Aaron fr0m Berlin takes us by the hand to show his enlightening journey through Crossing Identities.  Aaron is German with with Chilean Cuban background. His environment decides, what he feels like. His mother and trainer characterise Aaron as empathetic and open. Like many kids, who grew up within different cultures, Aaron has the ability to sense the setting he currently acts within. Hence, he feels German when he walks the streets of Berlin, but equally Latino when his Latino Cousins walk next to him through Berlin. But having a bunch of friends with diverse background, he mostly feels like a “Mensch”. It was compelling to me, that all children of migrants in my interviews displayed that level of reactive connection to their surroundings.

Photo: Semra Sevin, "Crossing Identities"

Photo: Semra Sevin, “Crossing Identities”

This is why I choose to use reflexions to portray the world. The images show how the environment and the students form an entity that warps each other and creates a beautiful new world. Aaron grew up with a single mother and 2 siblings, as his father disappeared a long time ago. His mother and his trainer are great role models for him, who show him how to create happiness and be successful with few financial means. Aaron connects the Latino culture of his mom with family values, social gatherings, great food, spontaneity and dancing. Aaron relates with German culture with structure, seriousness and never ceasing deep thought process. Consequently, he has friends who connect on a deeper level with him, just like family. Aaron wants to travel in the future and recently discovered how hospital Sweden is. Thus, in the future, wherever and with whomever he is, he will connect with places and people who connect on a deeper level, like in a family. Because those are the values he was taught, growing up.This projects a happier and healthier future to him. Scientifically, people who are socially isolated and strongly success oriented display poorer health and are more prone to depression.

Photo: Semra Sevin, "Crossing Identities"

Photo: Semra Sevin, “Crossing Identities”

I wrote earlier about humans marginalising other humans, because of their looks. The more people look different from commonly known stereotypes, the more they face discrimination. As someone with Cuban and Chilean background, Aaron’s looks stick out. When he or his diverse group of friends enter a store or get caught in one of the Berlin subway ticket controls, they are targeted first. They are asked, if they had a ticket, although everyone might get a pass. They are profiled, followed and asked, if they could be helped in the stores. The question implies: “Why are you here? Do you want to steal?” Aaron loves Berlin, but those moments make him feel not welcomed.

Photo: Semra Sevin, "Crossing Identities"

Photo: Semra Sevin, “Crossing Identities”

Aaron explains that white people in Berlin do not seem to mingle enough with people of different “color”. If they did, they would be able to experience, that people of “color” are not scary at all. From his own experience, everything new is scary to him. The interview he had with me for Crossing Identities made him feel very uncomfortable. However, once him and I had a natural conversation, he forgot the camera was there and he felt comfortable. Departing from that experience with newness, we need to give people of different colour more opportunities to mingle, go to school and work together. Only then, every side can overcome their fears and identify with the “other”.

Photo: Semra Sevin, "Crossing Identities"

Photo: Semra Sevin, “Crossing Identities”

Thus, diversity programs which give people of different backgrounds the opportunity to spend serious time together solving problems at work, university or school, are essential to a successful diverse society. As someone who has worked and lived in Berlin, Paris, NYC and Los Angeles, I have seen working conditions from a variety of POV’s. And sadly I can say that Germany is still behind in the praxis of diversity. Awareness is being raised as a parole. Except, that magazines, museums, galleries and TV have not integrated diversity by employing Germany’s own immigrants. Diversity, especially in media and culture is a construct where internationals are invited to act together, instead of making social layers more permeable. Migrants from the 60s and their offspring are often kept in the working and lower class.

Crossing Identities was kindly sponsored by the Berlin Senate for the 50y jubilee of the partner cities Los Angeles and Berlin in 2017.

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