On Tuesday, March 8, a screening of the film Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years, 1984-1992 and a Q+A with director Dagmar Schultz and co-script author Ika Hügel-Marshall was held in the Lecture Center.
“The film documents the legacy that is Audre Lorde, but it also does more than that,” said Vanessa Plumly, German Lecturer and Program Coordinator who organized the event. “It archives the coming out of Black Germans, and their creation of a space and place for the articulation of the self.”
Plumly planned to host a campus-wide screening of the film to coincide with her honors course that focuses on postwar Germany. When she found out via Facebook that Schultz (the director of the film, whom she has known since 2011 when she began research as a doctoral student of Black German Studies) and her partner, Hügel-Marshall, were going to be in New York for a screening of the film, she invited them to campus for the event.
“The only day they could make it up to New Paltz from the city was March 8, which of course aligned with International Women’s Day,” Plumly said. “What better day to invite two life-long German feminists and anti-racist activists to campus than this one?”
Audre Lorde, the subject of the film, played a key role in shaping the Black German Women’s movement back in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years, 1984-1992 highlights the years Lorde spent in Germany and follows her legendary presence in these movements.
“Lorde is a pillar whose wisdom and actions are uplifting and encouraging in times of seeming despair,” Plumly said. “She incites everyone to think and act, rather than to remain silent and complicit.”
At the screening, the room was filled with students, many of whom had learned about Lorde and the Black German Women’s Movement in classes. Students in Plumly’s postwar honors course, which explored the anti-racist activism in the Black German community, have been discussing figures like Lorde, Schultz, and Hügel-Marshall and their work throughout the semester.
“The film humanizes Audre Lorde, which we sometimes forget about while studying history; that these people exist outside of their famous works,” said third-year mathematics and history major, Conor O’Riordan.
Some of the students in attendance, including O’Riordan, were given the opportunity to take Schultz and Hügel-Marshall on a tour of the display case exhibition at the Sojourner Truth Library, which was designed by Plumly’s students and is currently running until March 31.
“The current library displays are made by the class on several of these topics,” O’Riordan said. “That is why it was a wonderful experience meeting people who have been the focus of my studies, in particular Ika Hügel-Marshall.”
Overall, the event was a major success. Many students were able to address Schultz and Hügel-Marshall directly, asking them questions about the film, their work, and the Black German Women’s movement. Often times, Schultz acted as a translator for Hügel-Marshall, who speaks mostly German.
“The film and its topic are inherently interdisciplinary,” Plumly said. “I believe that every person who was in attendance at the event, regardless of their position in this world, can find something of value in the film and take away food for thought.”