I spoke to Brut media about the harmful use of the racial slur “Gypsy” and “gypped.” I see the word used so often in writing, media, brands, and few people know that it refers to the Romani people, and reinforces negatives stereotypes about us like nomadism, curses, thievery, and promiscuity. Many Americans believe that the word Gypsy actually means thief, nomad, curse-thrower, or ‘slut,’ and this erases Romani identity at a crucial time while we are fighting for our rights, and associates the real Romani people with theses stereotypes. I am proud of my Romani heritage and I want people to understand who we are. I’ve written many articles on other aspects of Romani culture, which you can find on my Writing page. If you know someone who uses this word, even if they think they are using it in a positive way, you might like to gently and lovingly educate them on the power of language and the history of this slur. Thanks for watching!
I’m so excited to announce that I will be presenting my essay, “Esmeralda Declines an Interview,” published in The Missouri Review blog at The Romani/Gypsy Arts & Letters Conference at New York University, April 23rd-24th. I’m even more excited to hear and meet my fellow presenters.
A little more about the conference– hope to see you there!
Opre Khetanes IV Concert and Conference on Romani (Gypsy) Musics and Cultures represents a major gathering on the East Coast of scholars of Romani culture and Roma who work as academics, activists, and/or performers. Presentations will be made by established scholars and by graduate students with expertise in Romani studies.In the conference portion of Opre Khetanes IV, Romani/Gypsy Arts and Letters, artists, activists, and scholars in the fields of musicology, anthropology, Romani studies and related disciplines will deliver presentations on subjects related to the representation of Romani people by themselves and/or others.Opre Khetanes IV will also feature a film screening and a panel discussion.The conference is free and open to the public. No pre-registration is required.
Amy King, WNBA Award Winner, member of VIDA Executive Committee, and Women’s National Book Award winner, has now asked us all “What is Literary Activism?” and then answered it for the Poetry Foundation, but the coolest thing in the world about Amy is that she takes all of her actions seriously. Her angle is that literary activism is about inclusivity and visibility. So what does she do? She asks a diverse array of writers to answer the question along with her. I am so honored to be among them talking about the necessity of Romani literary activism, because as far as I’m concerned, the very act of writing is activism for Roma. So read Amy, and read Samiya Bashir, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Ana Božičević, Emily Brandt, Ken Chen, Melissa Febos, Suzi F. Garcia, Eunsong Kim, Jason Koo, Lynn Melnick, Shane McCrae, Laura Mullen, Héctor Ramírez, Metta Sáma, Melissa Studdard, and Arisa White!
Write your activism, baby! Opre Roma!
If you don’t know Kate Lechler’s new column “The Expanded Universe” over at Fantasy Literature, you’d best check it out. She thoughtfully features writers and their thoughts on the SciFi Fantasy genres, both the craft and the literary theory of it. One of my favorites is Micah Dean Hicks’ essay on Elite Groups in SFF.
I wrote a 2-parted essay on Romani (Gypsy) Power in SciFi and Fantasy, taking a look at who the Roma are, the role or function that Gypsies play in Fantasy and SciFi and why, and what that means for both art and politics. I’m so thankful to be a part of such a cool publication, and I’m excited for Part II coming up featuring one of my favorite Romani writers of SFF and why I think there is no such thing as magical realism. Stay tuned!
You don’t have to go to that party dressed as a Sexy Bed Sheet! I’ve got you covered. And even if you already have a costume in mind, it’s worth checking out this Quail Bell Magazine Halloween costume guide before you head to the shindig.
This is the story of the first time I stepped inside a caravan and spent the night, the antigypsyism that met me at the estate, how my grandmother’s family settled in Nazi Germany, and why fortune-telling is an enduring family trade. It’s all related.
Thank you so much, Quail Bell Magazine, for giving me the space, support, and energy to explore this for Roma & Traveller History Month. I love writing for you.
“I want my audience to feel that they are constantly traveling with their ears.” —Tatiana Eva-Marie
Read the interview “Tatiana Eva-Marie on the harmonious fusion of Romani ‘Gypsy’ music” in Quail Bell Magazine and find out what she has to say about Romani music and representation, how her multicultural heritage shapes her art, growing up in theatres and concert halls all over Europe, the Music Explorer competition/documentary (click the heart to vote for her!), and her life in the Avalon Jazz Band in New York City. You can also listen to some beautiful songs from the competition. Opre Roma!
Today we celebrate the Roma. We celebrate the plates of food we leave for our ancestors to keep them loved and fed even in death. We cover mirrors, TV and computer screens, and bowls of water after someone dies, just long enough so that they are not trapped by their own reflection as they pass through the veils. We keep our homes and our bodies meticulously clean because the world is split into that which is pure and impure. The spirit is pure; that’s what we want to be. We believe in kintala, or karma, because what we do matters and we mean to do good. We love The Goddess of Fate and her many names and forms, Sati-Sara, Sara Kali, St. Sarah, The Black Madonna; and we believe in free will.
We remind you that “Roma” is our preferred term, not “Gypsy,” a name that has been turned against us, warped into “gypped,” gyppo,” and the lowercase “gypsy,” the one that doesn’t recognize us as a proper noun, never mind a proper ethnic group. We celebrate that some of us chose to reclaim the word as we wish. We remind you that we, as a culture, are fractured by distance, persecution, and illegal deportation, and we are working to unify, to overcome discord and fight for our basic human rights. We celebrate that we are not homogenous and yet, we are united by our origin. We came from India, migrated in the 11th century, and the Rromanes (Romani language) root is Sanskrit. We are different clans—Kale, Kalderash, Lovara, Sinti, Manouche, Vlach, and many more, all with unique customs, dialects, and worldviews. We are individuals: rich, poor, artists, lawyers, blacksmiths, fortune tellers, musicians, doctors, dancers, mechanics, horse dealers, car dealers, janitors, politicians, activists, writers, professors, actors, executives, beggars, volunteers, producers, landlords, and linguists. Opre Roma: we rise up. We are loving friends, partners, parents, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. To say “I love you” we say, “I eat your heart” or “I eat your belly” because love is voracious and can never be close enough.
My grandmother survived WWII Germany as a Romani woman. Now she likes to say, “I am a weed. No one wanted me, they tried to destroy me, but I grew. I am a weed and I’m proud. And I’ve always liked weeds best, anyway. Wild, strong, and very pretty.”
Today we raise awareness that half of Europe’s Romani population died in the Holocaust, what we call O Porrajmos (The Great Devouring), and 2 million Romani lives lost is a modest estimation. We are rarely invited to or acknowledged in Holocaust remembrances or memorials. Sometimes we are not even allowed in the gates. We remind you that Roma were slaves alongside African Americans in the United States, and in the Balkans for four centuries. We are forcibly sterilized in Europe and the U.S., alongside Native Americans and African-Americans. We remind you that the government takes Romani children in the United States and Europe from their families because it is assumed that Roma cannot be decent, loving parents. We remind you that America has “Gypsy Crime” task forces that decide Romani fortune tellers are scammers and white fortune tellers are not. America, the country that swears to the flag not to indulge in racial profiling, blatantly profiles its Roma, just like Europe. We remind you that skinheads set Romani encampments on fire across Europe with Molotov cocktails, burning men, women, and children in their beds. We remind you of the Jobbik Party. Roma are forced into camps with no running water, waste management, electricity, or shelter. Roma are denied a right to education, or forced into special education classes because it is assumed we are mentally deficient. Amnesty calls the Romani human rights crisis “Europe’s shame,” and Roma endure hate crimes, are not allowed in shops, and are kicked out of countries because the politicians believe we cannot assimilate, that we are vermin, that Hitler didn’t kill enough of us. We remind you that Roma say, “Fuck you, Fascists. We rise up.” You learned none of this in school.
You see why I cannot be quiet when we are misrepresented and mistreated. She is my community and I am hers, and I am ill-equipped. So I write about fashion, take pictures, and tell stories I cannot show her because they make her too sad. I talk with my friends. I teach a class. I get angry on social media. I worry that none of it means anything but I keep talking, keep writing.
Today we celebrate Romani writers, activists, artists, and professionals who show the world who the Real Gypsy Warriors are: Dr. Ian Hancock, Oksana Marafioti, Morgan Ahern, Rajko Ðjurić, Ronald Lee, Lita Cabellut, Papusza, Mariella Mehr, Romani Rose… to count them would be reductive. Please, discover. We celebrate the language that’s been beaten out of so many Roma that it threatens to disappear. Please, revive.
We celebrate that we are not slutty Halloween costumes or tambourine vamps. We are not spell casters, scapegoats, child-stealers, criminals, or exotic props for stories. We remind you that you cannot decide to be a Gypsy. It is not a lifestyle choice. It is not whimsy. Nomadism was born from persecution, not some lighthearted folly. We are not a brand like Gypsy Warrior, Junk Gypsy, Band of Gypsies, and Spell and the Gypsy Collective make us out to be. We are not fantasies to be appropriated and exploited—we don’t care that retailers think it’s beautiful to perpetuate harmful stereotypes and diminish the human rights crisis. We don’t care that they didn’t know better. We’d appreciate it if you remind them of that via letters, email, Twitter, and Facebook . Respond to articles and writers who slander us. Be a voice of reason and education. The silence of the privileged is a choice whereas the silence of the oppressed is a shackle. We appreciate our allies—they speak from a place that we cannot, just as we speak from a place that they cannot. We need both parts.
To be a Gypsy is blood, cultural and traumatic inheritance, and the gorgeous ache you cannot forget. It is Esma Redzepova singing the Romani anthem, “Dzelem, Dzelem” and the fiddle that bows up your bones. It is grilled lamb feast 40 days after the spring equinox for “Ederlezi” and throwing flowers in the river. It is your patient struggle to teach yourself Rromanes by learning that folksong after work, the pleasure of your voice finding words for mommy, daddy, and sacrifice. It is the paprika soup that warms the winter. It’s the fear of others’ reactions. It’s despair when Lady Gaga, Halle Berry, Miley Cyrus, Shakira, and people of influence use the slur “Gypsy.” Even if they don’t realize what they’re saying, it degrades and diminishes, and you can bet that they don’t use the opportunity to discuss Romani oppression. That’s not sexy. You’re angry that you care that much about Miley Cyrus. But really you’re angry because she reminds you how much work there is to be done, that antigypsyism has become idiomatic, and so many gadjé still think cultural appropriation is their right, and the more they do it, the worse it gets.
We remind you that we are people with dignity still fighting for our rights and it shouldn’t be taking this long. We invite you to join us. Celebrate: drink in today like “the water that wanders.”
International Roma Day hashtag activism: #nohatespeech #romarights #RealGypsyWarrior #RomaDay
Suggested Resources for Romani culture and rights:
We are the Romani people by Ian Hancock
Roads of the Roma: a PEN anthology of Gypsy Writers (Threatened Literature Series) Edited by Ian Hancock, Siobhan Dowd, and Rajko Ðjurić
“Calling all gypsies! Are you a true Gypsy Warrior? Do you love adventure, dance to the beat of your drum? Create your own trends and believe in the magical moments and never ending fun? If you answered yes to these questions, then hell yea, you are a true Gypsy Warrior! “
To Whom it May Concern,I was offended by the email I received “LOOKBOOK x Gypsy Warrior music festival.” The email begins, “Calling all gypsies [sic]….” First, the word “gypsy,” in the lowercase, is an ethnic slur for the Romani people, an oppressed ethnic group. The company Gypsy Warrior exploits harmful Romani stereotypes to sell a product. In light of the current Romani human rights crisis, which Amnesty International has called “Europe’s shame,” this is a very tactless and offensive move and I am disappointed that LOOKBOOK is joining in with the exploitation. For more about the Romani human rights crisis: http://www.amnesty.org/en/roma. To take the word “Gypsy” and turn it into a romanticized consumerist image, it makes a costume out of an ethnic group and a culture. “Gypsy Warrior” is as tasteless and offensive as “Jew Warrior” or “Asian Warrior.” This is especially problematic when so many Americans have no idea that Romani people are actually people and not some figment of fantasy or a lifestyle choice, as the media repeatedly suggests. Roma were murdered, en masse, in the Holocaust. They were slaves alongside African Americans in America. They were slaves for four centuries in Europe. Romani people today are denied safe housing, education, health care, and jobs. Antigypsyists bomb the settlements that Roma are forced to live in without electricity or plumbing. Police in Europe in America target and brutalize Roma because of their ethnicity. Romani women suffer frced sterilization at the hands of their government. Romani mortality rates are significantly higher than non-Roma. This is not the glamorous “Gypsy Warrior” that the media likes to draw, and the constant perpetuation of “Gypsy” costume, sexualization, and romanticization belittles and obscures the real and desperate fight for Romani rights. For this reason, I will no longer be part of LOOKBOOK’s mailing list. As a Romani woman and a humanitarian, I am offended and disappointed.Sincerely,Jessica Reidy