A 15-year-old Italian girl of Ghanaian descent has been barred from taking part in a singing contest in Verona, Italy, because she is black and "not a true Italian."
When Dora B. contacted the organiser of Canta Verona Festival, requesting more information on how she could take part, she was told foreigners were not allowed to participate.
After she explained that she was born in Verona and had Italian citizenship, the organisers told her: "People are born Italian, they do not become Italian. Italians are born from Italian parents. "
Dora took screenshots of her Facebook conversation with the organiser. The pictures of the exchange have now flooded social media, where people are venting their outrage for the treatment she had been subjected to.
"When I received that response, my hands were shaking," Dora told IBTimes UK.
"I was born in Italy, my parents have been here for more than 30 years and I feel 100% Italian. Even though I respect my origins, I do not have much to do with Ghana."
Music has always played an important role in her life and Dora dreams of becoming a professional singer one day.
The fact that she was barred from taking part in the contest has not crushed her hope to realise her dream.
Dora has experienced discrimination since she was a child and was bullied by her schoolmates. This treatment has only reinforced her determination to continue her fight to be fully accepted as an Italian citizen, in a country where episodes of racism are common.
"I want to tell other people who might be in the same situation as I was – do not give up. Do not stop fighting until our Italianness is recognised," she said.
"We are Italians like our white friends, our white schoolmates. We are not different just because our skin colour is different. Our culture and our education are here and we are completely Italians."
Since pictures of Dora's conversation with Canta Verona Festival went viral, the organiser has apologised, but has also taken down the music event's Facebook page, according to local media.
"I receive several messages on Facebook. How do I know who's really behind those profiles?" the organiser was quoted By Vanity Fair Italy as saying. "I know I made a mistake by writing those things, but I did not know with whom I was dealing with. I thought it was a joke, a provocation. Anyway, that was my opinion, I don't think I committed a crime."
News site La Repubblica, which identified the organiser as S.P., reported that the man said during a phone interview: "I am 42 and have been doing this job for the past 24 years. I am not racist, my girlfriend is a foreigner and I have friends from all nationalities."
It is believed the organiser was contacted by Dora's borther, who urged him to issue an apology.
"I told him he had to apologise to my sister. He answered that he is not a racist, but that was his opinion," Dora's brother, Emmanuel, told the news site. "I insisted because my sister needed support. In the end, he apologised, but only after my sister shared screenshots of the conversation."
Following the debacle, Dora told Italian media the organiser offered her the opportunity to take part in the contest, following outrage on social media. She declined.