On the 23rd of August 2020, on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, the seventh M-Street Renaming Festival took place on Hausvogteiplatz in Berlin. The festival chooses this date to honour the beginnings of the uprising in what was then Santo Domingo (today’s Haiti and the Dominican Republic), which served as a catalyst for movements to abolish the transatlantic slave trade.
The alliance of organisations working under the Decolonize Berlin e.V. host the festival in order to draw attention to ongoing colonial entanglements and traces of racism in the city, and to call for change – specifically to change the discriminatory name of Berlin’s M-Street. This year was marked as exceptional after the announcement made by the city earlier in the preceding week that the hard work of the member organisations had finally paid off. M-Street is set to be renamed to honour the philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo, Germany’s first Black university scholar! Amo was chosen to represent the long-standing but oft-elided presence of Black people in Prussia, and to remind of the ongoing resistance to racist discrimination – whose tangible evidence is discernible in the fact that M-Street has carried the name of a racial slur up to the year 2020.
The day’s events began with a demonstration opposite the Humboldt Forum, to speak out against the monument to colonialism being put together there. The protestors walked to Hausvogteiplatz, where a screen broadcast the interventions/performances of Philip Kojo Metz and Monilola Ilupeju in an exhibition about the slave trade at Berlin’s Museum of Technology. The work of the artists involves the removal of this problematic exhibition. Their engagement forms part of a cooperation with the larger initiative Dekoloniale Erinnerungskultur in der Stadt, which will organise various events throughout the coming four and a half years.
Representatives of the organisations of the work that has served to achieve the promised renaming of M-Street gave speeches, including Tahir Della of ISD (Initiative of Black Germans) and Mnyaka Sururu Mboro of Berlin Postkolonial, and there were several podium discussions with artists and activists from Berlin and beyond engaged in related work. All of them reminded the audience that the renaming is a huge achievement, but the struggle against racism continues. The festivities wound down with music in the square.