by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Romani-Gypsy families living in Southend, Essex, are hiding their identity for fear of abuse, according to a Tory councillor.
Blaine Robin, who represents the Kursaal Ward of the this Essex town, spoke out as June is “Roma Gypsy Traveller History Month”. The month which aims to celebrate the culture and history of the Romany people.
Mr Robin said that she has met a few families of Romany Gypsy heritage living in the Kursaal ward and that those she met afforded her rich, deep and meaningful insights into their heritage.
They do, however, so Councillor Robin, conceal their identity for fear of abuse by wider society.
I must say that, as they are in Essex ,I do not blame them seeing the situation in Crays Hill, the illegal Irish Traveller “village” - called dale Farm - that some have, purposely falsely, called “the biggest Gypsy settlement in Europe”, has caused and, unfortunately, the majority of the population, bar the older ones who know the difference, equate Romani with Traveller and that immediately with the problems caused by the Irish house dwellers masquerading as Travellers.
"Education is the key to raising awareness about what contribution this ethnic group has made to our society," said Councillor Blaine Robin.
Such education also must not be afraid to call a spade a spade and once and for all make the true point that Gypsy are Romany (Romani) and that the Irish Travellers are often, especially those “new” ones in places such as Dale Farm, are not even Travellers proper and definitely not Gypsy.
While we can but applaude that finally a History Month for the Romani has been created, something that this writer, as well as the International Romani Guild, the Romani Institute and the Gypsy Union, have been campaigning for – only no one wanted to know – even members of the Romani People did not – the way it has been created to represent more that one of the groups is entirely false and yet again intended to create the impression, at least in the eyes of the outsiders, that all “Travellers” are one Culture, which is not the case. For Britain the use of Roma, meant, I am sure, to replace Romani/Romanichal is also incorrect as the Romanichal are Sinti and NOT Roma. The month should have been the Romani History Month and should have excluded those not of Romani heritage. While that would have included the Roma who have arrived on these shores in the last decades of the last century only, really, it would have, at least excluded, as it should, other “Travellers” and here especially the Irish who are not of the Romani Race.
© M Smith (Veshengro), June 2008