Lt. Gen. Nadja West has been appointed as the Army’s 44th Surgeon General. With this appointment comes a promotion to lieutenant general, which makes West the Army’s first black female 3-star general as well as the highest ranking female of any race to graduate from West Point.
West started as a child in Germany five decades ago. She came into the world a mischlingskinder or “brown baby”—one of many children borne of liaisons between African American servicemen and German women. Orphaned as a baby, she was adopted at nine months by Oscar and Mabel Grammer. Oscar Grammer worked as a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Army. Mabel Grammer was a civil rights activist and journalist who, at one point, wrote for the Afro American Newspapers. Together the couple adopted 12 children; West was the youngest.
On Tuesday, February 9 (2016), Lt. Gen Nadja West will be honored in an official ceremony. The promotion and ceremony follows the 54-year-old’s confirmation by the Senate as the new Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) as of December. As such, West will be assisting and advising the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff in relation to all health care matters in the Army, in addition to overseeing development, organization, policy direction, and other matters relative to the Army-wide health care systems.
“I was once an orphan with an uncertain future,” said West of the promotion and the new responsibilities facing her in the future. “And I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead such a distinguished team of dedicated professionals who are entrusted with the care of our nation’s sons and daughters, veterans and family members. While our Army and our nation face tough challenges in the future, I am confident that collectively we have the right skills, commitment, and talent to meet those challenges with mission success,” she added.
The Washington D.C. area-native holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Doctorate of Medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine. She has held previous assignments as Commanding General, Europe Regional Medical Command; Commander of Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Division Surgeon, 1st Armored Division, Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany. Originally published here.
Black History in the making!
Lt. General Nadja West,
We Salute You!
BGCS fully supports the 2015 Adoptee Citizenship Act (S.2275). This Act is a critically needed piece of legislation pertaining to the lives of thousands of adults who were brought to the US for adoption as children, were never fully naturalized as citizens by their adoptive parents, and then fell through the cracks of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. These adults now face risk of deportation and cannot fully participate as citizens in U.S. society: they cannot vote or obtain passports, and often face difficulties in opening bank accounts, securing financial aid, obtaining a driver’s license, joining the military, obtaining marriage licenses, and finding jobs.
The 2015 Adoptee Citizenship Act closes the loophole created in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which failed to include those over age 18 at the time the Act came into effect when granting automatic citizenship. While the Act does not resolve all citizenship loopholes for internationally adopted adults, it is a major step forward in equality and justice for many.
BGCS suggests that individuals exercise caution and restraint in making decisions and taking any action in support or opposition to any legislation until they have fully educated themselves on the purpose and impact of it. We recommend that you read the actual bill, the current laws it will change, and the opinions of a variety of commentators, both for and against any legislation.
The Adoptee Citizenship Act can be found HERE. If you would like to contact your legislators to express your support for or opposition to this bill, you can look them up HERE.
Black German Cultural Society Banquet March 2015
Honoring Our Own ~ Honoring Each Other
With hearts filled with joy, compassion and understanding, German-born, Post WWII, US Occupation Babies, stand shoulder to shoulder in recognition and honor. This, in of itself, would have been enough. However, the evening was this, and so much more.
Brown Baby, Save The Children Melody by Diana Ross
(BGCS BANQUET 2015 THEME SONG)
Listen as you peruse our wonderful photographs.
ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHS CAN BE VIEWED ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE.
02/28/2015: UPDATE: WE ARE FILLED TO CAPACITY! A HARDY THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SUPPORTED THIS EFFORT!
“HONORING OUR OWN – HONORING EACH OTHER”
Honoring all Afro-German children, so-called German ‘Brown Babies’,
born to German women and African American soldiers in post WWII Germany.
“WE ACKNOWLEDGE YOU. WE CELEBRATE YOU. WE HONOR YOU.”
Additional details at BGCS BANQUET
If you have any questions please contact Founding President Shirley Gindler-Price at 267-251-7331 or email BGCSbanquet@gmail.com
BGCS™ German ‘Brown Baby’ Exhibit. The display of post WWII Afro-German children has become a popular exhibit at the Black History and Culture Showcase in Philadelphia , PA. Hundreds of people flock to hear about the mixed-race children fathered by African American soldiers in post-WWII Germany; many of whom were adopted by African American families and immigrated to the United States.
The Civil Rights Act was signed 50 years ago in the White House in Washington DC on July 2nd, 1964. Two Afro-Germans, Jeannine and John Kantara, husband and wife living in Germany, were asked to write about the state of civil rights in Germany for the Morgan State University‘s Winter 2014: Morgan Global Journalism Review on civil rights. Their contribution is the featured article in the Review and is a must read for anyone interested in the historic as well as the present-day experiences of people of color in Germany.
Mischlingskinder – What Civil Rights Means to Mixed-Race Germans – Civil Rights in Postwar Germany to Present. To read please click HERE or on the cover image:
Jeannine Kantara is an activist and co-founder of the Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland – ISD-Bund eV (the Initiative Black People in Germany) and the black German magazine afro-look. She has written for the Die Zeit, a national weekly newspaper, as well as the daily newspaper Tageszeitung. She is also a contributing author to Black Berlin – The German metropolis and her African diaspora in the past and present.
John Amoateng Kantara is an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Berlin, specializing in science and technology. He has been recognized by the German Academy for Technological Sciences, won the prestigious George-von-Holtzbrink Prize for Science Journalism and the German Journalism Prize for Space and Aeronautics. In 2013, the Otto-Brenner Foundation awarded Kantara with the prize in critical journalism for his documentary Killing Via Joystick – the Drone War and its Consequences.
From the archives of Kantara Films & Documentaries: 1971 Film About Black Germans
Günther Kaufmann, Afro-German Actor & Singer
(June 16, 1947 – May 10, 2012)
Günther Kaufmann (16 June 1947 – 10 May 2012), was what the Germans call a “Besatzungskind” (war or occupation child), one of thousands of children born between 1945 and 1949 as a result of relationships between German women and American soldiers. The son of an African American soldier and a German mother, Günther Kaufmann was born in June 1947 in the Hasenbergl district of Munich. Kaufmann’s father, whom he never knew, returned to the US before he was born in Munich. As a Mischlingskinder (mixed race child), he faced a difficult childhood and youth in postwar West Germany.
“The White Negro of Hasenberg, is the title of his autobiography. In the 70s and 80s, he starred in 16 Rainer-Werner Fassbinder films, including “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” “The Marriage of Maria Braun” and “Querelle”. In the ’90s he had roles in TV series including “Derrick” and “The Old Man”.
In November 2002, for the love of his terminally ill wife, he falsely confessed to causing the death of his accountant, Hartmut Hagen, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He confessed to the deed even though he was not guilty because he wanted to protect his cancer-stricken third wife, Alexandra, who had induced three accomplices to carry out the crime. By deception, she had received a loan of 850,000 marks from the accountant, who later pressed for its return. He was later killed after three men entered his house to destroy incriminatory evidence; Kaufmann wanted to spare his wife the ordeal of dying in prison.
After spending almost three years in prison, he was released in 2005 after the real criminals were exposed. The following year he was in court again because his original false statement had resulted in two others being held on remand. He was given a suspended sentence of 22 months.
After his release, he resumed his career, notably performing in the German children’s films “Vicky the Viking” (2009) and Michael “Bully” Herbig’s, the “Terrible Sven.”
Kaufmann, was a singer as well, which was showcased in three of Fassbinder’s films. He sang the opening theme song for Whity. However, his best song was, “So Much Tenderness,” written by Peer Raben and Fassbinder.
Kaufmann died on the evening of 10 May 2012 at the age of 64 having suffered a heart attack while out for a walk in the Grunewald locality of Berlin. A passer-by and paramedics tried to resuscitate him on site for two hours.
He is survived by his son, Davy and daughter Eva.
Tribute to Günther Kaufmann by Tyron Ricketts, Black German Actor, Musician & Activist
Günther Kaufmann & son David Kaufmann, a Musician and Entertainer
We Honor & Remember Mr. Günther Kaufmann!
Valaida Snow: The Queen of Trumpet and Song
“Singer, trumpeter and dancer. Child star, jazz pioneer and world traveler. Legend and myth. If Valaida Snow’s life wasn’t already sensational enough, she sensationalized it further, freely evading and embellishing the truth of her triumphs, trials and tribulations. But even after her life has been measured against the historical record, it remains a grand and compelling tale, and Valaida herself a grand and compelling figure,” reads the write-up on the back cover of Canada’s great jazz writer Mark Miller’s High Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm: The Life And Music Of Valaida Snow (2007).
Born in 1904 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ms. Valaida Snow was an African-American globetrotting jazz musician, entertainer, and instrumentalist. She was raised on the road in a show-business family. A child prodigy, she learned to play cello, bass, banjo, violin, mandolin, harp, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone at professional levels by the time she was 15. She also sang and danced. After focusing on the trumpet, she quickly became so famous at the instrument that she was named “Little Louis” after Louis Armstrong, who used to call her the world’s second best jazz trumpet player besides himself.
She played concerts throughout the USA, Europe and China. Her most successful period was in the 1930’s when she became the toast of London and Paris. Around this time she recorded her hit song “High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm”. She performed in the Ethel Waters show Rhapsody in Black, in New York.
Valaida Snow~High Hat Trumpet & Rhythm~1935
In the mid-1930’s she made films with her husband, Ananias Berry, of the Berry Brothers dancing troupe. After playing New York’s Apollo Theatre, she revisited Europe and the Far East for more shows and films.
As the story has been written numerous times, while touring through Denmark in 1941, she was arrested by the Nazis during the German occupation of Denmark and kept at Vestre Fængsel (Western Prison), a Danish prison in Copenhagen that was run by the Nazis. She was released on a prisoner exchange in May 1942. According to jazz historian Scott Yanow, “she never emotionally recovered from the experience.”
Author and researcher Jayna Brown in her book Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern claims that Snow stayed in wartime Denmark by choice and that the story of her imprisonment was a press generating ploy invented by her management to set the stage for her return to America. Mark Miller’s biography High Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm: The Life of Valaida Snow also dismantles the fictions of her life and paints a portrait of a talented performer, albeit one that didn’t shy from stretching the truth to suit her needs for a bit of play in the press.
Valaida Snow performing the song “Patience and Fortitude” (1946) with The Ali Baba Trio
Upon returning to the states, Snow was determined to to continue her musical career. Although she was unable to fully retrieve her artistic prowess, she continued to perform in various venues until the 1950’s when she toured with a group called “The Honey Drippers,” who were pioneers in a new music that would soon sweep the world: Rhythm & Blues.
Valaida Snow died of a brain hemorrhage on May 30, 1956, in New York City, backstage during a performance at the Palace Theatre.
While the truth of her stories of imprisonment may be in question, what is undeniably true is that Ms. Snow was an entertainer extraordinaire; a Black woman from the U.S.A. who, against the odds, survived in Europe during the Nazi era!
We Honor & Remember Ms. Valaida Snow!
LISTEN to NPR: Fresh Air’s jazz critic reviews Mark Miller’s High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm: The Life and Music of Valaida Snow. It’s a biography of jazz singer and musician Valaida Snow, aka “Little Louis.
READ Valaida Snow’s story in her own words: Life In A Nazi Prison Camp: Three Boiled Potatoes and Six Lashes Every Day with a Bull Whip Were Regular Portions for Valaida Snow, Versatile Bandleader, The Afro American – April 24, 1943.
Extensive ARTICLE: Valaida Snow: Forgotten Genius!
Black History Month or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. It is an annual observance in Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated in Canada and Germany in February and in October in the United Kingdom.
In recognition of Black History Month, this week we honor and celebrate one of the world’s greatest pianist alive today, the incomparable André Watts.
André Watts burst upon the music scene at age 16 when Leonard Bernstein chose him to debut with the New York Philharmonic in a nationwide Young People’s Concerts broadcast. Two weeks later, Bernstein asked him to substitute at the last minute for the ailing Glenn Gould in performances of Liszt’s E-flat Concerto with the New York Philharmonic, thus launching his career. More than 40 years later, Watts remains one of today’s most celebrated and beloved superstars. His performances each year with the world’s great orchestras and conductors, and his sold-out recitals and appearances at the most prestigious international festivals, bring him to every corner of the globe.
André Watts was a prodigy at the piano. He started playing with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 9 and made his New York Philharmonic debut at age 16, under the auspices of Leonard Bernstein. Watts is considered one of classical music’s modern greats, having performed internationally and received a host of awards and honors, including an Avery Fisher Prize.
Playing Piano as a Child
André Watts was born on June 20, 1946, in Nürnberg, Germany, to Maria Alexandra Gusmits, of Hungarian descent, and Herman Watts, an African-American soldier stationed in Germany after World War II. Watts received his first piano lessons from his mother after deciding to discontinue his initial studies of the violin. His mother would hold up 19th century Hungarian composer Franz Lizst as an idol for the young Watts to encourage him to practice.
When the family later moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Watts continued playing the piano, and began playing with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 9. He also received training at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. His parents divorced in the early 1960s.
Grand Philharmonic Debut
At age 16, Watts won a 1962 competition to play in conductor Leonard Bernstein’s televised Young People’s Concert series with the New York Philharmonic, with Watts performing a Lizst concerto. A short time later, Watts was called in by Bernstein at the last minute to be a replacement for pianist Glenn Gould, who was unable to make a scheduled New York Philharmonic performance due to illness. Watts’s resulting solo performance on New Year’s Day in 1963 was enrapturing, inspiring immediate worldwide acclaim.
Watts released his first album, The Exciting Debut of André Watts, under Columbia Records in 1963. That same year, he received a Grammy Award for most promising new classical music artist. Watts’s manager and mother decided that he would, initially, do concert work on a limited basis and continue his schooling, studying under pianist Leon Fleisher and earning a bachelor’s degree in music from the Peabody Institute in 1972.
Historic TV Appearance
During the the late 1960s and ’70s, Watts continued to grow in stature and reputation as an artist, performing in the United States, Europe and Asia, and earning an array of accolades. In 1976, he made history with PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center program by playing the first fully televised piano recital. He appeared on TV regularly with a variety of musical outfits, including the Boston Symphony and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and eventually guest-starred on the famous children’s program Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, where he played several pieces and spoke about the calming quality of music.
In 1988, the same year that he celebrated his 25th season of performances, Watts won the Avery Fisher Prize, a monetary award for solo instrumentalists of distinction given by Lincoln Center. He married Joan Brand in 1995, and they have been together since. In the early 2000s, Watts suffered a spontaneous hematoma and collapsed before a concert in California.
After surgery, he made a full recovery, returning to performing after just two months.
Watts has recorded a number of albums over the years, providing interpretations of Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Schubert, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Lizst, among others. He has also worked as an educator, serving as an artist-in-residence at the University of Maryland and as the music chairperson at Indiana University. Watts has also won various honors throughout his decades-long career, including an induction into the Hollywood Bowl of Fame in 2006 and a 2011 National Medal of Arts.
The talented pianist, who celebrated his 67th birthday in June 2013, continues to perform to great acclaim.
NPR Interview LISTEN: A Pianist Who Goes Way Back with The Philadelphians.
Andre Watts plays the Grandes Études de Paganini S.141 by Franz Liszt as part of an all Liszt recital given in Tokyo on 11/22/1988. Restored by R. B. Prior