2020 Spring Alissa Roach Blog Culture and Identity Envoy Temple Rome

Anchors Between Worlds

A few weeks ago I attended a screening of the short film titled Io sono Rosa Parks by Ada Ugo Abara, a black Italian activist of Nigerian descent. Essentially, the film used the American civil rights movement– specifically the story of Rosa Parks– as a model for the efforts of Italians without citizenship, including black Italians, today. At first I didn’t understand how this American narrative could be relevant in an Italian context. However, as the film went on I grew to realize how unique the civil rights movement in America was, and understand its influence on a global scale. It hadn’t previously occurred to me that I was never educated on Afro-Italian history, a history that is unfolding in the present tense as a fight for representation, inclusion, and equality. In the discussion that followed the screening Ada discussed her African heritage, moving from Nigeria to northern Italy at the age of ten, and her own personal feelings of exclusion; she still has not been able to obtain Italian citizenship, even after over a decade of living in the country. 

What stood out to me the most was Ada’s remarks about feeling “stuck between two worlds.” Though she whole-heartedly identifies as an Italian, she feels as though she isn’t regarded as such, and thus the duality of her identity has contributed to her own feelings of isolation. As a Jamaican immigrant who moved to the U.S. with my mom at the age of eight, I’ve often grappled with the same feelings, but on a different side of the globe entirely. The discussion with Ada gave me an opportunity to compare and contrast my experience with hers in a way I hadn’t been able to in the past, and for that I’m really grateful. 

The difference between our experience, however, is heightened by my present choice to study abroad, among other personal factors. Being in Italy makes me the furthest away from the two worlds I may have felt “stuck between” than I have ever been in the past. Unlike Ada, I have never truly felt “American,” and as much as I embrace my Jamaican heritage I can’t escape the fact that I haven’t lived there in almost 10 years. My mom has always served as an anchor for me back in the States, being as though she is my only family member in the country, but she has recently decided to move to Japan for work, and will be leaving right when I return from studying abroad. 

I’ve often struggled with feelings of not having a place to call home. Rather than feeling “stuck between” worlds, I think I would describe my current feeling as “floating through.” I can acknowledge that this serves as both a blessing and a curse. Regardless, my current goal is to find slices of home in the experiences I have here in Rome for the time I have left. I am more than willing to embrace Italy as best I can, even if Italy is sometimes reluctant to embrace me.

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