Written by Roshan De Stone and Hannah Kirmes-Daly.
Curving our way through the mountains, we arrived to the Italy’s autonomous region of Trento. Exiting the train station, we were greeted by a plush green park, filled with elderly Italian couples and young male migrants sitting in the sun. We had come to visit the Bruno Social Centre, a place of self-organisation and co-operation working toward making Trento a better, a more inclusive, city. On our way, wandering through the city centre’s picturesque plaza, we heard a women singing , a cap in hand. Her voice was soft, yet strong and passers-by walked past without seeming to hear her.
Dropping a few coins in her hat, we learned that her name was Benedetta, or Blessing in English, and she had travelled from Nigeria to try and make some money to send back home to her sick mother and two children: “ I just want them to be able to go to school” she said. She explained how she had looked for work, but her lack of Italian, black skin, and immigration status had made it nearly impossible to find anything other than sex work or begging. “For most people like me, sex is the only way they can make money.” With 80% of Nigerian women arriving in Italy ending up in the sex trade, she is not wrong. She continued to tell us however, that as a Christian, her belief made her feel she could not bring herself to offer sex for money or just beg. “I want to work”. Owning next to nothing, singing was one of the few things she could offer. Despite the hardship she had suffered on her journey to Italy, she had a strong spirit: telling us that she believed that Jesus would bring justice to all in the end.
Arriving at Bruno Social Centre, we were led up three flights of stairs to a tailor shop. Senegalese music rose above the hum of sewing machines. Four men, deep in concentration lent over their sewing machines, stitching brightly coloured cloth. Vividly patterned materials garnered in bright blues, greens, yellows and red were splashed across every surface and dresses, shirts and trousers hung from the ceiling. Scissors, measuring tapes, piles of cloth and pens cluttered every free surface. This was a tailor workspace run by professional tailors who also happened to be refugees and migrants.