The “Why” of African Docs and its projects
I was about 5 years old, living with my grandmother in Uromi, Nigeria. Regularly, I would go to visit my biological family who were living in another village from us. In one of my visits, I saw one of my elderly brother, by the name Ogbemudia, who was going to primary school at the time. He had just returned from school and was reading what they studied in school. That for me was the magic moment – I could not comprehend how it was possible for somebody to be looking at mere drawings on white piece of paper and begin to talk. I had seen my mother talking to my father and my father responding and vice versa, but now my brother was talking alone or to some drawings on a piece of paper. There must be something to this, I reasoned as a child.
From that moment, I said to myself that I was going to spend my life trying to understanding the “power of the written words”, even though I didn’t really know what that could mean. Soon I started primary school myself and then secondary school. All through, I concentrated on how to write stories, like it was my primary subject to study in school. I wrote my first book, “Round My Mind” in J. S. S. 3 (Junior Secondary School, class 3) and since then I have never stopped writing.
When leaving Nigeria to Europe in the August of 2004, the things I placed in my traveling bag were few: some copies of my first published book, a floppy disc, containing a book I was currently writing which I only finished years later and titled (Still Owing Me Goodbye), a copy of Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and a Bible. All these tools came to serve me well, because my writings became even more important to me, especially in my European journey. I must admit that writing was what really rescued me in my early years in Italy, because the situation I found myself was quite depressing and frustrating to say the least – coming into a country in 2004 and remaining legally inexistent until 2011, meaning no possibility of working and therefore no money, not even the hope of getting out of the situation anytime soon, so you can only imagine the emotional trauma I went through.
Well, I saved myself from the situation by continuously writing, writing down most of the experiences I was going through and making my own analysis as if I was questioning everything to find an explanation. This way, I didn’t need to think so much about the negative sides of the situation. Most of my writings from those days are still in my computer till date; I never published them.
At a point, it occurred to me that there could be a sense to the whole story: my childhood dream of trying to understand “the power of the written words”, the difficult experiences I was going through in Italy and the future that had become nothing uncertain. Maybe it was “a learning process”, everything for me to learn from. When I understood this, the whole experience took a different meaning for me. The difficulties I could not change then became more acceptable, because I had identified a real meaning for my journey. All these with my unreserved thanks to my special friends who were there at the darkest hours of the night, like Fabrizio Columbus, Vilma Ottonelli and a long list of others.
Then I said to myself that I was going out there, and through my writing and the new skill (video making) I had acquired through online education, I was going to explore the world around me until I had crossed 40 years. Then I would set up a project of restitution or a sort of school where I would transform the knowledge I have gained, to help the community. And if I could do this, my childhood dream of trying to understand “the power of the written words” would have had a meaning and be of use to other people.
The first project I felt I needed to start, then in 2013, was to carry out a research about the first Africans in the city of Verona, and my questions were very precise: “these first Africans in Verona, what have been their stories? Why did they come here? How did they survived their situation till now and why did many of them never return to Africa? These questions, and my indispensable collaborators, have been the key guides for over five years, as we went around Verona and other cities of Northern Italy, doing our research and talking to whoever could listen to us.
With those precise questions and the invaluable contribution of several people, a simple research project about the presence of African migrants in Verona has now evolved into an international eLearning platform for the service of a much larger community.
This is the “why” of A-classes, the real motivation behind the project, transforming all we have learned all these years to improve the lives of the people, and we are extremely proud of it. We are equally thankful to the new collaborators who are coming to join us, both locally and internationally.
We thank you all for believing in our dreams.