XXV. Black International Cinema Berlin 2010, May 4-8
Opening Ceremony, May 4, 6 p m
Rathaus Schöneberg (Bibliothek/Library)
John-F.-Kennedy-Platz, Berlin/Germany

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the 25th anniversary of the BLACK INTERNATIONAL CINEMA 2010 in Berlin!

I am delighted that you are all here; I’m thrilled to be here myself.

Several decades ago, Professor Donald Muldrow Griffith, the co-founder of FOUNTAINHEAD TANZ THEATRE became acquainted with members of minority groups living in Berlin. Quite a number of these people were highly talented individuals from various countries and cultures, who had enjoyed successful careers in film, theatre, dance, music, and other artistic endeavors. Yet, they were not part of the Berlin, nor the European cultural scene.

Professor Griffith, a graduate of the Chicago campus of the Loyola University with degrees in psychology and pedagogy, discussed this shortcoming with the late, legendary Jazz singer and songwriter, Oscar Brown Jr. Oscar Brown’s belief was that “persons should take responsibility for the changes they desire in society”. He then challenged Donald Griffith with the thought-provoking question “What is the plan?” Shortly thereafter, Professor Griffith took action by implementing a plan to produce and direct the first BLACK CULTURAL FESTIVAL in Berlin and Europe under the auspices of FOUNTAINHEAD TANZ THEATRE, which he co-founded with Ricky Powell, Lynnda Curry, Detlef Bäcker, and the internationally renown Ballerina Gayle Mc Kinney.

It is also my privilege to mention that FOUNTAINHEAD TANZ THEATRE is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
Professor Griffith’s “Labor of Love” came to fruition in 1986, when the “BLACK CULTURAL FESTIVAL”, a 3 week event produced and directed by him, took place in Berlin, a first for the entire European continent. The contributions of black people to world culture through film, theater, dance, music, and other art and academic forms were presented in screenings, workshops, and seminars. The program was an homage to the legendary Tap Dancer Carnell Lyons. Since then, the BLACK INTERNATIONAL CINEMA BERLIN has become an annual event in the German capital. It has also been featured in various European and US-American cities numerous times.

Professor Donald Griffith’s method of utilizing art, culture, youth and adult education and dialogue, as a tool to enhance democratic principles, to eliminate violence, religious, ethnic, and gender-based discrimination and hatred, has become a great asset to our community; local as well as international.

Prof. Griffith is a true pathfinder, who spearheads the way to new frontiers. He embodies all of the qualities of the Fountainhead credo: especially the idea to promote understanding and cooperation between individuals and groups. This is particularly relevant in a multi-cultural city such as Berlin. His interdisciplinary, intercultural philosophy is a hallmark for others to imitate and follow who care about the well being of our society. Through art, education, culture including music, dance and cinema, his efforts to place focus on the elimination of violence, religious, ethnic and gender persecution, youth exploitation, homophobia and racial hatred are extraordinarily relevant to our time.

In the support of democratic procedures and the promotion of good virtues Donald stands in the long line of forefathers and insightful religious and political leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John-F.-Kennedy and even Barack Obama, who says “We are the change that we seek.”

Donald inspires us to dream, to think, to pursue constructively and to assume responsibility for the changes we desire in society. We personally and Berlin collectively all benefit from Donald’s organizing abilities such as this and other festivals over the past years, confirm. Through his creativity and leadership in the utilization of seminars, documentation and dissemination, and the other vehicles already mentioned, art, theatre, dance, cinema and music performances, we are wonderfully enriched and very grateful.

Christine Merkel, the Executive Director of the German Cultural Commission for UNESCO wrote (and I quote) “the German Commission for UNESCO appreciates this initiative. We kindly ask you to assist Professor Donald Muldrow Griffith and the FOUNTAINHEAD TANZ THEATRE, BLACK INTERNATIONAL CINEMA BERLIN, the COLLEGIUM-FORUM &TELEVISION PROGRAM BERLIN and CULTURAL ZEPHYR e.V., as well as all other co-organizers and project participants in realizing this project. We are convinced that this idea can offer inspiring experience to many people in the region”. (end of quote).

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention that the internationally renown Ballerina I mentioned earlier, became Professor Griffith’s partner and wife many years ago. I would like to thank Professor Gayle Mc Kinney Griffith for her determination and hard work, in jointly assuming the responsibility with her husband to fulfil the dream of change through art and culture, and to prevent these undertakings in dance, theatre, television, workshops, music, film/video festivals, seminars and publications, to become mere “footprints in the sand”.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a few of Professor Griffith’s mottoes:

Oscar Brown Jr. said, “I may not make it if I try, but I damn sure won’t if I don’t…”
C.P. Snow said, “Mankind will either find a way or make one.”
Joseph Louis Turner said, “Whatever you do,…be cool!”
Sammy Davis Jr. said, “Yes, I can!”
Barack Obama said, “Yes, We can!”

And I, Barbara Saltmann, say, “Professor Griffith, keep on keeping on!”

Thank you!
Barbara Saltmann