Commentary. This message from the mayor of Riace, Italy, was read out publicly during a demonstration for him on Saturday. Lucano is under house arrest and charged with ‘abetting illegal immigrants.’

The courage to stand alone

Needless to say, I wanted to be present among you—not just to exchange greetings and pleasantries, but for something more: to talk without the obligation and necessity of writing, to experience that feeling of spontaneity, to feel the emotion that the words stir up in our hearts, and, finally, to thank you personally, each and every one of you, and join you in a strong collective embrace, with all the affection of which we are capable as human beings.

To all of you who are part of a people marching toward a dream of true humanity, toward a still-imaginary place of true justice, each of you setting time aside from your everyday affairs and defiant even in the face of inclement weather: I want to thank you.

The sky is darkened by many black clouds nowadays: the same black tide that is darkening the skies of Europe everywhere, hiding terrifying horizons of jagged peaks and dark valleys, of lands beset by pain and graves, of the cruelties of new fascist barbarisms.

Here, faced with that dark horizon, stand all the peoples—each with their own suffering, struggles and achievements. In the small but defining moments of our everyday life, daily events are inextricably linked with political events, and the crucial ever-present problems of life with the renewed threats of expulsion, of attacks, death and repression.

Today, in this borderland, in this small piece of land in the Italian South, a land of suffering, hope and resistance, we are now living though a day that is destined to go down in history.

We ourselves are the history—with our choices, our beliefs, our mistakes, our ideals and our hopes for justice that no one will ever be able to suppress.

There will come a day when there will be more respect for human rights, more peace that wars, more equality, more freedom than barbarism—a day when it won’t be the case that some people travel business class while others are packed together like human cargo, trying to escape colonial ports and fighting to stay afloat against the coming waves of hatred.

Regarding my personal situation and my legal proceedings, I don’t have much to add to what has already been widely reported. I bear no grudges and I am not accusing anyone.

But I would like to say to all the world that I have nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide. If I could go back, I would do exactly the same things, which have given meaning to my life. I will never forget your overwhelming flood of solidarity.

I will hold all of you in my heart for a long time. We must never retreat: if we are united and keep our humanity, we can hope to move closer to the dream of a social utopia.

May you have the courage to stand out from the crowd, and the daring to band together when fighting for the same ideals.

To be disobedient whenever anyone gives you orders that violate your conscience.

To deserve the label of ‘rebels’ they are trying to pin on us, and to be those who refuse to forget in times when amnesia has been made mandatory.

To be so stubborn as to continue to believe, even against all evidence, that it is worthwhile for all of us, men and women, to act humanely toward each other.

To continue to walk on in spite of all failures, betrayals and defeats, because history goes on even after us—and the doors that may be closed now, the future will open.

We must wish that we always keep alive the certainty that it is possible to be fellows of all people whose lives are animated by the desire for justice and beauty, wherever we find ourselves and wherever we live—because there are no borders to time, and no borders to the human heart.

Hasta siempre.

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