In 2019, the online information site "Black Post" was set up in Italy. Staffed by immigrants, its aim is to tackle the subject of migration in a clear and humanizing fashion. The site focuses on bringing migrants' personal stories to their audience.
Created in April 2019, Black Post lends a voice to first and second generation immigrants in Italy, who make up the editorial team of the website. Eleven contributors from Mali, Turkey, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mozambique and Mexico have written for the site so far, with their stories sometimes focusing on the personal and other times on political themes.
The platform says it set up to reflect the views of those who "are often denigrated, discriminated against and or incapable of expressing their own opinion."
When the website was first launched, the public discourse in Italy was still dominated largely by the anti-migrant discourse promoted by Italy's former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. The Black Post wanted to act as a kind of counter-weight to that. According to the intentions outlined on the Post's website, it says that its aims are not to talk about the migrant but rather to let them do the talking and "describe the world which surrounds them for better or worse."
Poetry for Mali
For one of its writers, Soumaila Diawara, a former member of the Malian political opposition who works as an interpreter in Rome for asylum seekers, the Black Post is a way to speak about Africa; he believes that in the discourse about migration, his home continent is often simply reduced to clichés and misinformation. "When I arrived in Italy in 2016 it was complicated. But I learned Italian and I spoke to a lot of people in order to make sure I was integrated," 31-year-old Diawara recalls.
"[Speaking to so many people] made me realize how ignorant so many were – even journalists – when it comes to the subject of immigration. I saw that there was so much false information circulating about Sub-Saharan Africa. For example, lots of people had no idea that 60% of my country, Mali, has been controlled by terrorists since 2012," Diawara explained.
Soumaila Diawara was forced to flee Mali after he became a target and received threats because of his political actions. "My house was burned down. I had to leave and waited for a year in Algeria hoping that things would calm down so that I could return home. Unfortunately, things didn't calm down," Diawara told InfoMigrants.
Diawara's involvement at Black Post is of a more creative nature: he writes poetry for the platform: "My poems are about politics, about western violence in Africa and about racism."
'A lot of people underestimate themselves'
The driving force behind the project is a 26-year-old law student, Luca De Simoni. At the end of 2018, De Simoni felt fed up with the way the mainstream media in Italy reported issues relating to immigration. "Strangely enough," De Simoni says "most of these articles about immigration weren't about actual migrants."
"You need to be an expert to talk about a certain subject. For instance, if you write about the economy in the media, you need to be an expert," De Simoni highlights, adding that he felt the same was not applied when it came to the topic of migration.
The young student decided to contact a well-known journalist in Rome, Sandro Medici, who writes on the issues of migration, and was the former editor-in-chief of the leftist daily newspaper Il Manifesto. De Simoni asked Medici what he thought about the idea of launching a media platform written by migrants and "he adored the concept," remembers De Simoni.
De Simoni and Medici thus started looking for migrant writers to recruit, trawling different places and migration events as well as making contacts in the African community of the country. "We didn't have any specific conditions attached to the recruitment," explains Luca De Simoni. But he adds that it was nevertheless difficult to find people who wanted to join us, as "so many of them underestimated themselves. Others were just suspicious."
'Salvini infected Italy'
This, however, did not apply to Daouda
Saré, who was enthusiastic about "this fantastic idea" from the start. Saré, a
native of Burkina Faso, arrived in Italy in 2008 and has since been naturalized and has integrated into Italian society.
"Black Post is a newspaper which swims against the tide," he explains. "In the last few years, we have stood by and watched a wave of propaganda emitted by some important politicians, like Matteo Salvini; and on the European stage from people like [Hungarian Prime Minister] Viktor Orban. These kinds of people are just against immigration and against the people who have fled their countries in search of a better life. Salvini infected Italian people with a kind of illness and the population began to be scared of immigrants."
Views against migrants have indeed changed in Italy in recent, since the Mediterranean country suffered a major influx of irregular migrants and refugees arriving on its shores by boat. According to a 2018 poll conducted by the European statistic agency Eurostat, 74% of Italians believed that immigration contributed to raised levels of crime.
'This period in my life made me angry with myself and my family'
"Thanks to Black Post it was possible to shed some light on these issues," says Daouda Saré. In his articles, he has written in detail about his own life, how chaotic a start he had in Italy, the icy welcome he received as he landed in the country, and the hard labor he had to endure in the country's southern fields to support himself.
"I was paid between 25 and 30 euros a day. The living conditions were very difficult and complicated, and one of the people I knew actually committed suicide," he wrote. "After working there for about three months, I managed to move to the local town, Foggia. There, I ended up in a ghetto, with thousands of migrants all together in one place. There was all sorts of exploitation going on like prostitution, child labor and so on."
Saré doesn’t shy away from writing about his own emotional situation
and how hard it is to live as a person in exile: "This period of my life
made me angry with myself and with some members of my family who had remained
in Africa. Unconsciously, I was making my life even more difficult than it
needed to be because I had so many expectations which were dashed on my arrival
in Italy," he reflects.
"I was scared about just about everything, about ending up with no papers, about ruining my life and being a failure," he writes while still highlighting that the reality back home propelled him to embark on his journey in the first place. Writing for Black Post has giving him an outlet not only for processing his feeling but also to debunk the myths that are commonplace about migrants living in Italy.
"We are saying: The economic problems in Italy are not our fault. We are not bad people just because you don't know us. We are just like you."
'The contributors are gaining more and more confidence'
The writers at Black Post might therefore not be seasoned journalists, however, their experience and depth of knowledge is improving by the day. Every two weeks, the team meets up to discuss themes for the next edition.
"We try and offer some training; we correct their articles, looking at the language level, structure etc. Writing an article is not like writing a Facebook post. The quality of the contributions has got much better since we launched," explains Luca De Simoni. "That said, Sandro Medici is pushing for less personal stories and personal opinions and more information, because, we are, after all, a newspaper."
He adds that the site has also succeeded in reaching its audience: "We are getting about 300,000 visitors a month, if you take into account all the ways you can access us, including social media networks and our own internet site," De Simoni said in October.
"Our contributors are gaining more and more confidence."
This article was translated
from its French original by Emma Wallis: