«Istruitevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutta la nostra intelligenza. Agitatevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutto il nostro entusiasmo. Organizzatevi, perché avremo bisogno di tutta la nostra forza.»
“Instruct yourselves, because we will need all our intelligence. Stir yourselves up, because we will need all our enthusiasm. Organize yourselves, because we will need all our strength.”
(Antonio Gramsci, the first issue of L’Ordine Nuovo, May 1 1919)
On the evening of Wednesday, April 13th, over thirty NYU Florence students gathered around a banquet table in Villa Sassetti to participate in a discussion around the mobilization of identity and revolutionary activism. Among the students sat two great political activists and scholars: Angela Davis and Gina Dent. “We the Students” created by Wendy Koranteng was the first student-organized La Pietra Dialogue of the semester.
A crowd of people were already overflowing onto Via Camillo Cavour from the packed Cinema La Compagnia when I arrived. It was strange to see the area so lively, especially on a Tuesday night. April 4th was the opening of this year’s Middle East Now film festival in Florence. Marked by a musical performance by Bachar Mar-Khalife and a screening of Last Men in Aleppo by Firas Fayyad (the winner the Sundance film festival), the festival had drawn in Florence and all of the seats in the cinema were filled from 9pm to midnight. I could go on for hours about the rollercoaster of emotions Last Men in Aleppo put me through, but I think it is better for everyone to watch it for themselves. Read more
“Civil Society Activism and Democracy: Risks and Promises” will analyze non-governmental organizations, think tanks, foundations, universities and activists that act as agents of participatory democracy at both the national and global levels. The dialogue was organized by NYU Florence professor Gianluca Sgueo and will take place on May 2 at 6 p.m. in Villa Sassetti. It will feature journalist and activist Angela Gennaro, scholars Jamal Shahin and Vigjilenca Abazi, and lawyer Giulio Carini.
Italian Ghanaian director and activist Fred Kuwornu will come to Villa Sassetti at 6 p.m. on April 21 for the dialogue “Diversity in the Film Industry,” part of the “Race, Racism and Xenophobia in a Global Context” series that NYU Florence is organizing this semester. Kuwornu will present his documentary “Blaxploitalian: 100 Years of Blackness in the Italian Cinema” (2016), which explores the careers of black actors in Italian film. The documentary’s website describes it as “a call-to-action for increased diversity” and more dignified roles for these actors. Read more
Abdel Aziz al-Hamza and Hussam Alissa join Imma Vitelli at Villa Sassetti on April 6 at 6 p.m. for the last of Vitelli’s Craft Talks on Journalism, “Citizen Journalists: Reporting from the Capital of ISIS.” Al-Hamza and Alissa are two of around 17 Syrian activists who helped found Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (R.B.S.S.) in April 2014, an underground citizen journalist group based in Raqqa, a city in northern Syria that has become the capital of ISIS. R.B.S.S. works to document life in Raqqa and has captured evidence of crucifixions, beheadings, sexual abuse and other violent acts. It serves as a source of information for the foreign press who are unable to have reporters on the ground in Raqqa. Read more
The Middle East Now Festival brings cinema, food, art and music from the Middle East and North Africa to Florence. The seventh annual festival will be held from April 5-10 at Cinema Odeon, Cinema Stensen and other places throughout the city. This year’s theme is “Live and Love Middle East,” and 44 films will be presented. The entire program can be downloaded here.
NYU Liberal Studies Professor Joyce Apsel talks about her latest book, “Introducing Peace Museums,” at 6 p.m. in Villa Sassetti on April 28. The book examines peace museums, “a distinct group of museums whose content and activities focus on cultures and histories of peace, and include antiwar and antiviolence messages.” The introduction explains that while war and military museums are kept running with government funds, peace museums are private institutions that often struggle to keep their doors open. The book raises awareness of the existence of peace museums and explores how they take different approaches to the subject in different parts of the world, including in Japan; Bradford, United Kingdom; and Guernica, Spain.
NYU Florence professor David Forgacs joins La Pietra Dialogues on March 21 for Marginal Communities in Italy, a dialogue that is part of the Race, Racism and Xenophobia in a Global Context series. He will talk about the settlements of migrant Roma, fast-track removal centers, and the low-wage informal economy, as well as street vendors, Chinese garment workers and others who live on the margins in Italy.
In his recently published book, Italy’s Margins: Social Exclusion and Nation Formation since 1861, Forgacs examines five cases of political and social exclusion in Italy: “the peripheries of Italy’s major cities after unification; its East African colonies in the 1930s; the less developed areas of its south in the 1950s; its psychiatric hospitals before the reforms of the late 1970s; and its ‘nomad camps’ after 2000.” He explores how photography and writing both support and challenge these exclusions.
Last month Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence, and Imam Izzedin Elzir, President of the Union of Italian Islamic Communities, signed a ‘transparency pact’ that calls for the Italian language to be spoken during Islamic prayer services and for information booths for visitors to be set up in mosques. The pact, which was also signed by officials in Turin and began being discussed in November after the Paris attacks, is among one of the latest efforts to combat Islamophobia in Italy by helping the Italian community better understand Islam.
After the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris in January 2015, Islamophobia seemed to grow around the globe – not unlike after Sept. 11 – including in Italy. The region of Lombardy (the capital of which is Milan) passed a law that stated people of a religion not recognized by the state would face special restrictions when constructing places of worship. The law became known as an “anti-mosque law” due to the fact that Islam is the only major religion not officially recognized by the Italian government (for more on this read the section on “Muslim Organizations” on this information sheet about Islam in Italy). A PEW Research poll released January 2015 – the same month the law was passed – found that 63 percent of Italians polled have an “unfavorable” view of Muslims. This was the largest percentage of any country polled (other countries included Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Poland and Spain). In March 2015, the law was sent to Italy’s highest court for review in response to public outcry, and last month the law was nullified.