“Discontent is the first step towards success” was a key opening sentence to the panel discussion of the OpenForum I Berlin. And yet the reasons for discontent in Neukölln, Berlin, seemed to be absent during most of the discussion: although our guest speakers came from such different backgrounds as the Free University Berlin, the district management Körnerpark, the Culture Ministry and the Turkish Community, they all agreed on the great potential that this Berlin quarter has to improve its inhabitants’ quality of life. This optimistic outlook was a good example of the energy and creativity that have emerged in Neukölln as a reaction to decades of severe socio-economic problems and a bad reputation consciously blown up by the media. After presenting good practices such as the projects Stadtteilmütter and Tek stil, both speakers and the audience engaged in a lively debate on the challenges and possibilities of civic engagement. How can we get people talking and committing to each other? Why do some projects for social engagement fail and others succeed? Are the root causes of problems misperceived, namely focused on ethnicity instead of on social problems? After 2 hours of animated discussion, the drinks and snacks that followed were received with open arms by all participants.
Report by Ana Maria Suciu
Four days of rush, in and out, on and off. The great sunny weather that didn’t last still gave me that good vibe of something nice is about to start. A little bit of stress caused by being all on my own again, although I had really simple directions from Lucia, followed by a little bit of sleep.
The first night was rather weird. First, people had speeches in German, and with all the good interpreting, there was still some rupture somewhere. However, I remember facts and people: 65 nations in the neighborhood, the silent Turkish guy, the professor, the immigrant (Arabic, I guess). I remember the seconds they were all laughing and I was expecting the translation, but in the end there was no laughter on my side. The flying ashtray was indeed a proof of the bad image neighborhood. Nobody got hurt or anything, we kept on smoking out, in the street. Some immigrant kids were there, speaking a fluent German (well, that’s how I imagine they were talking) and being funny, trying to scare us in a small game they improvised. Nice, good, sweet kids with no future. Sad little us, stuck on how we can save the world with few good ideas. Bullshit! They were trying to improve the things, however, belonging is an issue and migration is the anti dose. Still, they were trying to manage the migrants, to educate them and to give them a home instead of a house. Innovative, good willing projects indeed. With the consciousness that after improving someone’s life, they will go away and the neighborhood will always remain a neverland.
The bear after was quite multicultural, a little bit of Luxembourg, some Belorussian experience (reminding me of Romania a little while ago), a little bit of german, italian, bulgarian episodes on the prejudices we all have about each other.
The workshop was fulfilling. Everybody talked a little bit, even I wasn’t nervous, and that is huuuggeee! Active citizenship ruled the floor. 🙂 Knocking on the table instead of applauding was weird.
And then the nice dissident from East Germany, his memories of Berlin Wall with the gay american kisses, Salinger’s catcher in the rye, rock and rebellion through prison and ideology.
My Europe short films were all great. Especially “The last farm”, an Icelandic film that ended tragically happy, with so much emotion embedded. It would have made my day in any situation. Some red wine in the end, too many cigarettes and small talk. A german guy speaking romanian.
And the final rainy Sunday morning. A walk in the area, a children’s exposition and the plans of finally visiting Berlin. The city is nice, maybe a little too cold on me, for some reason I didn’t understand. As usual, nothing too big impressed me, but a little window in the ground, showing a white full with shelves room, as a memory for burned books, and the quote from Heine, saying that the ones burning books will end up burning people (true, nevertheless).
The rest was all mine and all me, never sticking with plan. And then home, to where I can finally rest and face the problems that are always left home before any travel.
rom left to right: Frank Burgdörfer, Andreas Wagner, Noa Treister, Tobias Kunow, Dorian Jano, Michael Ellerbrok, Ana Maria Suciu, Alexandra Ivanova, Wolfgang Fänderl, Pelin Erol, Sinziana Poiana, Peter Lutz, Lucía González López, Andreas Heindl, Patrick Wildgen, Anna Znosko, Daphne Gross, André Soares, Cetin Celik, Amy, Rui Montez, Fadi Saad, Gert Röhrborn.