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February 16, 2024

Lucciole #3 - Nogaye Ndiaye

A newsletter by Voice Over

#3 (Out on Feb 17th, 2024)

In this issue, we want to tell you another story of resistance and daily active engagement.

You've probably heard of Black Lives Matter, a political, social, and decentralized movement born to denounce and shed light on systemic racism, discrimination, and racial inequality faced by Black individuals in the United States, following the brutal killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Rekia Boyd.

In Italy, there has been little discussion about that movement. The killing of George Floyd in 2020 by a white police officer and the subsequent global protests forced Italian newspapers and television to address it.

Thousands of people, especially Italians with diverse migratory backgrounds, took to the streets. However, once the media attention waned, nothing really changed, and the discriminations remained the same.

In recent years, more and more people, Italians of various origins, have decided to break the silence and assert their grievances. They share stories of discrimination and systemic racism experienced in Italy through their social media profiles, blogs, online webinars, in squares, or through festivals.

Among these people is Nogaye Ndiaye, the firefly of the third issue of this newsletter. We chose her story because, like many others, she chose to actively confront injustices, openly taking a stand in a society full of oppressive mechanisms. But above all, she chose not to remain silent and to resist actively. This is her voice.

The voice of this issue

The voice of this issue belongs to Nogaye Ndiaye, a jurist, writer, and advocate on human rights issues. During her university years, Nogaye opened the Instagram page "Le regole del diritto perfetto" (The Rules of Perfect Law), a place for sharing individual and collective issues, becoming a safe space for discussing topics such as feminisms, racism, neocolonialism, privilege, and much more.

Nogaye was also one of the protagonists and a member of the creative committee of the Blackn[è]ss festival, the first festival in Italy proposing a re-elaboration of the Afro-descendant universe, a real laboratory of resistance. You can read her interview, "Being happy in a racist society is an act of resistance", collected by Sara Manisera, in the Voice Over Foundation hub.

Nogaye Ndiaye's voice

"This is my story, the story of an awakening and a great claim. My blackness".

You could listen to her speak for hours. For her frankness, for her ability to call things by their name, for the civil passion and suffering that emanate from every shade of her face. Nogaye Ndiaye does not like labels and does not like to be called an anti-racist activist. Nogaye is a writer, a jurist, a disseminator, and much more because as she explains herself, "I do not consider myself an activist because my existence has forced me to resist in society. Just by existing, by my skin color, I have to resist when I get out of bed." And that is why she defines herself as an active resistor who has chosen not to remain silent and indifferent in the face of injustices, forms of oppression, and discrimination. And so, between a constitutional law exam and a criminal one, Nogaye decided to open the Instagram page "The Rules of Perfect Law," telling, denouncing, and sharing wounds, issues, themes, and discriminations too little discussed in Italian society. Starting from the concept of "privilege," which she summarizes as "the absence of discrimination and awareness of the position one holds in the world. If you are a man, white, rich, the world suits you because you have been placed at the center and it was built precisely for people like you. I don't have the privilege of walking peacefully because society has placed a stigma on me. And that stigma, my skin, I can't take it off."

Her words are a river overflowing from all banks and nailing, those who listen, to responsibility. Because if one truly realizes their privilege, their whiteness, the first step is to listen, exercising self-criticism and becoming aware of the privilege of their life to understand others'. It is an exercise in listening but also in memory that Nogaye invites, to come to terms with the past but above all with the present. Because if today in Italy there are still ghettos of black workers in the countryside, Centers for the Permanence of Repatriation (CPR), i.e., places of confinement for foreigners, then evidently the memory of the past and Italian colonialism has not yet been reckoned with.

And it is precisely colonialism, the provocative subtitle of her book "Fortunatamente nera: Il risveglio di una mente colonizzata" (Fortunately Black. The awakening of a colonized mind) published in 2023 by HarperCollins Edizioni. A book halfway between memoir and essay, a personal and collective journey that Nogaye gives and shares with those who read. Nogaye, in fact, born in Italy to Senegalese parents, grew up in the provinces and tried in every way to distance herself from one of her souls. For years she did not return to Senegal, she always called herself Noghina "when my mind was still colonized," she says, "not to be seen as the exception but as normal." Then a trip to Senegal allowed her to embrace the other part she had tried to hide, namely Nogaye.

And that Un-, placed years earlier in front, in the poem "Unfortunately Black," is thus removed to turn that intimate and painful journey into a great path of acceptance of her blackness. But as she herself reiterates, "This is not a book about racism. This is my story, the story of an awakening and a great claim. My blackness. It is a book that does not want to educate white people but is for people who feel like me".

Once again her free words become stones. Carlo Levi wrote, "tears are no longer tears but words." Here the sufferings, the open wounds, and the tears are transformed into words, into imaginaries, and therefore into reality. And it is when reality takes shape that Nogaye's story becomes universal history. A story of an ordinary person who chooses not to remain silent and to resist injustices.

Explore Further with Us

To get to know Nogaye and her story better, read the interview Sara Manisera did with her on our hub.

Instead, to delve into the Black Lives Matter movement, you can read Sara Manisera's in-depth analysis here.

Have you ever heard of racial profiling? You can delve deeper by reading Adil Mauro's analysis here.

Other useful resources

There are many readings on the subject. The first we recommend is Nogaye Ndiaye's book, Fortunatamente nera: il risveglio di una mente colonizzata (Fortunately Black: the awakening of a colonized mind).

Other very useful texts to better understand issues related to systemic racism are the two novels Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Cassandra in Mogadishu by Igiaba Scego.

If you are looking for essays, we recommend two in particular. The first is the collection of essays From Margin to Center by bell hooks, an American writer, activist, and feminist. The second is by Angela Davis, an activist of the American African-American movement, and is titled Freedom is a Constant Struggle.

What does it mean to be black in Italy? The Blackcoffee podcast, curated by Ariam Tekle & Emmanuelle Maréchal, explains it without filters. You can listen to it at this link.

To delve into current affairs and culture from the perspective of a racialized person, listen to Adil Mauro's podcast, Adil's Room, at this link.

See you next time!

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