On Sunday, 14 March 2010, Rome saw its first volunteer effort to remove graffiti, tagging and litter, in Villa Borghese. It was launched by Retake Rome, a grassroots movement committed to increasing civic awareness and pride by “speaking up and cleaning up.”
Retake Rome’s indefatigable founder, Rebecca Spitzmiller, an American law professor at Roma Tre University, is married to an Italian and has been in Rome 25 years. One day she got so fed up with the graffiti on her apartment building that she cajoled her son into helping her scrub it off with oven cleaner. She then approached a nearby, private high school, Istituto Cristo Re, which embraced her offer to teach student volunteers a hands-on course in civic education and that was the beginning of a wonderful initiative!
She has gotten enthusiastic encouragement in a growing number of municipi (city districts) as well as from the Mayor’s office, which co-sponsored the Villa Borghese event and has already levied heavy fines (up to 1,000 Euros) on those who ‘tag’ and produce illegal graffiti. (There are some walls where graffiti is allowed.)
She has also launched a competition amongst high school students to come up with a slogan to make it ‘cool’ NOT to tag. Spitzmiller argues that kids here do not always have enough to engage them — tagging is a way of being noticed. She hopes they will find other ways to occupy themselves through this initiative.
Anita Garibaldi, the great granddaughter of Giuseppe Garibaldi, found this idea so appealing that she offered to make it an official activity of the Fondazione Giuseppe Garibaldi and to publicize Retake Rome on its website. For more information, consult www.fondazionegaribaldi.it or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Contributed by Gretchen Bloom, ItalianNotebook.com reader and Central Italy expert. Also a recent Senior Advisor at the UN’s World Food Program as well as head of WFP’s Programme Unit in Kabul, Afghanistan, for 15 month. Expert in gender issues and community health. Many thanks!