Providing a voice for black students": Interview with Macromedia student Pamela Nyandoro"

Pamela Tafadzwa Nyandoro (age 27) studies Media and Communication Management on a Masters level at the Macromedia University in Berlin. Since June 2020 she is a student member of the Diversity Commission. She is a Zimbabwean national who is especially interested in informing members of the Macromedia University on current issues surrounding racism and how to combat them. She wants to help other students from African countries or of African descent to get necessary information and protective hints for finding a good way of studying in Germany and getting integrated into society as smoothly and comfortably as possible.

Talking to Prof. Dr. Gernot Wolfram, Pamela Tafadzwa Nyandoro answered some questions regarding her commitment at Macromedia University:

Pamela, would you like to tell us something about the reasons why you want to support the work of the Diversity Commission at Macromedia University?
Pamela Nyandoro
: At a time when the global pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement, which resurfaced more aggressively than before, are sitting at par on levels of global importance I have found it necessary to stand as a voice for black students at the university. It is simple to have blanket policies that protect and uphold the safety and comfort of students but the truth is that for centuries the marginalization that comes with skin of colour is very blatant. My aim is to assist the diversity commission through providing student intel on experiences and challenges they face here in Germany and providing a space where they can be comfortable enough to not only speak up but where they can also find a community with other Afro/African students.

Did you make any negative experiences so far in Germany?
Pamela Nyandoro
: Unfortunately I have had my fair share of negative experiences. I have had people pull my hair whilst I was walking or cover their noses when I was walking past or general poor service in stores, bars or restaurants. I recently walked into a wine store where I picked a bottle up and the teller looked at me and stated the price followed with the words, ‘I do not think you can afford that’.

What do you think the university can do to fight racism?
Pamela Nyandoro
: It begins with dialogue and basic conversations. Knowing what experiences students have is always a good start and lending an ear is the best way to understand how to address these grievances. Commissioning an Afro/African students club that can provide students with a basic directory of Afro/African stores, hair salons, best accommodation options etc. It is not an issue of further segregating but mostly on how to assist in providing a pleasant integration experience.

What are specific challenges Afro students face here in Germany?
Pamela Nyandoro
: I can not speak for all as I would not want to give guesses on what other individuals have faced but personally as an African female I have faced objectification due to my physical features, discrimination in stores because I guess in their minds the colour of my skin determines how much I can spend, anger when I can not articulate myself in German which also results in cold-shoulder interactions.

How can an institution avoid to just present "lip-service" as a reaction on incidents of racism? What kind of structural changes would you find important?
Pamela Nyandoro
: Speaking without a first-hand perspective creates a passive communicative path. A suggestion box model could help hear out the students. Additionally I think it is very necessary that there is a clear understanding of these racist issues from the top down because change requires knowledge of the situation. Racism is not new. Black oppression based off stereotypes and history is not new. These are cyclical problems that we face and they have a huge impact on our mental well-being. Having a registered psychologist/s of Afro heritage would also be a good way to offer help to those students who have depression or anxiety caused by negative experiences.

Thank you Pamela – we are looking forward to your contribution to our diversity commission.

(Gernot Wolfram)