I have an Inspirational Butterfly that I think we should all take a moment and open our wings up to.
Meet Inspirational Butterfly Cecil Kyenge.
In April of this year, Ms. Kyenge was appointed Minister of Integration for Italy, making her the country’s first black cabinet member. A huge accomplishment of any woman of color, but for someone like Minister Kyenge, her appointment was a logical destination for a woman dedicated to blotting out economic, social, cultural, and color lines.
Before we get into why she is currently making headlines, I think it is important that you get to know more about her.
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Min. Kyenge graduated with a degree in medicine from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome and went on to specialize in ophthalmology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. A truly amazing feat for any woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo. For decades in that country rape, murder and severe brutality of women and even female children was seen as an instrument of war. For any beauty to come from such ashes is a story to be celebrated.
In 2002 she founded the Association for Intercultural DAWA with the aim of promoting mutual understanding of different cultures and develop processes of awareness, integration and cooperation between Italy and Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo where Kyenge focuses mostly her efforts.
In 2004 she was elected in a district of the town of Modena for the Democrats o
f the Left and later became the provincial head of the Forum of International Cooperation and Immigration.
In June 2009 she was elected provincial councilor in Modena for the Democratic Party (PD) and joined the committee Welfare and social policies. She is also responsible for immigration policies in Emilia-Romagna for the Democratic Party.
In February 2013 she was elected member of the Chamber of Deputies for the PD in Emilia-Romagna.
Immediately after her election to the Italian Parliament, with the support of other signatories (Pier Luigi Bersani, Khalid Chaouki andRoberto Speranza), she began to promote a plan for a law granting citizenship to children of immigrants born on Italian soil (a so-called Ius soli law).
With such an impressive resume and victorious destiny, one could see why some politicians and/or their supporters (specifically the Northern League party) have likened her to an orangutan, suggested that she be raped and commented that she looks more like she would make a good housekeeper, not a government Minister. The rape comment, surprisingly, was made by a woman. Yes, a woman. Dolores Valandro is her name…..
Although apologies have been made and small punishments doled out, it seems that the comments and actions of these “leaders” have intensified the racist attacks on Minister Kyenge. Just recently, while speaking at a rally a participant threw bananas at the stage. This is the reason why she is currently making headlines…..
“The racist abuse and taunts endured by Italy’s first black minister, Cecile Kyenge, further escalated on Friday after a banana was hurled at her during a rally, sparking outrage across the political spectrum.
Kyenge, who is the minister for Integration, and is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was speaking at a political rally Cervia in central Italy, when someone in the audience threw bananas towards the stage, narrowly missing it.
It is the latest incident in a series of abusive comments, death threats and insults. Earlier this month a senior parliamentarian in the anti-immigration Northern League party likened her to an orangutan and only apologized after a storm of criticism.
Another Northern League party member said on Facebook last month that Kyenge should be raped so she understands how victims of crimes committed by immigrants feel.
Kyenge responded to yesterday’s incident on her Twitter account writing that the attack was “sad” and a “waste of food”, considering the economic crisis.”
So why all of the hatred and violence at this woman? Unfortunately Italy has a serous race relations problem. In Italy, you are only considered Italian if you are of Italian blood. Being born on Italian soil does not make you a citizen. That is one policy that Minister Kyenge is trying to change. She proposes that anyone born on Italian soil should be considered a citizen. this is due to the fact that for every 5 children born in the country, 1 is of a foreign parent.
While some believe that the attacks against Min. Kyenge are merely due to her policies, her race seems to be the biggest issue.
While Italians don’t like to think of their country as racist, the experience of non-white Italians and resident immigrants illustrates a culture that has found it hard to welcome increasing diversity. “How many times have I been told, ‘You’re so beautiful, you don’t even seem truly black?’” says Medhin Paolos, 23, an Italian of Eritrean descent and a member of Rete G2, a group campaigning for a reform of Italy’s citizenship laws. “Where I come from, this is not a compliment.”
A study by the University of Messina and the anti-discrimination group ARCI found that a substantial majority of the children of immigrants reported being insulted on the streets, talked down to by teachers, watched with suspicion in shops, turned away from restaurants and treated rudely by immigration officials. In 2002, the Italian government passed a law requiring all non-Italian residents to have their fingerprints taken, as part of the process for applying for residency.
“There’s the idea that black people stink,” says Jean Zongo, 28, the son of African immigrants. There was a period when he was younger, Zongo was afraid to take the bus at night, for fear of encountering racial violence. More than once, he has climbed aboard to hear a group of young men grunting like monkeys. It’s a charmless display of racism that has migrated from Italy’s soccer stadiums — where Mario Balotelli, the Italian football star of Ghanaian heritage, has famously faced chants of “There’s no such thing as a black Italian” — to youth culture at large. Zongo has traveled to France, Spain and England. Only in his own country, he says, is he made to feel second class. “[Discrimination] is present in just about every aspect of life, in every circumstance,” he says. TIME Magazine
Not all Italians support the views and actions of those described above. Thousands of Italians voiced their disgust at the attacks against Minister Kyenge, and some justice was served. And there are many more that support Min. Kyenge and the changes she is attempting to make.
The reason why I wanted to highlight Cecil as an Inspirational Butterfly is two-fold:
First, I wanted to sort of “kill” the headlines associated with her name. If you search Minister Kyenge online, most of what you find is attached to some sort of racism or racial attack that she had endured. While it is important that we know that this type of behavior exists, I also believe that all Cecil has accomplished, coming from one state of war to another, was worthy of it’s own headline.
Secondly, I included the negative with the positive, so to speak, because we each need to understand that the War on Women includes our race, culture, religion and ethnicity. Anything the enemy can do to divide and conquer will be used and so far it has been effective. Women like Cecil are on the front lines and under heavy fire. In order to fully support them, we have to know exactly what type of fight they are up against and make damn sure we don’t add fuel to the fire!
How many women have attacked the race, religion, ethnicity, culture and gender of other women in the name of politics? I hope that not one of you reading this can count yourselves among them. If so, I hope this blog will be an instrument of change in you that will allow you to break from the chrysalis of negativity and allow the wings of change, empowerment and Womanity to carry you into the Butterfly Age we are currently in!
If we are ever to achieve true Womanity, each of us within ourselves need to make sure that we do not allow our differences to divide us, but empower us! We can learn so much from each other, in each other’s native culture and tongue, if we just took the time to listen, embrace, appreciate and celebrate one another. If anyone can do it Butterflies, it’s US!
What I love most about this entire situation is Minister Kyenge’s response to the attacks. She is not at all phased, dismayed or discouraged by ignorance; and that makes her and even more Inspirational Butterfly whose example all of humanity should follow.
The Butterfly Bridge opens our wings and salutes Minister Cecil Kyenge on her appointment to the Italian Parliament, her dedication to diversity, and her ability to FLY above poverty, discrimination, ignorance and racism!
Until we meet in the sky and FLY again,
Have an amazing week!