June 22, 2023
We must take action on institutional racism, otherwise it will never be the fight of all the racialised people in our country
The voice of Abdulkadir Monk Abdullahi Omar, 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 Abdulkadir Monaco Abdullahi Omar, attivista e operatore sociale.
Q: What is your name, can you tell us who you are and what you do?
A: My name is Abdulkadir Monaco Abdullahi Omar, I am an activist, originally from Torre Annunziata, and I work as a social worker. My militancy started in 2018, following what were the security decrees of the yellow-green government. In those years, institutional racism in our country was steadily increasing and, with it, so was atmospheric racism. The feeling of threats and fear led me to get active and find something that could convey what was my anger. An anger that basically many black people experience. I was lucky to intercept a path of struggle that gave me the opportunity to be able to mature politically, to have a stable confrontation and to turn what was anger into positive energy. Before this political path, I was occasionally part of voluntary associations in my area involved in distributing food parcels and other activities. Then I realised that a reversal of the political situation is needed in this country. With charity or voluntary work one can improve a person's living conditions. But welfarism is not the right way to build what is a new society, where we can be free from the oppressions that undermine our lives, such as poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia.
Q: During the Blackn[è]ss Festival, you said in your speech that "talking about racism without a connection to class struggle makes no sense". Why is it crucial today to keep class struggle, anti-racism and struggles for rights together, starting with labour?
A: Racism is just one of the tools capital uses to advance its profit, i.e. surplus value. I think, therefore, that the only way to defeat racism is to start from the foundations. And starting from the foundations means starting from the material conditions of our people. If you don't tackle this problem, it will always be a totally elitist battle that doesn't change the state of things. In order to eradicate violence, we need to take action on institutional racism towards the migrant component of our territory and on citizenship rights. More than 1 million boys and girls are born, grow up, and live here, but find themselves not guaranteed the same rights, even though they are minors. And this already creates unequal treatment of minors. It is unthinkable to be able to fight only the linguistic or cultural sphere or atmospheric racism without focusing on the scourges that afflict our community, such as undeclared work, grey work, and the non-respect of the fundamental rights that every person is entitled to, enshrined in the Constitution and international treaties. Therefore, we must start from these conditions of marginality to make an argument that encompasses everyone. Otherwise, it will not be everyone's fight but only that of a segment that, in some ways, can be considered privileged.
Q: In your opinion, what is the situation of black movements in Italy? Where are they at? What is your analysis of the situation today?
A: To date, black bodies are relegated to a position of total subalternity in the political landscape, even though some processes of collectivity are emerging, including "Non sulla nostra pelle" and the "Italian Anti-Racist Coordination", one of the first processes where we try to move from a political objectification to a subjectivisation, a protagonism that has never been in the country. What is needed, however, is a moment of confrontation between black people in Italy in order to understand what needs to be placed at the centre and above all, given the narration that is made of our bodies, how to avoid instrumentalisation but also and above all infantilisation. We do not need to be told, but to tell our stories, to show our skills, our political and reasoning talents, because we know all too well what oppressions are, since we live them on our skin. We must, however, start making a collective reasoning that gives black people the chance to be part of political processes because, given the whiteness that exists in the Italian political space, these people do not feel they are in a safe space where they can have their say. To dismantle this system, you need to create community. The community basically exists but is so disjointed that it often cannot find codes to act as a trait d'union. What we have to try to do today is to confront each other as much as possible, to put our demands at the centre, but also ourselves, our bodies, because the anti-racism seen in recent years has always been lowered from above, lowered from whiteness, and has never seen our bodies as protagonists.
Q: Can you give us an overview of the latest Cutro Decrees? What is your view on the migration policies pursued by the left and right in recent years?
A: I think that institutional racism is not born with Meloni. But that the Meloni government is in continuity with the governments that preceded it. I just think that the narrative and the ruthlessness with which certain measures are carried out has changed. Let's not forget that the Cutro Decree was announced following what was a failure to rescue more than 90 people who deserved a welcome 40 metres from the shore. Clearly the signal is being sent to migrants by depriving them of the possibility of being granted Special Protection and financing the increase in CPRs. Let us remember that the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea did not start yesterday but we are talking about more than 26,000 deaths in the last ten years due to the European Union's migration policies aimed at defending borders and not human beings. The political instigators of these deaths have also been the various centre-left governments that have followed one another over the years. It is important not to polarise the discussion only to deaths at sea but also to remember all the deaths in the countryside of this country. These are often people fleeing from conditions created by the West, by extractivist and predatory policies.
Q: Speaking of the festival in general, what do you think of Blackn[è]ss fest and why is a space like this important in Italy?
A: I had a great time at the Blackn[è]ss fest. The panels were all interesting. My favourite was the one on mental health because there is too little talk about it, instead this is a community problem. So to bring these thoughts into the community and say "you are not alone", but there are "safe spaces" where you can talk, where you can listen to those who perhaps have already matured a thought about this condition that often, in a capital system, befalls everyone and everyone, but if you are a minority even more, I think it is fundamental. I also appreciated the Blackn[è]ss fest because it gave the opportunity to show the beauty of our culture, a new culture that we are trying to bring to the country. So, long live those that are moments of inter-community confrontation, hoping that there will be more and more of them.
Q: Future projects and struggles?
A: I am currently only following the constituent assembly of the Italian Anti-Racist Coordination. We have set ourselves the goal of shedding light where Italian anti-racism does not reach. There are racist events where there is no coverage. We go there to bring what is our counter narrative, but above all to defend our community, to raise our voice and say that these events must never happen again. For example, we carried out two demonstrations following the death of Oussama Ben Rebha in Padua or Alika Ogorchukwu, the Nigerian man killed in Civitanova Marche. As informal anti-racist networks, we are trying to bring a new line of reasoning to the country: it will no longer be politics that gives us the floor, that decides when we have the right to speak, but we will decide when we want to speak, when we want to raise our voices, when we want to denounce how much this country disgusts us and who we want to be represented by. Furthermore, the left in this country must understand that we racialised people are citizens like them and we cannot just talk about anti-racism but we have the sacrosanct right to have our say on any oppression, be it from the environment or any other kind of oppression. And we cannot simply be relegated to black specks when talking about anti-racism. We are able to speak out about anything because we are political subjects and we are not their political object, at the total convenience, at the mercy of the maquillage politics of the Italian left, not this.