11. 00 : (Sarah) We, people of African descent, are here to stay and we are not going anywhere, for the simple reason that we are European, just like everybody else.
Sarah (right) is conducting a video interview of Abril (left). Sarah is a photographer and videographer from the UK and Abril, who is Italian, helped organise a week of activities at the European Parliament under the title ‘Honouring Black Europe: People of African Descent’.
(Abril) I am excited about this week but I also find it sad, that such events are only being organised ‘now’ by the European Union. I mean, we are in 2018 but black people have been part of European history for way longer than that !?
(Sarah) Indeed. I also feel that this topic should have been dealt with sooner. In the same line of gender becoming a fore front issue – so have become issues related to racism, people of colour and the issues they face in general. The way we are perceived and treated in Europe is still not what we’d expect. I could not pinpoint an example of discrimination but – we do feel it in our daily lives.
(Abril) Exactly – can you imagine that, back in Italy, since I was in kindergarten until I went to university, I was literally the only black person in my class? Trust me, I always felt different. Even though people never directly discriminated me, I simply felt different, because no matter what I said or did, I was always first and foremost defined by the colour of my skin.
(Sarah) What people still do not understand is that identity as a concept is already difficult to deal with – in itself. Look, I am British, I am Afro-Caribbean , I am also European, I am, I am… so many things. And I am proud of all of them. However, why is it that when faced with ‘the other’, I become defined by only one thing : the colour of my skin?
(Abril) What I still find difficult to deal with is that when in Europe, I do not feel particularly European and when in Africa, I do not feel fully African either. So that is already an identity struggle in itself. But when I meet people here and they ask me where I am from, the answer “I am Italian” is never sufficient for them; they want to know my origins. That adds to the identity struggle.
(Sarah) This week is about discussing issues but also proposing solutions. We want to talk about the issues we are facing and try to create a fairer society for all of us Europeans. We simply want for people to understand how their behaviours or words can affect us people of African descent. I strongly believe that all humans can learn to adapt to other humans – even the ones who do not look like them.