By COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press
MILAN (AP) — A Black Italian actress said she received online harassment for the color of her skin after it was announced she would appear as a guest at Italy’s annual Sanremo music festival.
Lorena Monroe Cesarini, 34, read some of the messages to the audience during Wednesday night’s broadcast of the festival on RAI state television.
“They invited you because you are Black,” read one message that said she did not deserve to be there. She quoted another one that read: “Maybe they called you to wash the staircase or water the plants.”
Cesarini said it was the first time she had been the target of racism growing up in Italy, and that the messages started as soon as it was reported that she would be a guest of the festival.
“Evidently for someone, the color of my skin is a problem,’’ said the actress best known for her role in the Italian serial drama “Suburra.”
Cesarini, who was born in Dakar, Senegal, to a Senegalese mother and Italian father, received shouts of support from the live audience, including one who yelled, “You’re Italian,” to which she responded, “Yes, and proud.”
She told the audience that she remained perplexed by the messages: “Why do people feel the necessity to write such things on social media? Why do people have a problem with the color of my skin?”
Incidents of racism in Italy have drawn more attention in recent years. Both public and private Italian TV have come under fire for the persistent use of racist language and imagery, and the failure to generally represent second-generation Italians of African or Asian descent as integral to society. Black Italian designers have also been pushing for more representation in the fashion world.
“Lorena and her monologue are the reason we are doing the work we are doing,’’ said Michele Ngonmo, the head of Afro Fashion Week Milan who has been helping develop a database of Black creatives working in Italy and promoting young designers of color.
President Sergio Mattarella called racism and antisemitism “intolerable aggressions” during his wide-ranging remarks to lawmakers after being sworn in for an extraordinary second term on Thursday.
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