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 re-sharing my “Halloween Savvy” tips in Quail Bell Magazine for coming up with a smart costume and not appropriating the shit out of marginalized cultures like Natives and Roma (or “Gypsies,” the racial slur we’re more commonly known by). Skip the Pocahottie mini-dress and Sexy Gypsy blouse and skirt, and put together something clever, which really is a much sexier way to play it after all. If you ever wondered why appropriative or exoticizing costumes matter, I also touch on that with some fascinating/upsetting history about the “sexy” stereotypes. Plus, I’ve got some ideas for if you want to dress up like a badass character or real person who isn’t of your race but you’re not sure how to proceed.
In the featured image is is my last costume, Little Red Riding Hood Who Killed the Wolf Herself. Taking an empowering, dark, or funny spin on a beloved folk story is always interesting and innovative, and it doesn’t hurt anyone or reinforce racist stereotypes. It’s just pure fun.
This year, I’m going to be a punk-rock unicorn, which is my take on Audre Lorde’s book, The Black Unicorn. Lorde is one of my favorite poets, and a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” It should go without saying that it would be crazy offensive and downright weird to try to make my skin darker to become Lorde. It’s much cooler to have my costume embody what I love about her– her writing. My dressed-in-black unicorn will also have a touch of Stormy’s horse Skydancer thrown in from Rainbow Brite because damn I loved her sassy thunder and lightning spitting hooves! I think Audre Lorde would be into that too.
I already loved this Wolfwych interview with Katelan Foisy before I noticed that she very kindly listed this blog as a reference for Romani folklore and culture. Foisy is an artist, witch, writer, model, fortune teller… she does all of it, and lives her life with an admirable sense of purpose and ritual. She’s also of Sinti heritage, like me, and one of the most delightful and generous people I’ve ever met. During the Romani Arts and Letters Conference at NYU, I gave a talk on the importance of her work and the work of Selma Selman in reconfiguring the archetype of the “Gypsy Woman,” and included the PowerPoint here: Portraits and Performativity. If you would like to read a thoughtful and beautifully crafted interview with her about her artwork, life, magical work, fortune telling, and reading list, then here you go, and you’re welcome. Enjoy! https://wolfwych.com/2017/07/20/mystic-lady-an-interview-with-katelan-foisy/
I’ve gotten some of my best divination from cut-ups and some very good practical advice. It rearranges the brain to see what isn’t there. I’m also a fan of working with technology to increase energy. We are creating magical worlds with our internet presences so when I’m doing a working, I will photograph parts of it, edit the image to enhance the feeling of the work and put it up online. I feel that the love and buoyancy that pours in from that helps to boost the energy within the working. It’s one of the reasons I take so much care in the aesthetics of the working. If each working itself is it’s one piece of art, the care put into each work becomes part of the magic in that particular working. This method is what works best for me but each practitioner will have their own method. For instance I work with land magic a lot. If I’m doing a working for immigration I will take that person with me on a journey and the we will walk the path of those that came before us. I believe we need to know the history of the land before we can work our magic there. That may be one thing that I find odd about some modern day practices and with people in general. We tend to forget our history but the real magic lies underneath the pavement and deep within the soil, it lies in land memory. –Excerpt from interview
Image by Katelan Foisy, featured in WolfWych
Seriously, can you imagine any other racial slur titling a TV show in 2017? Luckily, the show, Gypsy, was cancelled the very day that Bitch Media published my essay, “The Harmful History of ‘Gypsy,'” but the casual use of this racial slur continues. So if you ever wondered why it’s not ok for people to say “gypped” to mean “to cheat,” why you can’t make the word “Gypsy” mean whatever you want it to mean, or where the magical, sexy, thieving, wanderlusting “Gypsy” stereotypes come from, then read this.
Violet Crumlish, dubbed the ‘Lady Diana of Travelers’, lost her battle with bowel cancer earlier this week. Her remains were flown to Ireland and she will be laid to rest in County Armagh, the place where she was born.
About a month earlier, thousands of travelers from around the world had already visited Mrs. Crumlish, when she was confined in a local hospital. Owen, one of her sons, estimated that approximately 9,000 people went to Bristol just to see her before she passed.
Aside from her family, the ‘Gypsy queen’ is considered a mother by many within the traveler community. Jimmy, another son, remarked, “She was a lovely caring woman. She would never see anyone wronged or harmed, her door was always open to everyone no matter who you were. She was completely non-judgmental.”
More people are still expected to pay their final respects. All ferries to Ireland from England and the rest of Europe are booked up in the coming days as travelers want to say goodbye to their ‘Gypsy’ mother.
The wake is held in a funeral home along Falls Road, Belfast, and a royal send off is being prepared. The hearse carrying Mrs. Crumlish will be drawn by a white horse to St. Peter’s Church in Lurgan for the Requiem Mass. The procession will also include 10 black limousines.
For her burial, a red carpet will be rolled out at St. Colman’s cemetery. Furthermore, white doves will be set free at the graveside. It’s a final act that will certainly be fit for a queen.
“Gypsy” is a catch-all word that to refers to Roma, Sinti, and other groups related to the Roma, as well as Travelers who are ethnically distinct from the aforementioned groups. The word ‘Gypsy’ is often used as a slur, however, some Roma, Sinti, and Travelers reclaim the word as an act of empowerment, like Violet Crumlish. There are various “Gypsy” cultures all around the world and their presence is well-known everywhere due to their diasporic roots and rich history. Although heavily linked to the word ‘travel’, a lot of many Travelers are settled, including the late Mrs. Crumlish who was married to her husband for 44-years and had settled in Bristol, which she referred to as their home.
Travellers, Roma, and Sinti have long been associated with all sorts of arts, music, singing,
and dancing. So much so that even in recent years, the “Gypsy” community has reached television shows in many different forms. There have been many who’ve used Mrs. Crumlish’s inspiration to seek worldwide acclaim on talent shows. The X-Factor, the reality talent show. The X-Factor, the reality talent show which also has several associated gaming titles, has been the avenue for gypsy singers like Cher Lloyd and Olivia Ayres. Moreover, we’ve previously talked about the September 2 GAMBAZine wherein Romani and Sinti (Gypsy) dance and literature were showcased.
This goes to show that ‘Gypsies” love for tradition and culture never wanes. There are still many traveling groups who perform regularly for large crowds. However, the community was recently brought to a temporary standstill with the news of the ‘Traveler Queen’s’ journey to her next life.
I’m so happy to share the stage with these artists and writers who I admire so much. During this performance on September 2nd at Hell Phone (starts at 8!), I’ll be performing a different piece from the Summer Writes performance, but this one will also include a cocktail of Romani (“Gypsy”) dance and literature. If you can make it, I can assure you that it will be an evening of diverse artists bringing and baring themselves to the stage. We hope to see you there! And if you would like to perform at these monthly events, you should get in touch with GAMBAZine too! Check out the full lineup and Facebook Invite below.
*Readers will know how much I like reclaiming the word “Gypsy,” so do’t be alarmed by this act of linguistic empowerment.
The Island of GAMBAZini presents monthly night of curated literary and musical performances from diverse and independent artists. This particular event is meant to inspire your inner island. What would you share in your freest moment? What magical creatures exists within you? When you are nude and experiencing the heat of nature what do you think about? Skinny dipping at night under a full moon with an endless amount of ocean surrounding you – what do you reflect on?
Feel free to wear island inspired attire – mermaids, unicorns and plant life welcome.
Joseph Alexander Garel
Lisa Marie Basile
Ruby Brunton & Deirdre Coyle
*Photo by Eat the Cake NYC*
I have such immense gratitude to The Center for Women Writers and to Elissa Washuta for this award. The piece I wrote, “Madness is Remembering,” deals with my experiences of childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and antigypsyism. It was really fucking hard to write, and I wrote it like an exorcism. My friends, writers Misha Rai and Emily Alford (check out their work!), encouraged me to enter it into a competition, as did Victor Pachas (musician & artist– look him up too). Without their support it would have sat in the proverbial drawer, proverbial because I never print things out anymore and who even has a printer anyway.
The judge, Elissa Washuta, says this about the essay–
“In this exquisite essay, the narrator is wounded by the doublepunch of past trauma compounded by a lover’s new inflictions: the failure to understand rape trauma, the acts that make old pain show up nearly new in the body, the incomprehensible violence. Employing an enchanting cadence, stunning figurative language, narrative tension so taut I forgot to breathe, and a bedrock layer of the history of violence inflicted upon Romani family members, the author infuses the page with the dread of intergenerational trauma that makes space for new wounds.”
I’m still floored and humbled– just, thank you.
Right now my essay is still unpublished, so I’m now in the process of finding it a home.
You can and should check out the other winners and honorable mentions here. Congratulations to everyone!
*Photography by Allison Nichols for Loverly and David’s Bridal
Sara la Kali (Sara the Black) is the Romani Goddess-Saint who many Roma worship, and those who can will pilgrimage to the South of France to her statue on May 24th-26th and celebrate her with flowers, dancing, music, art, and a march into the ocean with her statue. Lots of Roma try their hand at matchmaking too, which adds a lovely springtime romance air to the holiday. I haven’t been lucky enough to attend (yet) but I honor her in my own ways. My poem “Transfiguration of the Black Madonna” is dedicated to her and expresses the hardship and cultural colonization that her people, the Roma, face. The snakes call back to her Indian origins and Shakti energy– the serpentine divine feminine. I’m delighted that the poem is out in the anthology by Sundress Press, Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity Anthology , now available. The book is chock-full poems by poets I deeply admire with a hard, smart political edge.
If you would like to read an account of the festival, the jazz singer Tatiana Eva Marie, of Romani descent, wrote a beautiful essay for Quail Bell Magazine, “Sara-la-Kali: The Gypsy Pilgrimage,” about her experience of the pilgrimage and festival, dotted with wild ponies, art, and salt.
Here’s my poem, first published on The The Poetry Blog, and now in the Political Punch anthology. Check out the blog for more poetry!
“Transfiguration of the Black Madonna” (excerpted from Zenith)
Gypsy Goddess; Gypsy Saint
Black Madonna, full of snakes, let your crescent down. Wield the sickle, rush the milk, and salt the serpents’ mouths. Golden bangles, black milk snakes—these adorn your arms. Blue sky cloth cut for (you) Sarah, Sarah Black, Madonna Shadow, cut for goddess saint of wanderers, cut predestined, cut of chaos, cut the star palm bowls. Slip the feathers under scales and reform the body whole. You were a slave who sailed the chasm, sailed the sea and sun. Persecution sprang a river from the monster: milk, and spit, and blood. In the monster lived a woman and the woman’s soul—you wore her face and wore her tresses spun from black snake gold—golden teeth and golden brow, golden tail and root. The milk snakes split their nests and fled and now your mouth is ruined. There is no birth, there is no death, there’s only mutant growth, and milk snakes dyeing Sarah’s skin with heaps and heaps of gold. There is no sickle, there is no moon, there is no blood or salt. There’s only Sarah sailing through the dream in which she’s caught.
I was lucky enough to model in this metallic bridesmaid dress shoot for David’s Bridal and Loverly with some darling ladies. Check out the rest of the shoot if you like, and hit up Loverly if you’re planning a wedding!
In solidarity with Mitko, a 17 year old boy who was severely beaten in Bulgaria for saying that Roma are equal to non-Roma, Romani people and non-Roma alike are sharing pictures with the #RomaAreEqual. Let’s show Mitko that he’s not alone, and show the haters that Roma Rise Up. Opre Roma!
For those of you in NYC this weekend, be sure to come to the Romani Arts Conference at NYU! It’s free to the public! And at the end, there will be a concert by one of the world’s best Romani singers, Esme Redzepova! If you’re not in the city, never fear. It will be live streamed.