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By Cassandra Ellerbe-Dueck
(9 February 2014)
It’s me Cassandra. So much has happened in my life since that spring evening in Munich in 1988 where you convinced me to interpret your poetry into a language (German) that I did not speak perfectly at the time. Nevertheless, you demanded that a Black woman interpret your words. I was scared out of my wits, but you insisted that I do it. This, in my eyes was an unforgettable act of love and trust, and the psychological effects of that evening still remain with me today. Your gift of love and confidence has served me in innumerable ways and became the wind beneath my wings. It was your coming to Munich back then to do that poetry reading that led me to my “Sistahs” Judy, Ria and Jasmine. And we are still hanging tight!
Ten years after your transition, the universe arranged for me to meet Sistah Gloria Wekker in the Netherlands. Your beloved Sistergirl was a Professor in Utrecht and she guided and advised me through all the ups and downs of the PhD process. And honestly speaking, had it not been for her tough love and support, I am not sure that I would have finished my PhD at all. So you see Audre, my sisterhood and friendship with these women represents your vision of Black women and women of color coming together to create powerful and meaningful transnational connections across the globe.
Just recently, as I am sure you know, Brother Amiri Baraka also joined the world of the ancestors. And he too, just like you, mentored and inspired an entire generation. Many of these individuals came out to sing his praises. However, one of the Brothers from Amiri’s inner circle claimed during an interview that he knew of no other Black intellectual that could combine scholarship, activism and art like Brother Amiri.
Well Audre, I had to shake my head in disbelief. Because this Brother’s statement clearly demonstrated that while he appeared to be well versed on African-American intellectual life- and I am willing to cut a “Brotha” some slack- he somehow managed to overlook your activist – artist-scholar legacy and that of many of our Sisters. The equal recognition of Black female achievement is definitely still on the agenda.
Oh how we miss you Audre! We could sure use your words of wisdom, laughter and love in helping us to navigate the current trials and tribulations that we still have to deal with in this new millennium. There are malevolent forces that do not wish to see us excel or thrive. But, it is good to know that we have the possibility to reach out to our matrilineal inheritance and call upon our Foremothers in this realm and beyond to give us strength and to help us stand strong. Times are tough, but I know in my heart and soul that your Spirit is still amongst us. And that Audre – makes me smile and gives me peace.
I wish you love from the bottom of my heart on your 80th birthday, and I know that we all shall meet again. A luta continua!!!
Much love and Aché,
Dr. Cassandra Ellerbe-Dück studied at the universities of Paris (VIII) in France, and the LMU in Munich, Germany (M.A). In 2006 she completed a PhD in Comparative Cultural Studies/Anthropology at the University of Ghent, Belgium. Cassandra has worked as a researcher in various cross-border EU funded projects, and was appointed by the University of Southampton, U.K. as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (2007-2010) for the EU Sixth Framework Project: SeFoNE. “Searching for Neighbours: The Dynamics of Mental and Physical Border in the New Europe”: www.sefone.soton.ac.uk where she researched African diasporic women’s networks in Germany, Austria & Switzerland.
Since November 2010 she has held the position of Diversity Manager for City Marketing Mannheim, LLC in Mannheim, Germany where she organized several conferences on the topic of diversity in the Rhine-Neckar metropolis region. Cassandra is a certified diversity trainer, board member of the Eine Welt der Vielfalt e.V. Berlin (A World of Difference) and academic Fellow at the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies and network member of the Black Diaspora in Germany Scholars Project funded by the German Research Foundation: http://www.blackdiasporaandgermany.com