Let’s do Lunch: Union Square meeting with Fred Kuwornu and Afro-Italians in NYC

When Fred Kuwornu mentioned to me he was planning a meeting which would bring together a group of his “Afro-Italian” friends, I jumped at the opportunity to attend.

This wouldn’t be the first time I’d immerse myself in the company of black Italians. For a start, the 10-year-plus friendship with my Eritrean best friend Rosa; raised in Rome before moving to London, has taken me through enough inquisitive “but why do you speak Italian?” demanded from her by baffled Italians we meet, or the “Oh! You speak very good Italian!” they’ll credit in bemusement (but didn’t they hear the part when she said she grew up in Italy?) Then there’s the intriguing stories about culture my close friend Stefania from University shares with me in her Italian accent laced with Nigerian-pigeon-English. And of late seeing my Italian-Senegalese “nipoti” adopted to me (because surely everyone black in Italy must be related!) Alu and Gena grow into confident characters during my annual summer visits to Rodallo in the countryside of Torino.

Afro-Italian meeting at Coffee Shop NYCItalian-Ghanaian Blaxploitalian filmmaker Fred Kuwornu attempted to put the “black Italian” phenomenon into retrospective during our meeting with Afro-Italians at Coffee Shop Bar, Union Square.

“From my personal experience, I realised that there are a lot of Italians of African descent, who were not necessarily born in Italy, however they came when were really young; for example refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia or other African countries might have come to Italy when they were three or four years old and then they leave from Italy to many parts of the world; United States, United Kingdom, Europe because their parents decided to move. For many of them, the Italian culture, the language, the behaviour is the primary culture that they have, even if they lived the last 20 years outside of Italy; they still consider themselves as Italian.

There are many situations in the UK where there are people who arrived as refugees, but are now British, and before arriving, they stayed in Italy for six, seven, eight years. Also inside the international community you will find people with different passports, maybe they don’t have the Italian passport, but they have the Italian culture, the Italian language. For me this is phenomenal. I think that sometimes we have to think how a country or a culture of a country can be powerful for everyone who is in transit in its country not only in Italy but in everywhere.

Afro-Italians in NYC meeting at Coffee ShopSo I’m very pleased to have to have this opportunity in New York to meet a lot of them, to see how they miss Italy and how the country gave inspiration – or maybe how much they gave in aspiration to the country. Sometimes, obviously Italy didn’t recognise those with illegal passport, and so I think how beautiful it is in every case, finding these people.” – Fred Kuwornu

Blaxploitalian: 100 Years of Blackness in the Italian Cinema is a documentary that uncovers the careers of a population of entertainers seldom heard from before; black actors in Italian cinema. The film cleverly discloses the personal struggles classic Afro-Italian and African-diasporic actors faced, correlating it with the contemporary actors who work diligently to find respectable and significant roles. More than unveiling of history, it is a call-to-action for increased diversity and esteem in international cinema. Find out more CLICK HERE

Special thanks to Fred Kuwornu for inviting me to be part of what was an insightful day networking, connecting and embracing the diversity of Italian culture in a unique setting! Grazie Eden Ghebresellassie, Fabio Inka, Greta McGee, Lidia Carew, e Valentino Agunu!

More interviews from my new black Italian contacts coming soon!

Coffee Shop: 29 Union Square W, New York, NY 10003
website: www.thecoffeeshopnyc.com

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