racism on various levels and thus break the racist normal state. Specifically, the groups address, among other things, the police practice of racial profiling, the documentation and clarification of racist police attacks and assaults, as well as the accompaniment of victims and referral to counseling centers. The whole process of the workshop, the production and the collection of donations, was designed to be completely transparent. Every collective decision was communicated officially via the minha galera Instagram channel.