Kwame Owusu migrated to Germany from Ghana in the 1980s when he was very young. At age 16, he ventured into Germany’s hip hop music industry with his friends. They struggled to make any meaningful impact in the industry but learned about organizing events, parties and concerts.
With two of his friends, he built an agency which initially partnered with other event management firms and individuals to organize programs for a negotiated fee.
Owusu recalled telling himself he could organize events for people all alone since he already has loyal customers. “I don’t need to give up most of the part of it, because most of the work was not done by the venue owners. So I started renting my own spaces and bringing it on the market,” he told DW TV.
Today, he runs LEH, on the platform hidden-locations.de, which organizes corporate and hospitality events of all kinds, according to DW. After successfully taking his first steps into entrepreneurship when he was 19, he started another project to bring African cuisine and culture to Berlin. He started the African Food Festival in Berlin to serve as a platform for Black people to share their culture, even for their kids.
“This is my contribution for my people, for the culture. It’s a platform for the culture but also access for the Germans where they can learn the culture in a different kind of way, not the cliché like going on safari or all this kind of bullshit,” he said.
In 2019, the African Food Festival saw the participation of a record 8,000 people in two days. However, the festival could not be held in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, he organized small events like the Black Business Dinner, where Black entrepreneurs came together to see what’s going on in terms of entrepreneurship.
Growing up in Germany was an unpleasant experience for Owusu. At the time he migrated to Germany, there were very few Blacks in the country. As a result, he faced racism and discrimination. Owusu could not understand why his skin color became a target in school and the German society as a whole.
He narrated how in Ghana, whites are cherished and loved, bemoaning the opposite in Germany. “It started with kindergarten and then school. Everything was different. Kids were talking about your color, telling you you don’t belong, this kind of environment,” Owusu said of racism and discrimination he encountered.
“You were the outcast and you didn’t know why. In Ghana, you didn’t get that. Sometimes kids behaved in a bad way against another kid but it was not because of the color. It was quite a tough time. The first year, I told my father that I wanted to go back. It was very frustrating. I felt rejected. You didn’t understand that as a kid.”
In operationalizing his business in Germany, Owusu still faced racism, only that, this time around, he grew a tough skin. “I know now what I can do and I know that I pay taxes, I employ people, I have audits. I know that most Germans are afraid to be entrepreneurs. It’s not easy to be an entrepreneur in Germany,” he said.
He continued: “Sometimes when I am working at one my spaces and I maybe walk through and the company or clients see me they say: “oh you are the DJ?” And I just say, “well I’m not the DJ but I can help you, what do you need?” That doesn’t change. But it’s not hurting anymore. It doesn’t hurt deep anymore like it did in the teenage times. The teenage times were tough.”
He praised his dad for building him up to be able to withstand racism, although he admitted that the experience drains his confidence sometimes. He also believes but for his skin color, he could have achieved more in Germany.