The Annual General Meeting of the Democrats Abroad in Germany took place in Berlin from March 31 to April 2 and the Hamburg Chapter was strongly represented with 16 members - the most members from one chapter, after Berlin. It was a weekend spent with debate - sometimes heated, discussions and laughter.
The AGM started on Friday already with the workshop „Looking forward - Sustainability in a Volunteer Organization“. Members of the Hamburg Chapter who attended the workshop will be reporting the results of this workshop this Sunday at our chapter meeting. It was followed by the Early Bird Dinner at the RED restaurant in the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. Other members started networking and getting to know the various candidates for the DA Germany positions.
The core work took place on Saturday. There were 6 hours of workshops interspersed with coffee breaks and lunch, in which members split up into six groups and worked out action plans for various issues. While flip charts and post-its dominated the meeting rooms, a silent discussion of important issues hung on the walls of the roof terrace, which was a popular refuge during the hot and sunny day.
The elections were an eventful and long process. It was the first time that chapters were able to participate live via internet or telephone. Unfortunately there was some disagreement about certain procedural rules. Congratulations to our newly elected officers! The new DA Germany leaders are found here. Shortly past 6 o’clock everyone was happy for the hour break before dinner.
The highlight of the entire weekend was the gala dinner with Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana as the keynote speaker. He gave a motivational speech stressing freedom, family, fairness and future. Quaide Williams rewarded a few members for exceptional accomplishments, of whom our own Pam Cory was one of the recipients for her excellent work as our former chair. After a few glasses of wine and a fund-raising raffle, karaoke wrapped the evening up in a not quite so melodious but entertaining fashion.
On Sunday, while many members explored Berlin or headed home, the Ex-Com meeting took place. We’re looking forward to hearing about the takeaways from this meeting on Sunday as well.
All in all, the AGM was useful to coordinate with members around Germany in moving forward. Specific ideas were born on the weekend and bonds among people with a common goal were strengthened.
Article written by Cynthia Walther
Photos by Chesney McKinley-Severance and Cynthia Walther
On March 11th Democrats Abroad, Hamburg Chapter, participated in the Women's March in Lübeck. The atmosphere and the colors were vibrant. Over 1000 protesters, many donning pink pussyhats, marched up from the iconic Holsten Gate through the old city of Lübeck. Various political organizations, social groups and charities were represented and many set up information stands on the "Schrangen" where the march concluded. The pleasant weather encouraged the crowds to linger and enjoy the live music and gather information. The Lübeck precinct of Dems Abroad also distributed information about our role in Germany, views of the current political situation and becoming a member. The postcards "Make America Gay Again" were high in demand especially among the young people. Standing up for women's rights and our democratic values was a thrilling experience!
Article and photos by Cynthia Walther
Thirty-three energized, committed democrats gathered on Saturday (18 Feb.) for the first general meeting of the year. Many had travelled great distances, some were not even members yet, and others said that they had never before been politically active, but they ALL felt that now was the time to do something. Inaction was yesterday!
First order of business was the election of the new chapter chair Marc Castagnero. Marc´s first words expressed the feelings of the entire group, that the success of the chapter—its activism, dramatic increase in members and willing volunteers was a testament to the determination and dedication of Pamela Cory, its chair for the past two years.
In order to fulfill the wishes of members to be able to protest what they find unfair and to let their views be heard in Congress, Ali prepared a presentation on the most effective way to lobby one´s congressperson, even from abroad. We were encouraged to stay informed online (for example, http://votesmart.org/, or www.govtrack.us/congress/bills#get-alerts) and to make our voices heard, be it by telephone or postcard, individually or in small neighborhood groups. To show how serious we take this responsibility, Sarah encouraged us to sign a pledge to make one phone call every week, and then we each proceeded to write a postcard that was mailed right after the meeting. This was just the start!
Time did not permit a full discussion of all the possible events that we would like to schedule in the near future. Instead there was a suggestion to change the name of our chapter to reflect the valued participation of members from all over northern Germany (Hamburg and Northern Germany or Hamburg Area for example), to be voted on in the future.
Written by Maryann Schmunk
Photos by Eric Shambroom
A new chapter in American politics will begin in a few days’ time. The preservation of democratic values will become more important than ever, within the United States and abroad. As a resident of Hamburg for over ten years, I have been able to watch the city become ever more internationally present. Home to a few thousand other Americans, Hamburg has a great deal to offer to the US political conversation and the direction of the Democratic Party.
I’m 32, from Philadelphia. My parents and sister live there, while my daughter is a “hamburger Deern”. Family, friends and my financial career allow me to feel at home on two continents.
Over the past year, I have become actively involved in the Hamburg Chapter of Democrats Abroad Germany, helping out with events such as GOTV and the upcoming March for American Democracy. These and other events have been part of the Hamburg Chapter’s development during the election campaign. As Chapter Chair, I want to ensure that that development continues, with more democrats living in Hamburg becoming more involved. I am also committed to making our presence as Democrats living abroad known. I believe we can start to achieve this by taking part in the political debate, on issues domestic and international.
I am confident in the people responsible for our Chapter’s successes and their commitment to its future. It is a Chapter I would be honored to lead, and to which I pledge that same commitment.
Marc James Castagnera
On January 21st, one day after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the USA, Democrats Abroad members and other supporters from all over Northern Germany met at the Hamburger Rathaus to join the millions around the world marching for human rights. The march was kicked off with the song "God Bless America" shortly after 4pm, by which time it had become clear that the turnout would be much larger than expected. A total of 700 "anxious, jealous guardians of democracy" marched in unity to the US Consulate General, chanting and singing in an act of peaceful protest. The number of people and enthusiastic mood reflected the worldwide success of the January 21st marches, as well as the sentiment among Democrats to take action and protect the rights and freedoms that make the USA the country it is. The march concluded with a candlelight vigil, song and a call to continued action. Information about how to be active from abroad was distributed. Since the event, the Hamburg Chapter has received several membership requests from eager, American volunteers. The Chapter looks forward to being joined by new Americans in the Hamburg area and northern Germany, and coordinating with non-Americans to make a difference in the never-ending fight for human rights and democratic values!
Article by Marc Castagnera
A video of the vigil in front of the consulate can be seen here:
Video and photos by Eric Shambroom
8-9 December, 2016
Despite the shock and disappointment that overwhelmed us in the early morning hours of December 9, we would be remiss if we did not report on our lively election night party. The German Social Democratic Party kindly invited us to join them for an open ended evening/morning held at their headquarters, in Kurt Schumacher House. Over 150 people packed the large rooms which had been festively decorated with flags, banners and brightly colored campaign posters. Our red, white and blue blended perfectly with their red, just as our members mingled easily with theirs. By the time the panel discussion began it was standing room only. Phillip Reviere of Democrats Abroad Hamburg joined three other experts and a moderator to discuss the inner workings of the US election system, their prognosis of who would win (unfortunately wrong), and comparisons with Germany. Members of the audience eagerly asked questions, munched on donuts and later enjoyed music while waiting for the first results.
One American from the audience, MJ Ayer (actor, dancer and singer in Hamburg), expressed concern with how the Democratic Party had been treating the minorities in the campaign. Although his statement was listened to with respect, he wasn’t given much attention. Only days later would we realize that he was addressing one of the deficiencies of the campaign.
As the results came in, the excitement grew at first, the crowd cheering with each newly won blue state and district. In the beginning the few red states on the board didn’t offend. The atmosphere dampened quickly, however, when Florida refused to go blue. By 3 am it slowly dawned on everyone that the election might turn out differently than expected. In the early morning hours, only a handful Americans were left, trying not to give up all hope. They were reluctant to leave the supportive company of their fellow democrats. Eventually it became clear to all present that the challenges of 2017 had changed their shape completely. It is now more important than ever to be politically active and stand up for what we believe in.
Our sincere thanks goes out to the SPD Zentrale for their invitation, organization and their supportive members.
Written by Maryann Schmunk and Cynthia Walther
Please click on the image below to see the Election Night Party Photo Album
Some thirty five people filed into the Linklater Auditorium on 27 October 2016 to watch the film "Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA". We were proud to announce that it was the first showing outside the USA, and we remain extremely grateful to Brucerius Law School and its politically active students who offered us such an attractive room for the premiere, and even provided popcorn and soft drinks as sustenance for the 103 minutes of this wrenching documentary. The film demonstrated emotionally, but backed by reliable statistics, how the greed of the National Rifle Association supercedes any concern for the lives of vulnerable, often totally innocent victims of gun violence.
The evening began with an introduction by Eric Shambroom which compared statistics related to guns in the USA and Germany and it ended as he threw the floor open to questions. Several people spoke and one asked for more information about the Second Amendment. The most telling and sad line of the discussion was Eric´s observation of the difference that the placement of a comma could make in the interpretation of a few short lines in a document written over 200 years ago--the U.S. Constitution.
Here however, are some practical regulations the filmmakers suggest could save thousands of lives. These common sense measures already enjoy a large acceptance by the American public:
1. Make universal background checks mandatory for all gun sales. (For gun fairs, private, and internet sales these checks are not required as yet)
2. Lock all guns and store them safely. New technical features have been developed that make it easy to lock a gun to prevent someone else from using it accidentally.
3. Increase co-operation between neighboring states with differing regulations (for example, Chicago, where within 30 minutes anyone can cross state borders and buy all the weapons that are forbidden in Illnois)
4. Introduce a purchase limit for buying ammunition. This is especially important online where there are currently no limits on the types and amounts of weapons and ammunition that can be bought in a short time.
5. Consider requiring a 24 hour waiting period before being allowed to buy a gun. Even this short amount of time would prevent countless suicides. This is a public health issue that should be addressed .
The filmmakers urge all of us to take action--write congressmen, stage protests--whatever draws attention. They rightly point out that the only purpose assault weapons serve is to kill massive amounts of people in the shortest amount of time. We would like to help save these lives instead.
Article written by Maryann Schmunk
The largest crowd in recent history turned out for our Campaign Kickoff--Labor Day Celebration on 5 September in Hamburg! The group was energized by the presence of so many new members, in large part thanks to the recently formed Young Dems. We were also pleased that Jan Pörksen, SPD member, shared his thoughts on the democratic process with us, and that Quaide Williams, DA Chair, travelled such a long way to attend.
After partaking of an impressive array of food and drink, the thirty attendees broke into working groups and set about urgently making plans for get-out-the-vote events. Our thanks goes out to all of the volunteers who made these projects such a success!
Democrats Abroad Hamburg hosted two successful Get Out the Vote Information Tables on Jungfernstieg on the Alster. Over two weekend days in October, our eager DA volunteers spoke to well over a hundred people, including many Americans. The Info Table volunteers encouraged Americans to request their absentee ballots, informed potential voters about state deadlines, inspired non-Americans to persuade their American friends to vote from abroad, and had many exciting and surprising conversations with people about the election and its potential effects on people here in Germany and around the world. We were thrilled to reach so many Americans (and those that know them) and glad to share with Hamburg a bit of good ol' fashioned American grassroots GOTV activism!
October 2nd was the first Get-together of the new Lübeck precinct. The group was small, but lively. Among mountains of chocolate chip cookies and brownies, we compared ballots from our different states and discussed other possibilities of reaching Americans in the Lübeck area. We answered questions about voting, becoming a Democrats Abroad member and some other general questions about living in Germany.
We still have lots of t-shirts, cups, buttons and cups, so if you don't have your election survival kit yet, make sure you stop by to stock up!