“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?

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Alright bitches, this is what a #RealGypsyWarrior looks like

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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
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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.
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That raised eyebrow means I’m judging you, Gypsy Warrior.

“Real Gypsy Looks” photo shoot in Quail Bell Magazine!

I got to do a photo shoot for Quail Bell Magazine! http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/3/post/2014/02/fashion-romanipen.html

It’s the accompanying piece to my essay, “Gypsy Soul: Romani Fashion and the Politics of Dressing Gypsy.” http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/3/post/2013/12/folkways-gypsy-soul.html

And it was so ridiculously fun. My husband, Len Reidy, took all the photos and I got to prance around in Orlando and put together outfits from thrift finds, family heirlooms, and Modcloth to create more genuine Romani ensembles. The link has all of the photos put I thought I’d post one here for some color too.

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First appeared in Quail Bell Magazine.

My friend, fantastic fiction writer Richard Garn, says I look like Bonnie Parker in that photo and that absolutely tickled me. He says all I need is a cigar and a gun. Word.

Thanks Quail Bell for being so great to me!

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“The devil stays away from those who make music”– check out Jordi Oliver’s book Gypsy Soul

“The devil stays away from those who make music”– check out Jordi Oliver’s book Gypsy Soul

The devil stays away from those who make music. –Manouche proverb

With a glowing intro by Esmeralda Romanez and an emphasis on the inextricable link between Romani rights and Romani arts, this book seems like it should be on everyone’s wishlist.