By the mid-twentieth century, following the massive waves of emigration of landless peasants and two World Wars, life in Sicily was still in desperate need of reform. There is one man who personifies the struggle of Sicilians to cure Sicily - the social reformer and writer, Danilo Dolci. Referred to in the international media as the Sicilian Gandhi, Dolci came to Sicily in the mid-1950s as a young man and spent more than forty years as a champion of social justice for Sicily’s dispossessed peasants. Dolci used non-violent techniques (such as hunger strikes and sit-down protests) to combat the endemic corruption and violence of western Sicily. His poetry is as powerful as the riveting eye-witness reports in his books, The Outlaws of Partinico and Waste. In a poem created over the course of eighteen years of listening to and speaking with countless peasants, Dolci gave voice to their unheard voices and words to their unspoken hopes. More than that, Dolci’s poem was an anthem for the brave Sicilians who dared to fight for justice and for all Sicilians who reject the evils of fatalism.
“We dont want rivers wasted
of an incredible age."
Danilo Dolci, “The Moon Lemon,” in Creature of Creatures, Selected Poems, translated by Justin Vitiello (Saratoga: Anma Libri, 1980), 12-13.
In recent years young Sicilians have bravely propelled the grassroots movement called Addiopizzo, banding together merchants and consumers to renounce the historic stranglehold of organized crime doing business in and around Palermo. Lands that have been reclaimed from the Mafia now are also organically planted to vines, olive trees, and grain under the banner Libera Terra (“Free Land”). Sicilians are creating their own new incredible age for Sicily. We share their hope.