Writing in honor of the Gypsy Goddess-Saint Sara la Kali

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.

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Image by Tatiana Eva Marie, Quail Bell Magazine

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Sometimes I’m a model, but mostly a nerd

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!

 

#RomaAreEqual

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!

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Photo by Oscar Fuertes. P.S.– I don’t really smoke

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Esme Redzepova

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.

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NYU Romani Arts Conference and Concert, 4/23-4/24

 

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Esme Redzepova

If you’re in New York, be sure to head to “Opre Khetanes IV Concert and Conference
on Romani (Gypsy) Musics and Cultures” at NYU. April 23rd and 24th will be packed with presenters on Romani dance, music, art, writing, and culture, and on the evening of the 24th, the legendary Romani singer, Esme Redzepova, will give a concert. The conference is free to the public, and you can buy tickets to the concert here. I’ll be presenting my essay “Esmeralda Declines an Interview”, first published on The Missouri Review blog, and discussing the importance of Romani artists claiming their story and rallying against the ‘Gypsy as Muse’ trope. There are so many wonderful activists, musicians, dancers, scholars, and artists presenting their work and ideas– I’m so excited to hear all of these powerful Roma speak!

If you feel so moved, please spread the word with the Facebook invite. And if you can’t make it, never fear, for it will be live-streamed.

*featured photo first appeared in Quail Bell Magazine,Romanipen: Real Gypsy Looks

Natural (‘Gypsy’) Cures Backed by Science

In honor of International Romani Day (April 8th), I wrote this piece on Romani folk medicine that’s really backed by science for Thrillist

Folk medicine — touted by grandmas all over the world — sometimes offers good advice, just like your grandma. My grandma, a sweet and salty Romani woman, says things like, “Girl, get it while you’re young,” and, “You only get one body, so keep it healthy and fine.”

I listen because she has serious survivor cred. This woman, born in Germany, lived through the Holocaust as a persecuted minority, and came to the States alone at 19. In honor of grandmas everywhere, here are a few traditional medicine practices that are backed by science. As always, check with a doctor if you’re having serious problems, and keep your body fine. Grandma says.

Read  about the cures here: https://www.thrillist.com/health/nation/natural-cures-that-are-backed-by-science

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Image Source: soikkoratamo

International Romani Day and the Necessary Integration of Romani Feminism, RomArchive

RomArchive, one of my favorite orgs, asked me to write a post for International Romani Day, April 8th. So here is my piece– International Romani Day and the Necessary Integration of Romani Feminism! Very inspired by Carmen Gheorghe and her work with E-Romnja, supporting survivors of domestic violence. So here it is! International Romani Day and the Necessary Integration of Romani Feminism. Many thanks to everyone!

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GAMBAZine Reading & International Romani Day, 4/8!

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I am so jazzed to be reading with GAMBAZine at Hell Phone speakeasy! There will be music, art, writing, food, and refreshments, and who doesn’t love all that? GAMBAZine is all about art and writing that’s edgy and raw, and I’m honored to be part of this event. If you’re in or around Brooklyn, join us. It will also be International Romani Day, so I’ll be getting my Gypsy Pride on, y’all.

Here’s the Facebook event— please share if you’re so inclined. Thanks!