The discussion of race in Italy was a fresh perspective that gave me new insight. Ada Ugo Abara is the president of the Arising Africans Association. She is a Black Italian woman of Nigerian descent who has dedicated her work towards activism. Although Ada and I come from two completely different parts of the world, it seems as though racism has a universal language. Particularly in predominantly white spaces, black women seem to go through the assimilation of people that will always make you question who you are. But what strikes me the most is how Ada is still trying to understand herself. It appears once you realize that you are someone that stands out from the crowd and has a rich background, you start to ponder on how to rewire yourself. The intriguing part about questioning yourself is the exploration of trying new things. I too have been starting to better understand myself by changing up some of my routine. I’m used to getting up in the morning for church in the U.S. In Rome, I have been finding myself taking the time to meditate on Sunday mornings and journaling whatever comes to mind. Developing these habits is not easy but doing it consistently has given me more ways of being mindful.
I think what surprised me is the lack of visible Afroitalian culture within Rome. Attending Temple University in Philadelphia has spoiled me with spaces created specifically for Black people and people of color. I was hoping to explore more of the Afroitalian experience, but it seems like there’s a limited amount of space for them or created by them. This reminds me of what Ada was talking about in how we need more space created for people like her to speak up. Allyship does not necessarily always mean to be the one to speak up but to also be a good, active listener.
My time abroad has made me realize that I love being a part of that collectivist culture. I love the idea of coming together as a community to create that space for everyone to feel included. This Black History month has made me reflect not only on the amazing figures that have come before me, but also the hope and joy of what my generation will bring to the table. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Boris Akeem Aka, a black artist based in Rome. Being able to see his artwork and listen to his story gave me that sense of collectivism and inclusivity. I’m proud to say that I was able to buy some of his work! I would like to give him a major shout out because the representation of black women in art matters so much to me.
Studying abroad in Rome has shown me that there are people out there getting in touch with their true selves. Supporting a black artist like Boris to getting my hair braided for my birthday has truly given me that sense of community that I’ve been so used to in Philadelphia.
A major take away from studying abroad is that no matter where you go, don’t automatically assume that there isn’t space for you. Your space is here and it’s present! Sometimes you need to go on a little journey to find it.