9 May – Ode to Peppino Impastato

Peppino Impastato

9 May is a date most Sicilians remember.

On 9 May 1978, Peppino Impastato – a political activist, journalist and poet – was brutally killed by the Mafia for speaking up. He was my age.

Born in a family related to the Mafia, Peppino broke off relations with his father when he was just a teenager and started his political and anti-mafia activism. In 1977 he founded Radio Aut, a ‘counter-information radio station’ where he would expose and ridicule mafiosi and politicians alike. Satire was Peppino’s most powerful weapon against Mafia, but it also costed him his life.

The night between 8 and 9 May 1978, his body was blown up with TNT on the railway line between Palermo and Terrasini. They tried to make it look like a suicide.

There are no words to describe the outrage I still feel when thinking about this murder. And this year, I can’t help but thinking he was my age when he was killed. It makes me feel so small in comparison, but also so inspired by the great courage of this man.

Peppino will always be one of the most inspirational figures in Sicilian history and I want to remember him through the words of his mother, Felicia:

foto home

This is not my son.
These are not his hands.
This is not his face.
These few pieces of flesh, I didn’t make them.
My son was the voice who shouted in public
he was a razor blade, sharpened by his own words
he was rage
he was love
who wanted to sprout
who wanted to grow
This was my son when he was alive,
when he was fighting against everyone:
mafiosi, fascists, ‘omini di panza’
who are not worth a penny
fathers without children
wolves with no pity.
I talk to him, alive
I can’t talk to dead people.
I wait for him, night and day,
now he opens the door,
he comes in, he hugs me,
I call him, he’s studying in his room,
now he goes out, now he comes back
his face as dark as the night,
but when he smiles it’s like the sun rising for the first time,
a new born sun.
This is not my son,
these pieces of flesh are not Peppino.
These are all the children
who couldn’t be born in another Sicily .

Grazie, Peppino.


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