“Writers Of Color Flock To Social Media For A New Way To Use Language” NPR

This NPR article by Kima Jones, “Writers Of Color Flock To Social Media For A New Way To Use Language” struck a chord with me.

“The poem can’t find its audience until the poet has turned on the little hallway light of empathy and mercy and meaning. Those are the building blocks of understanding and reconciliation. That is the foundation.

For too long, writers of color have been told there is no audience for our work. That unless we write towards the universal human—which, of course, is code for white person—our work would not be understood, or read or taught. We are told that regardless of the work the poem is doing, we should codify it in a way that it is accessible and understood and praised by the universal human.”

This is why I use social media to raise awareness of Romani (“Gypsy”) culture and Romani rights. One of the most important things, I think, is spotlighting Romani writers, activists, and artists– Roma are “real” in a world where they are cast as romantic or villainous fantasies, and much of Romani arts and culture touches on the human rights crisis. It’s an issue that seems to have practically no audience, but once I started writing and publishing through social media, I found an audience. I was offered a position as a staff writer at an Quail Bell Magazine, and encouraged to write poetry, fiction, and non-fiction about Romani issues. The response has encouraged me to write a novel about a half-Romani woman who seeks retribution for her people after the Holocaust, and people seem to give some fucks about it.

That’s really what the whole #RealGypsyWarrior thing is about– I want to shine light on powerful Roma and Romani allies who are doing good work, and hopefully that kind of awareness will change the face of “Gypsies” in the media. People will think before appropriating the word “gypsy” or using it to define what have become harmful stereotypes about Roma. For instance, people often use the word “gypsy”  to describe whimsical or irresponsible nomadism, but Romani nomadism was born out of persecution, and using the word in a romantic or pejorative way erases the persecution that Roma have suffered for centuries and continue to suffer today. Also, “gypsy” with a lowercase “g” is an ethnic slur, so that’s not great either.

Social media has also made it easier for me to connect with other Romani writers, artists, and activists in what is a very scattered and (understandably) secretive community, so I’m not only finding an audience, I’m finding my own community. Social media as been great for the Romani Rights movement (Opre Roma) in general because of this beautiful combination of visibility, accessibility, and connectivity.

How do other WOC use social media to create an audience for their work and passions?

Advertisements

Unite and Celebrate: A Band of Roma. A Roma Day lyric essay in Quail Bell Magazine

 
Papusza suffered for the song of her people, but what if we all sang at once?

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 shelterRoma 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.

When my grandmother saw My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding for the first time she called me asking, “Who are these people on TV? They can’t be Gypsies. Who are those girls in the small clothes? I’ve never seen Gypsy girls like that. Why are they so loud?” and I laughed, but she didn’t. She fell quiet and then asked, “Is that how Gypsy girls are now?” And I realized she really didn’t know. She hasn’t been near a Romani community in 50 years, not since she fled Germany alone. Her decision to pass down what remains of her family’s culture, the culture they hid and the language they lost to survive, was not an easy one. When I was a child, she warned me that even knowing my roots was dangerous. She told me, “I was lucky to come to America where no one knew me and I could keep hiding.”  She said, “It was hard enough being German. I couldn’t be a Gypsy too.” I had to explain this reality TV farce to the woman who had risked so much to conceal and preserve her heritage and who believed so fiercely that I should learn it that she splits open her wartime wounds again and again to tell me what she remembers. I told her, No, they aren’t real Roma on that show, and don’t worry, that’s not how Gypsy girls are now, and yes, this show is bullshit. She sighed, “Like we need more bullshit.” 

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 mommydaddy, and sacrifice. It is the paprika soup that warms the winter. It’s the fear of others’ reactions. It’s despair when Lady GagaHalle BerryMiley CyrusShakira, 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:

 ROMBASE  

Patrin

RADOC

The Gypsy Chronicles

Romedia Foundation

Amnesty International

Romea

Romfacts

Kopachi

Lolo Diklo

We are the Romani people by Ian Hancock

The Pariah Syndrome: an account of Gypsy Slavery and Persecution 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

GypsyRepresent

 
Image
 
 
 

International Roma Day! Share, celebrate, raise awareness

 

INTERNATIONAL ROMA DAY – CELEBRATIONS OF A ROMANI EMANCIPATION MOVEMENT BEING BORN

 

Let us take you through a brief history of how our flag, language and anthem were officially recognized. In the end, embrace with us our diversity and hop on board for our visual journey, ‘from the caravan to the palace’:

 

Forty-three years have passed since the First World Roma Congress was held in Orpington, near London, in 1971. Officially, 8th of April was ratified as an International Celebration Day during the 4th World Romani Congress held in Poland, in 1990. Since then, this date has had a special place in the calendar of all Roma, as it marks an important moment in the history of the Romani Emancipation Movement. It became the day during which we celebrate the International Roma Day, a day to bring forth our beautiful, diverse culture and traditions, but also one of remembrance. The many hardships Romani people faced along the history, from the early days of their arrival in Europe, to the dire conditions they are still confronted with in today’s society, should not be forgotten in our quest for dignity.

 

http://romediafoundation.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/international-roma-day-celebrations-of-a-romani-emancipation-movement-being-born/

Romani Flag

Romani Flag

 

***

SPEAK OUT! AND BE THE CHANGE On The International Romani Day! 

In light of today’s celebration, the International Romani Day, here is a picture with Alina Covaci Taba, one of the 5 women who wished to “Speak Out and Be the Change” and was along-side the Romedia Foundation when the “I’m a Roma woman” campaign started.
“We are five Roma women who wish to build a movement powered by us Roma women to shape our own image and empower ourselves and our communities as we share our experiences, our view of current issues, our vision of the future.”
SPEAK OUT! BE THE CHANGE!

10171252_10152307531042208_9014222229409564908_n

I’m a Roma Woman campaign video— 5 powerful Roma women speaking out for change. Join the campaign!

***

Esma Redzepova sings The Romani Anthem to honor those Roma and Sinti who perished in O Porrajmos, the Holocaust

***

A video history of Romani and Traveller people http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6wSLfGBVGY

***

What can I do today? 

For International Roma Day, use social media to inform your friends and followers about Romani culture and the current fight for Romani rights. You can post about it in your blog and/or take screen shots of your International Roma Day statuses, tweets, Pinterest, and Instagrams. Use hashtags wisely– for example, #nohatespeech, #RealGypsyWarrior, # RomaDay #RomaRights #OpreRoma

You can also take a more active stance, for instance, write articles, organize protests, inform companies like Gypsy WarriorJunk GypsyBand of Gypsies, and Spell and the Gypsy Collective that use the word “Gypsy” and the associated stereotypes as a brand that they are using an ethnic slur, exploiting an oppressed minority, and diminishing the fight for Romani rights. You can do this through email, Facebook, or Twitter. You can address and correct racist, offensive, stereotyping, and misinformed comments and articles about Roma. Social media is a powerful activist tool. 

petice-roma-summit BknMYy-IcAASwax  BknL5kxIAAA8-SB BkpgQ8gIIAE1Wsu

 

Some of my pieces about Romani rights and representation:

“Gypsy Soul: Romani fashion and the politics of dressing ‘Gypsy’”  essay in Quail Bell Magazine

“Real Gypsy Looks” photo shoot in Quail Bell Magazine

“Romani Looks, Romani Blood, Romani Challenges: Blond Gypsy Angels” essay in Quail Bell Magazine

“Free Spirits” photo tale and poem in Quail Bell Magazine

“We Rise Up” Short Story of the Week in Narrative Magazine, Pushcart nominated

 

Quail news: new poem, staff writer, Twitter presence, and a call for book reviews!

1. I wrote this creepy poem just for you! “Window” just came out in Quail Bell Magazine.

2. Speaking of which, Quail Bell just came out with two anthologies packed with poems, fairy tales, short stories, artwork, comics, essays, and articles. If you’re interested in reviewing Airborne: an Anthology of the Real and/or The Nest: an Anthology of the Unreal, for any journal, magazine, ezine, etc. that you’re affiliated with, let me know and I’ll hit you up with the galleys.

Image  

Image

 

Take a look at the Quail Bell Magazine Mission Statement (and the magazine itself, of course) to get a sense of us.

3. I’m officially a Quail Bell Staff Writer. Look at my face! My Quail Bell face!

4. Quail Bell(es) have been tearing up Twitter. Check out the recap of what we’ve been up to here! And #RealGypsyWarrior got some love. 

Image

 

Image from https://twitter.com/JSReidy

 

I numbered them all because they’re that important!

Alright bitches, this is what a #RealGypsyWarrior looks like

Image
In case you didn’t know, I really love fashion. I love it as an art form with all its complications. But I absolutely loathe the fashion industry’s exploitation of Romani people. I got an email today from LOOKBOOK, a mailing list I was subscribed to, about a festival they are sponsoring in partnership with the enormously racist Gypsy Warrior fashion retailer. This is their pitch:
“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! “
OH HELL NO. A true Gypsy Warrior is a Romani person (or ally) who rights for Romani rights, for representation, who faces systemic racism and perseveres, who educates, who works to see that Roma are no longer treated like parasites. A real Gypsy Warrior thinks that this is a bunch of racist bullshit. I wrote a letter to that effect.
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
Image
If you want to hear more about this issue, here’s a link to my article in Quail Bell Magazine “Gypsy Soul: Romani Fashion and the Politics of Dressing Gypsy”. In it, I’ve included links to some great sources on the topic including Oksana Marafioti, Dr. Ian Hancock, and Erika Varga.
As part of the contest, they want you to “Just post your most festival worthy look with at least one Gypsy Warrior item to this contest and Instagram.” I have an alternative suggestion. Please, take a moment to post your most protest-worthy look with at least one sign that says “END ROMANI EXPLOITATION. #RealGypsyWarrior” via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and raise awareness. Remember the hash tag. Post and share if you believe in human rights and the importance of media representation. Post if you’re friends with me and want to show your support. Post if you love a Romani person. Post if you are a Romani person. Post if you love real “Gypsy” culture. Post if your hair looks good today. Post. And let me see what you posted via Facebook,Twitter, and WordPress. This is what a real Gypsy Warrior looks like.
Image
That raised eyebrow means I’m judging you, Gypsy Warrior.