I’ve never shared this with anyone, but now I’ve decided to because I recognise and highly believe in the healing properties of shared experiences and how they can lead the troubled to help.
At the age of eight when I relocated to Europe with my sister to join our parents, I didn’t know there was, in this human world, a category of people who were defined Black and others White. It simply never occurred to me. Of course, although I was a little child, I knew about people being different from me and my dark skin. What I didn’t know was what I was in the eyes of others. I never thought to be Black until I came to Europe.
It wasn’t just the colour of my skin; what I never knew was the baggage and the notion of blackness that comes along with my skin.
I grew up in a predominantly White neighbourhood and consequently went to school with White friends. We’d share joys and tears and went to each other’s birthday parties. We went to the park behind the elementary school together every afternoon after four to play. We raced with our bikes.
Racism hit me at the age of ten, in my classroom, within the walls that had held the joys and tears of a happy childhood. At the time, my class was the fourth room on the third floor of the beige building in Via Chopin, the name of the street of my school.
Nothing was given being a Black person growing up in Italy; life was already tough because of the dichotomy of this identity, add to that living with racism.
As a Black child I was never educated on systems of White-ness or Black-ness. My parents never thought of schooling me. Every time I came home from school reporting incidents and racist remarks I had received, I was told to give them a taste of their own medicine; which medicine?
At fourteen years I thought of committing suicide because life as I had known it had no meaning. I was being mocked for my blackness and dismissed when I tried to share my struggle. I was torn in and out of places, feeling empty, and emptied by those who I cared for.
At fourteen, life didn’t take flight for me, and when it did, it resulted in an immediate crash. I cried a lot at night and I stopped going to the park. I was often alone in the house and the blue knives that my mum used to cook were in the second draw of the kitchen set, near our Whirlpool fridge.
I often thought about it, and would sometimes imagine where the cut would be more effective and less painful. I imagined my funeral several times and thought about my Aunt Maggie in Ghana, who would have been so torn because she couldn’t have been here in Europe, but she would have always kept me in her heart and a picture of me in front of her mirror.
At fourteen, I thought of denying myself life because it was a gift made tourture by racism.
Racism came also from Black classmates, and that was painful, plus one. They mocked my name and who I was. That day I cried in class and then outside for two or three hours. That day I realised I was alone: No parents, no sisters nor brothers had compassion.
I found hope in the poems I wrote and the books I read. I knew my life was bigger than me, with a purpose that was bigger than that present time. I vowed to be my own light and not to rely on the compassion of others. I chose passion to fight this, and life was revealed again.