Yusupha Susso is 21 years old. He comes from Gambia, the smallest state on the African continent. Those who know him describe him as an extraordinary boy who faced terrible tragedies in his short life (he was born in 1995). He has crossed North Africa and the Mediterranean and has arrived in Palermo. His ability to speak several languages got him a job as cultural mediator at the local Tribunal. He loves Italy. He loves studying, experiencing new things and learning. He loves singing. Yusupha is, in fact, a gipsy singer, a jali . He’s not an African, his skin is not dark, he speaks our language. Yusupha is simply our brother; we have the same values and hopes for this accursed land.
On Saturday, he was hanging out with some friends in an alleyway that leads on Via Maqueda, which is more central. It was hot and sunny, full of people around, spring was in the air, mild and jovial. Yusupha was strolling around, perhaps he was cheerfully singing to himself like any other 20 year old would do.
As I read the newspapers and the Police’s reconstruction of events, I watched the images captured on a video published by online newspapers: a twenty-eight year old white male, from Palermo, previous offender, intervenes in a fight that started for no reason and shoots Yusupha, the bullet goes through his head.
Today Yousupha is in a drug-induced coma, he is fighting death.
In the streets of Palermo, outside, the offender’s “friends” continue their raids against migrants; they want to mark their territory because, according to the Police Commissioner Nicola Longo, it’s clear that some families in Ballarò want to display and emphasize their power. The “others” deserve to be harassed, slapped, punched and insulted, in silence.
What happened is not an isolated case of racism but it is embedded in a much wider social framework that I struggle to understand myself. What I know is that Yusupha was tired of being harassed, of looking down. What I know is that we should, together with Yusupha, open our eyes and stop looking the other way.
UPDATE: Yusupha and the community of Palermo have awakened: the former from his coma, the latter from its slumber. On Saturday 9th April, in fact, a demonstration against abuse and violence was held in the streets of Ballarò (T.N. traditional market in Palermo).
Translation by Francesca Colantuoni
Testo originale in italiano di Simona D’Alessi
*Photo Copyright: Francesco Faraci
Translator’s note: Also known as Griot: A member of a class of travelling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa. (Oxford Dictionary)