VIDA’s list of Twenty ‘Gypsy’ Women You Should Be Reading

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Portrait of Papusza, the mother of Romani poetry

I’m so delighted to share my Twenty Gypsy Women You Should be Reading with everyone In honor of Roma and Traveller History Month,. Gypsy culture is vastly misunderstood and underrepresented, and literature is a beautiful way to discover it. You may not have heard of many of these writers before but they will astound you with their talent. Happy reading!

“And while I spend a lot of time on my soap box bellowing that Roma and Travellers are just human, as a storyteller and a poet, I will say that some of the most beautiful, dark, and hauntingly fantastic stories I’ve ever heard or read have been from Gypsies. It’s a MathildeVonThieleworld-view that outsiders would never be able to reach on their own, and I feel this poignantly as a not-quite-white looking girl who grew up knowing that, way back, her Gypsy ancestors sailed up and down the Danube from Germany to Hungary, working as dancers and fortune tellers in the riparian towns before the war tore everything to shreds. Their lives were not idyllic, but the stories my grandmother told were beautiful. I would hold them close to my chest when I was stoned at school, or given detention for “witchcraft and the evil eye” in a town where there were no Gypsies, where my mother and grandmother routinely referred to the Gypsy community (some abstract thing I imagined) as “they” instead of “we.” I worried about my “percentage of Gypsy” and whether or not it was enough to claim. The few practices my grandmother kept and passed down to me didn’t make sense until I began to research my own people when I was a teenager and realized that alienation is also inheritance. I found Papusza, the Mother of Romani poetry and an omen of exile and connection. I stepped into the river-mouth of my blood.”

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My great-great grandmother Mathilde as a young dancer

The best way to Slovenia’s heart is through its stomach. “Introducing Roma Cuisine, The Little-Known ‘Soul Food’ Of Europe” in NPR

Meghan Collins Sullivan’s excellent article in NPR, “Introducing Roma Cuisine, The Little-Known ‘Soul Food’ Of Europe” explores the rising trend of Romani “soul food” against the antigypsyist sentiment and legislation in Europe. She reports, “A development group in Slovenia has just opened the first large-scale Roma restaurant in Europe. Romani Kafenava in Maribor, Slovenia, began serving up traditional Balkan Romani dishes like stews and grilled meats in April.” In Slovenia, like many other EU countries, Roma suffer discrimination, poor living conditions, and racial profiling, but Roma and Romani activist are hopeful that the new interest in Romani cuisine will educate outsiders about the culture and encourage coexistence and tolerance.

“Slovenians have a lot of stereotypes, prejudices about Roma community,” says Simon Simoncic, the restaurant’s project manager. “Roma culture is different from us. Of course some of their habits we can’t understand, but coherence and coexistence is … a fact nowadays. So Romani Kafenava is one [way] to break stereotypes.”

….

The dishes at Romani Kafenava hail from the Balkans — and more specifically Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia. The eatery serves a lot of grilled and baked meat and vegetables, often spiced with paprika and chili. And there’s a bit of a Mediterranean influence; stuffed peppers and grape leaves are mainstay.

….

“Roma food deserves attention,” says Ian Hancock, a Roma scholar, author and professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “You can equate it with the emergence of soul food in this country. Soul food was poor people’s food and it has become fashionable.”

Hancock says the concept of a Roma restaurant is not new – there are many small, family-run businesses elsewhere — but that this one takes a fresh approach on a larger scale.

Read the article for more

I love the idea of Romani culture becoming more visible and accessible– the best way for outsiders to understand Romani culture is for them to fall in love with it, and there is a lot to love.

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A dish of Mesne Dolme from Romani Kafenava. Image Source: http://romani-kafenava.si/

 

Hungary’s democracy fell. What happens to women, LGBTQ, Roma, Jewish people, and other ethnic & religious minorities?

“Hungary is no longer a democracy” and the extreme right-wing Neo-Nazi Jobbik Party has more power than ever. The E.U. was formed in part to prevent these kinds of Fascist paramilitia uprisings, and yet, here we are. Benjamin Abtan writes in The New Statesman:

“The attack was clear and continuous: crippling restriction of the freedom of the press, political direction of the Central Bank, inclusion in the Constitution of Christian religious references and of the ‘social utility’ of individuals as a necessary condition for the enforcement of social rights, deletion of the word ‘Republic”‘in the same Constitution to define the country’s political system, condemnation of homosexuality, criminalisation of the homeless, attacks against women’s rights, impunity afforded to perpetrators of racist murders, the strengthening of a virulent anti-Semitism . . .

Only a few days ago, prime minister Viktor Orban officially decorated three extreme right-wing leading figures: journalist Ferenc Szaniszlo, known for his diatribes against the Jews and the Roma people, who he compares to “monkeys”; anti-Semitic archaeologist Kornel Bakav, who blames the Jews for having organized the slave trade in the Middle-Age; finally, “artist” Petras Janos, who proudly claims his proximity to the Jobbik and its paramilitary militia, responsible for several racist murders of Romani people and heiress of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party, that organised the extermination of Jews and Gypsies during the Second World War.” 

For the rest of the article, click here

Elle Hungary‘s recent article praising Dora Duro, a Neo-Nazi party member who is anti-Semitic and anti-Rom, is a chilling reminder of how easily great tragedy begins when embraced by the media. We cannot allow history to repeat itself.

Filmmaker Laszlo Nemes writes a letter addressing the problematic article:

“Dear Sir/Madam,

This is to express my shock and condemnation regarding the cover story of Elle‘s Hungarian Edition featuring Hungarian Neonazi MP Ms. Dora Duro. The party “Jobbik” of which Ms. Duro is a member with its anti-democratic, antisemitic and anti Roma tendencies and its affiliation with the paramilitary organization called Magyar Garda (the new Hungarian SS) is a direct threat to Hungarian democracy and the safety of Hungarian Jews and the Roma population of the country.

By publishing the above mentioned story Elle is getting directly and actively involved in whitewashing a political organization whose values are against our most basic human values.

I am strongly urging you to investigate the circumstances under this story could have happened and to apologize to the Hungarian public. I am also urging you to take further action that something like this should never happen in the future.

Best regards,

Laszlo Nemes
film director”

Now, the most important thing we can do is to spread awareness. Please share Nemes’s letter and articles about the issues. Write and share letters to the media and government officials in the U.S., Hungary, and the E.U. calling for action to protect citizens targeted by the Jobbik Party. We need to let the international community know what is happening and that we will not stand for it. When you stand up for human rights, you’re a #RealGypsyWarrior.

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Opre Roma! Roma, rise up.
Image source: http://www.valery-novoselsky.org

Suivant Balint, je viens d’envoyer ca a Lagardere qui publie ELLE. N’hésitez pas a me suivre

“Madame, Monsieur,

Résidant en Hongrie, j’apprends avec consternation que l’édition hongroise du Magazine ELLE, numéro d’avril 2014, a choisi de consacrer un article d’interview a la députée du parti néo-nazi hongrois “Jobbik”, Dora Duro.

Le parti Jobbik dont Mme Duro est porte-parole est un parti extrémiste avec des positions violemment anti-démocratiques et haineuses, antisémites, négationnistes et anti-roms. Jobbik est affilié á une section militaire dont les membres défilent en uniforme dans tout le pays: la Garde hongroise, une force d’intimidation. La Garde hongroise est la branche armée, milice paramilitaire, de Jobbik. C’est sans exagération une force de déstabilisation du pays, une menace pour les minorités Tziganes et Juives, et rappelle de bien sombres souvenirs.

Mme Duro méritait, selon ELLE Hongrie, de figurer parmi les femmes politiques a admirer, bien que le magazine se défende de tout positionnement politique – a deux semaines des élections législatives hongroises! Le portrait d’une femme exemplaire est d’autant plus scandaleux que sa vie privée ici dévoilée est partagée avec l’un des fondateurs de Jobbik, le sinistre néo-nazi en cravate Elod Novak, négationniste notoire, activiste anti-européen avec des liens avec de nombreux groupuscules de l’ultra droite hongrois et international, et organisateur du site néo nazi kurucinfo.hu, racialiste, suprématiste et négationniste.

Je voudrais vous rappeler que dans un tel cas, votre métier suppose de grandes responsabilités publiques dont vous ne pouvez moralement vous défaire.

Faire l’hagiographie de personnes qui ne respectent pas la moindre valeur de la dignité et de la personne humaines est une grave erreur et je vous appelle á tirer les conséquences de ce regrettable épisode.

Sincerement

Laszlo Nemes
Cineaste”

 

Romani women face discrimination because of cultural stereotypes, lecturer says

Check out this article about in The Daily Texan about the ways in which “Gypsy” stereotypes in pop culture and the media, particularly representations of Romani women as promiscuous, immoral, and inhuman, fuels the Romani human rights crisis. 

“The rape of Romani women isn’t considered a crime because of this Jezebel trope [of the Roma],” Oprea said. “People see Gypsy women as ‘welfare queens,’ sexually promiscuous and irresponsible. 

The discrimination and subordination Romani women face parallel that of minority women in the U.S., Oprea said. 

“Like African-Americans and Native Americans, Roma have a long history of subordination in the hands of white supremacy,” Oprea said. “Just as the rape of black women by white slave masters was essential to the perpetuation of the system of slavery in the U.S., the rape of Romani women was essential to the system of slavery in Romania.”

 

For extra-credit, in 300 words or more, analyze the parallels between an example of a pop culture “Gypsy” stereotype and a Romani human rights infringement.

Some Romani Easter traditions!

Whatever y’all are up to today, I hope it’s a good day. 

“Out of concern for health, Roma eat lighter vegetarian dishes in addition to the heavy meat dishes on a feast day. Among the ursarii Roma, during Easter Fast Days, women clean the house thoroughly, whitewash walls and prepare the oven to cook traditional sponge cake. The Roma attach a specific meaning to each ritual dish: lamb to be light and pure as the lamb, fish (eaten on the first Easter Day) to be swift as the fish. Polenta is not to be prepared or eaten on the first Easter Day to preserve male and female fertility (so that one will not turn soft like polenta). In addition, the members of the family are not supposed to eat salt or perspire heavily. Such recommendations and dietary taboos rest on similitude magic, but from an external perspective, they also preserve a good state of health through a well balanced diet.

Hardelezii, also known as Tinker’s Easter, is the major feast of the Roma tinkers and is celebrated one week after the Orthodox Easter. It combines the symbol of Easter with Muslim Gurban. The main element of the ritual is slaughtering a lamb either for the recovery of a member of the family who suffers from a disease or the protection of the family from disease and misfortunes. Sometimes one lamb slaughtered for each child, for protection and well-being. Some of the rudarii Roma, similar to their tinker brethren, also celebrate the Gurban/Hardelezii, a tradition which reunites the symbol of the Easter and the Muslim feast. The rudarii hold a feast on Ascension, which consists of killing a lamb as an offering to God for reparatory healing purposes.”

To read more about Romani culture, check out the rest of the article by Romanian Romani academic Delia Grigore on The Gypsy Chronicles http://thegypsychronicles.net/romanipen/

I found all of these gems of the Lolo Diklo Facebook page— “like” for more about current Romani news, activism, arts, and culture.

1. A Travelling girl’s story: the struggle against eviction and her kickstarter to fund her education. Her video shows what it’s like to be a Traveller girl in England trying to better herself in spite of the daily persecution that Travellers and Roma face.

http://www.gofundme.com/6tjh2o

2. Romedia Foundation led a summer camp workshop for young Roma from Szendrőlád (a small settlement in North-Western Hungary) in the summer of 2012, as part of the “Youth in Action: Strenghtening the Voice of Roma Youth” project. The summer camp was organized by the Bhim Rao Association. The workshop held by Romedia had as its aim to bring to life different film creations, developed and carried out entirely by the young Roma participants, numbering approximately 30 teenagers. The workshop held by Romedia had as its aim to bring to life different film creations, developed and carried out entirely by the young Roma participants, numbering approximately 30 Roma teenagers.
Copyrights: Romedia Foundation
http://romediafoundation.org/

3. Pablo Vega is a Spanish Romani film-maker. His love of cinematography grew in time and he eventually started his own production company called “DIKA” which in Romanes means “SEE”.
His first documentary is called “Romnia” in which he documented the life of four Roma women living in Huesca aiming to reflect another reality of Roma women, breaking the stereotypes so often present in society. Women who have struggled to get where they are trough education, women of different ages portraying similar realities.

See his impressive works’ showreel, followed by an exclusive interview for the Romedia Foundation

4. Spanish-Romani radio programs on an array of fascinating topics! Gitanos – Valencia, sede de la exposición’Vidas Gitanas’

http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/audios/gitanos/gitanos-valencia-sede-exposicionvidas-gitanas-22-03-14/2464295/

5. THE WRITTEN ROMANI LANGUAGE – NEVER SAY “NEVER”

“IN the light of the Romani situation in present day Europe, the history of the Romani language- Romanès, as we call it- may not seem like an especially important issue. Arguing about whether or not this language has a history of being written down might seem less important still. Yet the claim that the Romani language has never been written down until very recent times remains untrue, and this claim is dangerous for precisely the reasons that people assume it to be correct….”

by Damian Le Bas

for the rest of the fascinating article on the history of written Rromanes: http://romediafoundation.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/the-written-romani-language-never-say-never/

For more like this, “Like” Lolo Diklo: Romani against Racism on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lolo-Diklo-Romani-Against-Racism/134328566635942

 

An array of fascinating videos, radio programs, and articles!