Farewell, Mrs. Crumlish

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.

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Dying traveller Violet Crumlish known as Lady Diana. Profile picture taken from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/violet.crumlish.5

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.

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Photo by Len Reidy

Upcoming literary & Gypsy dance performance at GAMBAZine 9/2

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.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1229950513703913/

Performers Include
Deniz Ataman
Chris Carr
Clairette Durand-Gasselin
Harriet Halsey
Tatiana Lima
Jessica Reidy
Brian Sheffield
Joseph Alexander Garel
Ms. Reign
Craig Kite
Lisa Marie Basile
B. Perdomo
Ruby Brunton & Deirdre Coyle

*Photo by Eat the Cake NYC*

Art, memory, and expression: International Holocaust Remembrance Day 1/27/2016

holocaustremembranceJanuary 27th, 2016 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We spread red flowers to honor those who lived and died in what Roma call, The Hungry Smoke. The Holocaust was an ugly genocide of those from the Jewish faith as well as those who were ethnically “Gypsies,” the racial slur used to describe Romani and Sinti people. The Sinti are a clan (or tribe, as some prefer that word while others argue that ours is not a tribal society) within the Roma, and the word Roma refers to the many different cultures and subcultures that exist within Romani society, all of which are distinct with their own dialects, customs, and beliefs. Many Sinti prefer to be called Sinti and not to be included under the Romani umbrella, but I am comfortable being referred to as Romani, both because my heritage is very ethnically mixed anyway and because I like the inclusiveness that the word “Roma” suggests. My grandmother and many of her family members survived O Porrajmos, or the Great Devouring, by hiding their ethnicity, something that many were not able to do, and others among her friends and family were not so fortunate. The Roma and Sinti are often forgotten alongside the other groups targeted, such as LGBTQ* people, people living with disabilities, Catholics, Communists, and many others. Even though half of the Romani population was obliterated during WWII, because of systemic racism, few organizations or countries recognize our loss for what it was: genocide. This is slowly changing, however. This year the UN is hosting Sinto survivor, Mr. Zoni Weisz, to speak at their event for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, so if you are in NYC or can make the trip, I hope you attend. It’s important for all of us to band together for everyone touched the the dark maw.

I’m re-sharing Drunken Boat‘s Romani Folio, an issue completely dedicated to Romani writing and art, in honor of this day. Much of Romani

Romani Folio Cover

Drunken Boat, Romani Folio cover

literature and art is shaped by The Hungry Smoke, as well as the antigypsyist legislation, sentiment, and violence that still dogs the Roma all over the world. My short story, “Why the Pyres are Unlit,” though fictional, was heavily inspired by my grandmother’s survival, the stories she’s shared, and the mark that violence has left on my family.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about inherited and perpetuated trauma (by lately, I mean since I was a child), and I believe that the only way to change cycles of violence and fear internalized passed down through generations is to acknowledge, feel, discuss, and then release them. Silence, forced or self-imposed, is what breeds violence. Art, writing, expression, discourse, and remembrance– all of this frees us. I will spread flowers, but I will also imbibe Romani and Sinti literature and art, such as the paintings of Ceija Stojka and the words of Rajko Djuric. Pick up a good anthology (I love this one, Roads of the Roma) or browse the web for new discoveries. You can start with Romani writer Qristina Zavačková Cummings and her list of Romani authors, or my list of “20 Gypsy Women You Should Be Reading” for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. May we remember, may we create, and may we journey toward healing and liberation together.

 

Presenting at NYU’s Romani/Gypsy Arts & Letters Conference

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.

Esmeralda Declines an Interview: why I don’t interview for writers writing Gypsy characters

Sometimes I get requests from people to do interviews because they’re writing a Romani (Gypsy) character and want to use the life of a real live Gypsy girl to write her, and I always feel uncomfortable about the idea of divulging my life story for another writer’s creative gain. My friend, Misha Rai, urged me to turn those feelings into an essay, and because Misha’s advice is always brilliant, I did it. And now I’m honored and stunned to have “Esmeralda Declines an Interview” in The Missouri Review blog.

KickingNo offense intended to anyone who has asked me to interview with them as research for their book. It’s wonderful that you want to write well-rounded Romani characters, and I’m flattered that you thought of me. If you are struggling to include Romani characters in your work, then my advice to you is this: “If you want to be inclusive, then read and support the writers you want to include. Don’t ask to take our lives for your own gain.” I’m sure your intentions aren’t nefarious and I applaud your efforts to write mindfully. Just be mindful in your research too.

A good resource for you to find Romani writers is ‘ list of Romani Authors. I also have a list of “20 Gypsy Women You Should Be Reading” at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. There are many more places to look, but this is a good start.

Happy reading! And thank you to The Missouri Review and Misha Rai– I love you to bits.

P.S. Check out “Housewives, Mothers” by Misha in The Indiana Review– it’s one of my favorite stories.

May 16th: Romani Resistance Day

“The Forgotten History of Romani Resistance,” Open Society Foundations, by Pierre Chopinaud

“On the evening of May 16, 1944, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, SS guards armed with machine guns surrounded the area of the camp designated for Roma and Sinti prisoners. Their intent was to round up the nearly 6,000 prisoners there and send them to the gas chambers. But when the guards approached the area, they were met with armed resistance from the inmates.

The prisoners had learned of the planned ‘liquidation’ and fashioned weapons from sheet metal, wood, pipes, rocks, and any other scraps of material they could get their hands on. According to the memories of survivors and witnesses to the incident, the inmates forced the guards into retreat, and though some prisoners were shot that night, the act of resistance allowed the Roma and Sinti prisoners to put off execution for several more months.

How can such an epic episode have been lost to history? Who knows about the Sonderkommandos revolt of August 1944? Who knows about Witold Pilecki, who infiltrated Auschwitz to organize its resistance network? Keeping alive the memories of these events could help prevent such crimes from happening again in the future.”

Read the rest of this fascinating article here. If you want to help spread awareness on social media, use these hashtags #RomaniResistanceDay #RomaniResistance #may16. I like to throw in #Gypsy too because that hashtag is (mis)used so much to perpetuate absurd Gypsy stereotypes that it’s helpful when something real comes up under that umbrella.

Image courtesy of ternYpe, the International Roma Youth Network

Image courtesy of ternYpe, the International Roma Youth Network

“How to eat like a real Gypsy” in the Daily Meal for Roma & Traveller History Month. Learn to cook like my Gypsy grandmother taught me, plus, tea leaf reading!

Ok, so I’m really excited about this because I love The Daily Meal and I’m psyched that my recipes/article “How to eat like a real Gypsy” appeared in it just in time for Roma & Traveller History Month! The best part about writing this was talking food with grandma. I’ve been living far away for a while and it’s been too long since we had her breakfast blini and read each other’s tea leaves. Fortune telling, by the way, is something that most Roma almost never do for each other but my family is weird. Find out the history and the family tale (plus a crash-course in my grandma’s method) in the article. http://www.thedailymeal.com/how-eat-real-gypsy

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