The experiences of Afro Italians is something I’ve always found intriguing. From the outside looking in, discussions surrounding race in Italy has always been a gruelling topic, filled with stories about the abuse of migrant agricultural labourers to racial abuse within football.
The beauty within the country – from its diverse architecture ranging from Romanesque to Neoclassical to its beautiful landscapes and culture – has often been marred by the racist undertones which exist within Italian society and the struggle that many Afro Italians and those that look like them have to face day in and day out.
One woman looking to change that is writer and activist Abril Muvumbi, a 23-year-old born and bred Afro-Italian from the Emilio Romagna region in Bologna.
“As is the case in many European countries, being a Black woman in Italy means you have to work that little bit harder and always be ready to show and prove that you are capable and up to the task,” she says.
Abril was born and raised in Italy to Congolese and Zambian parents. “We definitely maintain close ties to Congo and Zambia, “ she affirms. “I have been there many times, I speak the language and talk frequently with my relatives.”
“My parents have managed well to teach my brothers and me about our origins and what its like to be a Black person in another country.”
The budding activist grew up around a strong Congolese community in Emilia-Romagna, and she heralds the region for its diversity.
“I have to say that our region is one of the most inclusive in all of Italy. There are many different communities,” she says.
Known for its sandy beaches, to thick vast forests, Emilio Rogmana is as picturesque as you can imagine. And thanks to its beauty and the pleasant upbringing Abril had in the region, she shares a deep love for the country and her identity as an Italian woman of African descent.
“I love having plural identities. The more I grow up, the more I find things that I love. My favourite thing is the fact that you can breathe history and art everywhere,” she says.
“Although it’s easy to overlook how lucky we are to have all of this, I don’t.”
Abril’s activist aspirations began early on in her youth, after witnessing her father’s success.
“My dad is the President of a Congolese Community [group], so growing up, I witnessed and was inadvertently influenced by his activism,” she says.
However, it wasn’t until 2018, after graduating from the University of Bologna and working in the European Parliament alongside MEP Cecile Kyenge, that Abril became inspired to represent the interests of Afro-Europeans.
“I was honoured with the opportunity to meet and talk with other Afro-European and Afro-American politicians. Something inside of me changed,” she recalls.
It was then that Abril understood the importance of representation and the need for more Black people to be seen in these spaces which can affect change and most importantly, the lives of those who are at most risk.
“Our people are dying coming here because we do not have a fair immigration system, and this was really hurting me. I couldn’t stay silent and I won’t.”
According to Reuters, 6.2 million migrants live in Italy and immigration is a “politically sensitive issue.” Rightist parties like Matteo Salvini’s League, have gained widespread popularity due to their policies which aim to prevent “an influx of migrants from northern Africa” – a stance which Abril is determined to fight.
Abril has become quite established in Italy as she works to fight Afrophobia in the country and across Europe. She is a member of the National Assembly, a published writer, is running for city council in the city of Imola and credits her work with the ARDI intergroup (Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup) as a major factor in her evolution as an activist fighting for the rights of people like her.
“Working in the Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup and being part of the inaugural People of African Descent Week was also a real turning point for me,” she says.
“It’s hard, but I am focused to do what I can for change in this country. I hope to leave something for my children and grandchildren.”
The work that Abril is doing at such a young age, showcases her determination to improve the experiences of ethnic minorities across Europe.
From mobilising young people who are interested in politics, to her aspirations to implement new policies on migration and tackling discrimination in Italy and Europe, Abril has quite a task on her hands – but she also has the skill and drive to make it happen.
Prepare to see a lot more from Ms.Muvumbi.
Keep up with Abril on Instagram
Written by Merisa Gomez-Adams