March 2023 Meeting speaker recap
The Precarious Scales of Justice; Antonella Bundu defines True Equality
by Lisa Robbins
On 8 March, International Women’s Day, Antonella Bundu, shared her political aspirations and experiences as the first black Italian* to run for mayor and outlined her crusade for justice and true equality.
An activist and member of Florence’s city council, Bundu ran for mayor of Florence in 2019, the first black Italian woman to do so in a major Italian city.
She spoke passionately for equity as the only way to achieve true equality. ‘We all have stories to tell. But our stories depend on our origins, our personal experiences. We don’t all start off on the same footing.’ Depending on where we are born, what we look like, what social class we are in, how we are educated our foundation is unique, she explained. Prejudice and bias make it harder for some than for others. ‘Foreigners in Prato, for example work twelve-hour days’: a violation of employment law. Italian women are afforded lesser rights (‘receive poorer treatment’) than women in many other European countries, she stated, noting that ‘more women are care takers in here’. She pointed to privileges that women have fought for: the ability to have an abortion and the right not to be sterilized.
Bundu envisions an Italy where all residents should be entitled to the same privileges. This is not the case now. Foreigners are not entitled to a Carte d’Identita or tessura sanitaria health privileges. In addition, women should feel they can pursue career goals, the gender gap should be reduced. Students in public schools should be taught gender studies as a step toward raising awareness.
How do we achieve these lofty goals? ‘We work within the system to show solidarity with protesters for just causes so that things can change,’ Bundu states. It was after the shooting of a Senegalese immigrant in 2018 here in Florence that she found her political voice. Her background in this field includes work with Oxfam and her participation in the Social Forum, as well as taking part in protests again racism in Macerata (Le Marche) and in Florence.
Born in Florence in 1969 to a Florentine mother and a Sierra Leonean father, Bundu studied black history in Liverpool and participated in racial protest movements there. With an Italian mother tongue and English as her second language, she moved back and forth between Freetown, Sierra Leona and Florence during her childhood. While she does not actually identify with a specific left or right party, Bundu heads Italy’s Sinistra Progetto Comune left opposition party.
She is nothing if not courageous. The year she ran for office (2019) a climate of intolerance was festering under the command of Secretary of the Northern League’s Matteo Salvini as Deputy Prime Minister. At that point (more than 70 years after Benito Mussolini’s death) thousands of purportedly disgruntled Italians had joined self-described fascist groups. With her liberal egalitarian perspective, Bundu has more than once been labelled ‘a beacon of hope’ in a regressive Italy.
As a black woman working in government Bundu has been ‘used’ as a tool to help the populace ‘overcome prejudice’, a necessary role that she willingly engages in. Establishing true justice is a precarious business and she does her part, she explains. It seems fitting that her WIN talk took place just two weeks before the International Day Against Racial Discrimination.
*if not the first black Italian to do so, certainly the first black Italian woman to do so.