The Italy Center internship course offers students a unique opportunity to experience an international work environment at organizations with a social justice mission. Regis University student Angelo Nickele was asked by the Italy Center Director to share his perspectives on the skills and insights gained while working at Arte Migrante.
Tell us a bit about your internship site?
Arte Migrante is a social advocacy and integration organization created in 2012 by students at the University of Bologna. Arte Migrante creates space for Italians and immigrants to come together to create art in many different forms. Each evening begins with a goofy game or some sort of an icebreaker then we all eat together. Following dinner we are asked to share poems or music from one’s own culture, or a dance, you name it. Thru this sharing we create a way of intercultural exchange and community building. The project began in Bologna and I believe now exist in eighteen Italian cities.
This sounds nice but is it effective?
What Arte Migrante does, is that it helps to build a strong sense of community and from this a migrant begins to gain confidence, feel welcome and can them move forward solving problems. The community actually helps all of us so we do not feel alone and isolated. This is especially important for people who are new arrivals and have no support. This exchange helps migrants to build a full life and to take care of themselves and to ultimately become more productive members of society.
This is all great but I think migrants need jobs and housing in order to get ahead in life?
Indeed, but what this does, the idea of sharing, you begin to build proximity with different members of the community. This is critical for the future of Italy, to come together with “the other”. Brian Stephenson, a US civil rights advocate and lawyer who works with people on death row talks specifically about building proximity and sharing simply things like song, dance, a meal, or even your name builds a shared identify. Most refugees and migrants are caught in a world of filling out paperwork, navigating bureaucracy, waiting for a lawyer, stuck in a center and a system that can make one feel hopeless. Survival in Bologna is not only complying by paperwork. If you have the papers but not a community you remain alone. By sharing you build power in oneself and among others.
Say a bit about Tommaso Carturan the Arte Migrante founder who has become your friend, talk about and his leadership style and his vision?
Tommaso has very unique style, at times he pushes me, but he always remains along side me, at other times he wants me to lead. In fact, we are planning to launch a Arte Migrante community when I return to Denver next fall. He has strong inter-personal communication which always he makes you feel welcome and known.
As a Peace and Justice studies major, tell me, how does change happen?
Before coming here I was struggling with how to keep people engaged, my experience prior was with IWW railroad workers, SEUI workers, and then my own experience organizing on the Regis campus. The biggest question remains, how to keep people engaged? The way to keep people engaged is through the interpersonal, the same reasons they came in the first place. Sharing names, meals, building power and keeping community development alive. Without the continued sharing it is hard to keep people engaged.
Technology is an interesting part of this effort. Technology can bring us together but can it can also make us more isolated. The key to building community and going for the long haul is not about instant results. Again, this all goes back to sharing and creating truly interpersonal connections. Instead of waiting for a response or a “like” on social media we need to remember to go and knock on a door or make a phone call or at a bare minimum be sure to make eye contact.
Eye to eye work is the key to long-term activism, we need connectedness, we needs the proximity.
Thanks Angelo !