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September 06, 2023

Being happy in a racist society is an act of resistance

The voice of Nogaye Ndiaye, interviewed by Sara Manisera, FADA COLLECTIVE

Blackn[è]ss fest is the first festival in Italy which presents a re-elaborated version of the African lineage universe. Events and roundtables are organized both to think about the concept of being black, following a path of decolonization of the language, and to discuss topics such as mental health issues linked to racial profiling, discrimination, racism, and also music, cinema, media and representation of black people . 

Voice Over Foundation chose to accompany the festival in this path and it decided to tell stories about it through the protagonists’ voices during the whole year. 

Interview with Nogaye Ndiaye, law graduate and populariser on human rights issues, member of the creative committee of the Blackn[è]ss festival.

Q: What is your name, can you tell us who you are and what you do?

A: My name is Nogaye Ndiaye, I am a law student about to graduate and I am a populariser on human rights topics and issues. When I was in my fourth year of university, I started the Instagram page "The Rules of Perfect Law", taking inspiration from my favourite series "Get away with the murder", in which Annalise Keating plays a lawyer. I've always dreamed of becoming a lawyer. As a child, I defended others but I couldn't defend myself, so that became my spirit but during the pandemic I started having difficulties and I couldn't keep up with exams and classes anymore, so through this page I started talking about it. I talked about my problems, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity disorder but also a whole series of things I was learning about feminism, racism, neo-colonialism. A lot of people with the same disorders came to my page and started to open up and share their problems. Sharing is caring: through sharing individual problems that are collective, one can recreate a network and a social fabric.

Q: From the way you talk, you deal with rights, white privilege, racism and feminism with a very systemic and intersectional look. Why?

A: Everything is connected and subjectivities have different identity characteristics. For example, I am a woman, a black woman, from a low social class with an immigrant background. So in this society, before I am a person, I am seen as a black person and already this is a stigma that has been attached to me since I was born. I don't see myself as an activist but I do active resistance because we live in a world dominated by white, rich, middle-class, straight and cis men and everyone else is marginalised by society. And I believe that the only way to fight against the system we live in is to involve all parties. That is why the intersectional struggle must be collective because we must leave no one behind. Another concept that is very dear to me is that of privilege. Having privilege is not a fault: being born in a certain part of the world or in a certain family is not a fault. Not being aware of your position in space becomes a problem because you become complicit with the system. We have to start from there, from privilege and the deconstruction of everything we have normalised. I am a black woman, bisexual, but I had the privilege of attending university and staying a year when I wasn't well, so I am more privileged than those who are forced to work in the fields from morning to night. The same argument of privilege applies to citizenship. Having European citizenship allows you to travel and have an immense privilege. For years, I did not have it and I normalised queues at police headquarters at 4am to renew my documents. I also risked not leaving for the United States during high school because of a visa problem with my Senegalese passport. In short, I think the personal is political. Any choice you make in life has to do with politics.

Q: What do you think of the Blackn[è]ss fest and why is a space like this important in Italy?

A: The first year of Blackn[è]ss fest I couldn't attend but it was great to see, albeit from a distance, so many racialised people all together. I attended the second year as a spectator and panelist and it was even more amazing to see so many people talking about such fundamental issues as mental health, art and dance in the black world, cultural appropriation and twerking. It's also an important moment because you can take off a mask and feel in a safe space. You cry and laugh. You have fun and dance. The performance is a moment of celebration but also a moment of community and resistance because, what we always say, 'being happy in a racist society is an act of resistance'. So to be there dancing after crying during a panel is a form of resistance: we are happy to have found a community, a welcoming space, to be able to express ourselves through our work or activism. Everything has been beautiful. And this year I am even happier because I am part of the creative committee.

Q: Future projects and struggles? 

A: There is a project in the making that we can't say much about yet but the most imminent project is to graduate. In recent years, thanks to a series of trips to Senegal, I have made peace with my roots and with my mother. And it is with her that we are planning to launch an online shop of clothes and handcrafts made by my uncle in Senegal. This work together allows us to heal all the wounds that we have made over the years and I am happy about that.

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