The following is a letter written by our CEO, Uzodinma Iweala, which was sent to our community as our August newsletter. Join our community and subscribe to our mailing list here.
Four minutes. That was the amount of time bystanders in Civitanova Marche, Italy, watched as a man beat Alika Ogorchukwu, a Nigerian immigrant, to death. Instead of intervening, some recorded the brutal murder of the innocent street vendor and father of two who had tried selling a pack of tissues to his assailant.
Italian police have excluded racial motivation as a cause for the attack, just as the courts did in the murder of 19-year-old Abdoul Salam Guiebre, also beaten to death in Italy in 2009. Ogorchukwu’s murder has sparked protests in the country, a nation that, according to many of African descent who live there, often disregards the systemic and institutionalized racism that allows for this type of violence to happen with impunity, a nation that could very well elect a far right anti-immigrant government to power in the next few months.
According to Human Rights Watch, Italy continues to be one of the many European countries that chooses to look the other way as xenophobia is expressed through severe violence towards Black immigrants.
We mourn Ogorchukwu’s death and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Italy and across the world demanding that governments recognize the racism entrenched in their communities, consciousness, and histories.
We know that anti-Black racism in the Americas and in Europe is no secret, particularly against African immigrants – documented and undocumented. But what we also know is that African refugees and migrants will continue making their way to Northern Africa, through Europe, and to other parts of the world in search of safety and better lives. The questions we should be pondering are why African migrants continue to be viewed as less deserving of the refuge or access offered to migrants of European descent, or migrants whose nationalities are politically prioritized at the moment. What can we do to improve opportunities at home so that our young people don’t feel the need to leave and confront the precarious living situations they often encounter abroad.
The answers to these questions are rooted in the long history of global anti-Blackness, but at this point, we’ve had enough. What will it take for the movement of Black people, whether that is through migration, immigration, or merely a visa for visitation (such as Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala to the United States) to be as respected as the movement of others? These complexities related to the movement of people of African descent will be our focus over the next few months at The Africa Center, so stay tuned.
Last month, in partnership with Energy for Growth Hub, our virtual program Decolonizing Global Climate Policy, examined the implications of an African conscious approach to global climate policy, among the ongoing power imbalances many institutions and systems continue and how we can cohesively work to change harmful narratives and address the climate crisis. To learn more please visit our website.
This past week we had the pleasure of inviting CUNY professor Dr. Boukary Sawadogo to The Africa Center for a community conversation and to present his book, Africans in Harlem: An Untold New York Story. The discussion highlighted the experience of African-born migrants, their dynamic influences on Harlem and provided a historical overview of the encounters and exchanges between Africa and Harlem which paved the way for today’s presence of African-born migrants. In the coming days, an audio recording will be available on our website.
While we are cognizant of the tragedy of Alika Ogorchukwu’s death and so many others whose names we might not know, we recognize that the conversations happening in our environments either bring us closer or further away from a more humane, just, and equitable world where instances like this do not happen as often as they currently do. Thank you for being part of our efforts to advance those conversations at The Africa Center and to work to end the brutality of racism and white supremacy anywhere it exists in the world.
We’ll see you soon.
Uzodinma Iweala, M.D.
Chief Executive Officer, The Africa Center
P.S. – We wish our Kenyan community all the best as they participate in elections this week. May they serve as an example to all of us across the continent as they uphold their collective right to choose their future. #KenyaDecides