Italy: “Tangerines and olives don't fall from the sky”

logoThe first strike of immigrant workers in Italy's history will take place on Monday March 1st. Similar peaceful protests are also planned in France, Spain and Greece on the same day.

In Italy, the organizing Primo Marzo (March 1st) committee (a mix of entrepreneurs, journalists and grassroots activists) has been making active use of online media since November, with a related blog and several regional groups on Facebook. This is how they introduce the event:

Cosa succederebbe se i quattro milioni e mezzo di immigrati che vivono in Italia decidessero di incrociare le braccia per un giorno? E se a sostenere la loro azione ci fossero anche i milioni di italiani stanchi del razzismo?

Primo marzo 2010 si propone di organizzare una grande manifestazione non violenta per far capire all'opinione pubblica italiana quanto sia determinante l'apporto dei migranti alla tenuta e al funzionamento della nostra società.

Questo movimento nasce meticcio ed è orgoglioso di riunire al proprio interno italiani, stranieri, seconde generazioni, e chiunque condivida il rifiuto del razzismo e delle discriminazioni verso i più deboli.

Il colore di riferimento di Primo marzo 2010 è il giallo. Lo abbiamo scelto perché è considerato il colore del cambiamento e per la sua neutralità politica: il giallo non rimanda infatti ad alcuno schieramento in particolare.

What would happen if the 4.5 million immigrants now living in Italy decided to go on strike for one day? And what if also millions of Italians tired of racism will support them?

The ‘Primo marzo 2010′ committee is organizing a major nonviolent protest to let the public opinion understand the decisive role of migrants to help our society good functioning.

This movement was born of mixed race and is proud to bring together Italians, foreigners, second generations, and whoever shares the rejection of racism and discrimination against less lucky people.

We chose yellow as our march color, because it is considered the color of change and for its political neutrality: in fact, yellow doesn't refer to any political line-up.

Worsened relations

Particularly over the past year, the living conditions of migrants have worsened, both for those residing in Italy and those who have made attempts to enter the country. There have been several contentious events. In May, authorities refused to accept 227 African citizens who were trying to cross the Sicily Channel by boat to reach Lampedusa island, the southernmost part of Italy. And in July, a national security law that makes undocumented immigration a criminal offense, was approved by the parliament.

About the public perception of immigrants in Italy, Mauro Biancaniello wrote on Facebook:

L'Istat conferma dei dati di cui molti di noi erano già convinti: l'immigrato non è il criminale che lo si dipinge, ovvero che, come abbiamo visto, il reato principalmente commesso è la violazione sulla legge dell'immigrazione. […] L'immigrato (regolare o non), non è un santo. Ebbene sorpresa: nemmeno l'italiano è pronto per la beatificazione

Istat [National Statistics Bureau] data confirms something we already knew: immigrants are not the criminals they are commonly made out to be. In fact their most common violation is against immigration law itself. […] Immigrants (whether documented or not) are no saints. Well, surprise: even Italians could do with some improvement.

The most controversial recent event was probably the so-called Rosarno revolt in Calabria, in early January 2010. Three African farm workers were assaulted by unidentified people, and several immigrants started a street riot with a violent retaliation by local residents. Some sources refer to the involvement of the powerful crime syndicate ‘Ndrangheta, while the government of Egypt presented an official complaint [fr] to the Italian government.

Here is a Rosarno: il tempo delle arance, a documentary by Nicola Angrisano about the entire incident [it]:

Giuseppe Civati, a blogger and politician, shares a detailed infographics map that shows the degree of dependence on immigrants in Northern Italy to help illustrate what many people are asking: Can we imagine an Italy without immigrant workers?


Citizens unite

Musicians have been invited to create a collaborative soundtrack for March 1st. The band Reagenti Limitanti have a new music video on YouTube and many other artists have promised live performances.

In Rome, an open discussion on the ‘geography of exclusion’ during the economic crisis will take place in front of the parliament, called “Lessons of illegality”:

Fare della nostra clandestinità la nostra ricchezza, rivendicare la nostra eccedenza e mettere in comune le nostre esperienze e i nostri saperi [per] renderci visibili e prendere parola contro le politiche e le retoriche razziste, contro lo svilimento del mondo della formazione, contro la precarizzazione delle vite.

We wish to transform our clandestinity into our wealth, claim our surplus and share our experience and knowledge [to] make ourselves visible and speak up against racist politics and rhetoric, against the degradation of education, against life insecurity.

In BetweenA documentary film by the weekly magazine Carta, called In Between, is being widely distributed in advance of the day. It stars six young people from different European countries who describe their everyday lives negotiating the differences between the culture they live in, and the one from which their families come from.

Nove città europee di sei differenti Paesi. In ognuna di queste città, alcuni giovani, figli di migranti, raccontano le proprie esperienze, le proprie sensazioni e ricordi, il loro modo di percepirsi e di essere percepiti, la loro quotidianità e le sue sfide. Italia, Francia, Germania, Olanda, Portogallo, Spagna. Nonostante le diversità, tutti i protagonisti del video si raccontano in una situazione che li accomuna: persone che si trovano nel mezzo, portatori di un’identità di confine che li colloca fra il paese da cui provengono i loro parenti e quello dove vivono, seconde e poi terze e poi enne-esime generazioni, sempre ri-conosciuti solo a partire dalla loro provenienza.

Nine European cities from six different countries. In each of these towns, some young people, descendants of migrants, will share their experiences, their feelings and memories, their way of perceiving themselves and being perceived, their everyday life and their challenges. Italy, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain. Notwithstanding their differences, all the characters of this film describe a situation they all share in common: They are people who find themselves in between – with an identity that places them between the country from which their relatives are from, and the one where they live. Second, third and N'th generations, always ‘recognized’ on the basis of their origin.

Activists and netizens are busy in preparation for the major protest on Monday. Small and large events are expected throughout the country. This Google map by the Primo Marzo 2010 organizing committee shows many locations, while a Web-TV will host a special 24-hour programming on the event.

Terre Libere, an online outlet devoted to minorities and current events, shares an appeal from immigrants in Rosarno:

Non siamo venuti in Italia per fare i turisti. Il nostro lavoro e il nostro sudore serve all’Italia come serve alle nostre famiglie che hanno riposto in noi molte speranze. I mandarini, le olive, le arance non cadono dal cielo. Sono delle mani che li raccolgono.

We did not travel to Italy as tourists. Our work and our sweat helps both Italy and our own families whose only hope is in our daily work. Tangerines and olives do not fall from the sky. These are the hands that pick them.”
The Italian GV Lingua team contributed to this post, including: Beatrice Borgato, Bernardo Parrella, Tamara Nigi.

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