More and more people with African roots are celebrating professional success in Germany, rising to leading positions in music, sport and even politics. Their recognition is also helping Germany become more diverse.
People with African roots are active across many professions in Germany: They may be working as shopkeepers, care workers, musicians and service providers. They are also increasingly represented in the media, at universities and other areas of public life.
But for some years now, they have also started taking a central place in politics.
“The presence of black people is especially visible in politics. They stand for a society that is more diverse than it often is perceived,” says Tahir Della, spokesman for Initiative Black People in Germany (ISD).
In an interview, he told DW that it is exciting to see people who grew up in Germany and who are part of all existing structures to also be represented this way.
The association, which dates back to 1985, estimates the number of African people in Germany to stand at around 1.2 million. While this number may seem low at first glance, Della says it also means that they are not proportionally represented in society.
Joe Chialo: a hard rock cultural senator
Joe Chialo is among those black Germans who is making a name for himself following his election as Berlin’s culture senator on April 27.
He knows the economic impact this particular industry has on Berlin, and is also aware of the responsibility that comes with it: “I am fully aware that the outgoing senator for culture (Volker Lederer, editor’s note) is very popular here in the city, and that the coming years will be full of challenges,” Chialo told the German Press Agency dpa.
Chialo was born in Bonn in 1970 to a Tanzanian diplomat family. He later attended a Catholic boarding school near Cologne with his brother.
However, the political career of the 52-year-old included some unusual stations: Chialo trained as an industrial cutter in a mill, studied history, politics and economics for a few semesters, and then dropped out to follow his passion for music.
He joined the hard rock band Blue Manner Haze, which had several successes in the 1990s. Around the same time, he became a member of the Green Party.
Years later, he would switch sides and joined the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 2016 — but only out of support for former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy.
Chialo became known nationwide when he was appointed to the “future team” of then-chancellor candidate Armin Laschet during the 2021 federal election. Laschet lost the election, and Chialo his chance for having an office in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament.
However, in the greater scheme of things, this was only a minor setback for Chialo, who describes himself as “Afropean.”
In fact, his fresh perspectives on many of the major contemporary issues have helped him gain a major following: from challenging European views on Africa to addressing the Catholic Church’s handling of abuse cases to Germany’s failure to manage its digital transformation, Chialo is attracting a lot of attention and is being watched left, right and center for his future political ambitions.
Della says that Chialo is widely appreciated for his unique views, but stresses that whether he can cement a future as a solid changemaker remains to be seen.
“From my point of view, it is to the credit of the younger black movement that black people are now increasingly participating in the political process, contributing their positions and thus also contributing to a society that is characterized by diversity and fairness,” Della told DW.
Aminata Toure: first female, black government minister
Aminata Toure is also making strides in Germany’s political classes. She’s first female, black government minister in her home state of Schleswig-Holstein, heading the Ministry of Social Affairs, Youth, Family, Senior Citizens, Integration and Equality since mid-2022.
Toure was born in Neumünster in 1992, where she grew up at a refugee shelter. Her parents had left their home country Mali after a military coup in 1991. Toure was not even granted German citizenship until she was 13 years old.
Toure went on to study political science and French literature, becoming involved with the Green Party later.
In 2017, she joined the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament in Kiel, becoming deputy speaker just two years later — the youngest person ever to hold this office and the first Afro-German.
And then she made a splash — literally — appearing on the cover of the German “Vogue.”
In an interview with the fashion magazine, Toure appeared confident, highlighting the importance of fighting against racism and supporting the integration of refugees.
She told the fashion and lifestyle magazine that political processes need to become more transparent to reach social groups that do not care about politics.
Della says that Toure’s story highlights how people of all colors can reach success and have the best qualifications in Germany, stressing that “you can’t deny that something has changed in the last 10 to 20 years” with regards to racist attitudes in Germany.
Steffi Jones: a role model on and off the pitch
Stephanie Ann Jones, known as “Steffi” is one of the most successful German soccer players.
The 2003 world champion and three-time European champion, retired from her active career in 2007, which was followed by her appointment as president of the Organizing Committee of the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
The daughter of an African-American soldier and a German mother went on to become the national coach of the German national women’s soccer team — a position she held from 2016 to 2018.
And then she decided to say goodbye to the beautiful game, launching a new career as an entrepreneur in the software industry.
However, despite her remarkable achievements, Jones, too, is familiar with casual racism. She has had to deal with insults being hurled at her on the soccer pitch.
Della says, however, that things have become easier for people of color in sports as well, where they can make a difference and leave a lasting legacy that outshines their successes on the field.
Edited by: Sertan Sanderson