Wednesday, 8 April 2015

International Romani Day

8th of April is International Romani Day, a day to celebrate Europe's largest and highly vulnerable ethnic minority group, a day to raise awareness for the discrimination, exclusion, isolation and challenges they face when it comes to education, housing, employment or healthcare (via). Since the European Union's expansion with members from Eastern Europe in 2004, European institutions such as the Council of Europe insist on Roma and Sinti getting extra assistance and protection (Rodrigues & Matelski, n.d.). According to Amnesty International, however, discrimination and violence against Roma in member states have not yet been adequatelly addressed (via).

Between 10 and 12 million Roma live in Europe, 90% live in poverty, one in five experiences hate crimes, many attacks are not reported (Amnesty International, 2014).

"90-year old Granada gypsy Carmen Maya holding tourists hand and looking at it very closely and telling the fortune she sees there" (literally via LIFE). Please note that the term "gypsy" is part of literal citations (in this posting from the 1940s and 1980s) and used without any pejorative connotation.

Attitudes towards Roma are negative, even more negative than towards other ethnic minorities. In a survey, around a quarter of Europeans say that they would feel uncomfortable having a Roma neighbour, "a striking difference to the level of comfort with a person form a different ethnic origin in general". Participants were presented the "neighbour scenario" and asked to rate how comfortable they would be with various neighbours (10 = highest level of comfort). Two extreme examples: The average score in Poland, where 58% would feel comfortable and 12% uncomfortable, is 7.5. The average score in the Czech Republic, where 9% would feel comfortable and 47% would feel uncomfortable, is 3.7 (Eurobarometer, 2008).
"The EU average level of comfort is much lower than it is for having a neighbour of a different ethnic origin (6.0 compared to 8.1). While 36% of respondents give one of the three most comfortable answers (8, 9 or 10 points), 24% would be uncomfortable (1, 2 or 3 points) with this idea. By way of comparison, just 6% of EU respondents give one of these uncomfortable answers for someone from a different ethnic origin in general."

In 1949, Dmitri Kessel took photographs of a Roma (Gitano) community "who built their homes in caves excavated from the soft rock of the Andalucian hillside centuries ago". These very caves are said to be the place where the "passionate art of flamenco was born" (via).
"Marginalization and extermination (...) have left an indelible mark on the collective memory of this proud people, despised and persecuted all over Europe since the fifteenth century, and have inspired Gypsy communities to create forms of music and dance which now form part of Europe's musical heritage. The spirited dances of Russia, the plaintive airs of the Romanian violin, the melodies of the Magyars, all owe some of their splendour to the profound sense of rhythm and the boundless sorrow of Gypsy communities. But nowhere else in Europe did Gypsies contribute to the creation of a music which, in complexity, variety, beauty and communicative power, can be compared with flamenco. The human genius always owes a debt to suffering. Flamenco, for which Spain and above all Andalusia is world famous, is the fruit of the ancient musical tradition of Spain allied to the sorrows of the Gypsies" (Grande, 1984).

- Amnesty International (2014). "We Ask For Justice". Europe's Failure to Protect Roma from Racist Violence, via
- Eurobarometer Special 296 (2008) Discrimination in the European Union: Perceptions, Experiences and Attitudes, via
- Grande, F. (1984). Flamenco. "... a taste of blood in the mouth". In: The Gypsies. The Unesco Courier, 29-31, via
- Rodrigues, P. R. & Matelski, M. (n.d.). Monitor Racism & Extreme Right. Roma en Sinti. Anne Frank Stichting, via
- LIFE photographs by Dmitri Kessel (1949) via and via and via and via and via and via and via