Self-Help and the Rom

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What surprises me time and again the the fact that the Rom, and I do include in the term Rom all Romani Groups, do not appear to be willing, in the great majority, to help themselves; whether economically nor in any other way.

Other groups of people, whether the Native Americans, poor people in South Africa, the Philippines and others, everywhere establish co-ops and (community) livelihood projects, while most Romanies, especially the Roma in Eastern Europe, sit on their backsides and women and children beg and steal and scavenge, for food even, on the municipal rubbish tips. It would appear that they simply have no pride and no self-respect whatsoever.

But we have trodden this path before and berated them by means of articles and essays and I very much doubt that there is much more that can be said on this matter to get them motivated.

So, let us, therefore, concentrate on looking at some ideas for self-help projects for those that might want to make a change in and to their lives and that of their families and clans and seek some solutions that may fit.

There is not going to be one solution that is going to fit all situations and circumstances, but I am sure that there is at least one solution for every problems and then some. Such solutions, however, do not drop, as by parachute, from the sky. Thinking, lateral thinking often, is required in order to come up with such ideas or to adapt existing solutions and then to implement them.

There are some, it would appear, though, that have to have every idea handed to them on a plate and then they still will reject each and every one of them with comments such as that the solutions are not properly tailored for the needs of the Romani People or have not been discussed with the People, etc. Excuses, always excuses, and more often than not the same excuses and made by the same so-called “leaders”.

There are ideas for livelihood projects and such like that can be found in various places and countries and it should be possible and will be possible to adapt and adjust most of them to, in one way or another, fit a situation and circumstances in which Romani find themselves and from which they seek an escape. While the example of Trashe Bolsas from the Philippines is one that could, I am sure be adapted, it may not necessarily will be or even have to be in using tarpaulins such as those used by this group. However, many Rom in Eastern Europe, as I said, scavenge, or at least their women and children, for it would appear that the men are just too proud and lazy to do such menial work, on the refuse dumps and I am sure that that is where some such recycling projects could be brought to life.

When I was a youngster we did a lot of such kind of work, that is to say, recycling. Not that the word had even been invented then. We made things from discarded fence wire, for instance, such as BBQ forks, toasting forks, and other things; from old nails, from old knives; everything we made, basically, went for sale door-to-door or and especially on local markets.

Others made pegs, clothespins and tent pegs, etc. while we also recycled old leather goods into new stuff and and uncle of mine, for instance, and his group, made a living, and a good living, of picking up other people's cast offs, such as furniture items, and restoring them for sale.

Those are a few examples from those days which still can have a value today. Yes, even the making of pegs, for on the right kind of markets they, yet again, fetch good prices.

When it comes to the “green” sector, especially, that is to say the recycling and refurbishing of stuff, the possibilities are there to do it and to make money from it. Versatility is also a requirement, which is to say to be able to do more than one thing in such ventures.

Presently we are told that plastic bags will soon be a thing of the past and the things of the past need to come out again when we go shopping. That is to say that we – and not just we but everyone – will need to have “cloth” shopping bags again and many places now sell the cotton, fair trade cotton even at times, tote bags. However, they are newly manufactured and whether fair trade cotton or not, it still is a drain on the natural resources. There we come again to the recycling co-ops of, maybe, Romani groups. The material could be old clothes, such as jeans, and other cotton or even synthetic material – we are recycling after all – that can be recycled into a variety of shopping bags, totes and others. The only limitation is set my the mind and to a small degree by the material(s).

The possibilities for the Romani to help themselves though their own co-ops and livelihood projects is there and I have tried to present a few small ideas here without actually writing the blueprint for such projects. There is no “one solutions fits all” and therefore there is scope for everyone to come up with ideas. So, let's do it!

© M Smith (Veshengro), April 2008

Recycling and the Gyppo

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The entire world, especially, but not only, the countries of the developed world, are on about the need for everyone to recycle.

Before the word “recycling” (and those related to it) was ever even invented it was the Gypsy who was doing just that, namely recycling and such. Reclaiming materials, and not just metals, was a main activity for many Gypsy families and clans. Who were the majority of those that went about with horse and cart or even handcart calling “any old iron” and calling for rags and old bones even, the so-called “rag and bone men” or the “totters”. They were of Romani origin in the great majority and it was not only the menfolks that did this tasks.

Then this trade was stopped; the calling around the country was basically outlawed. The picking on the municipal dumps was outlawed and handed to the “professional pickers”. What was the result? Guess what? Suddenly we have a problem. What a surprise – NOT! And now everyone is clamouring for it. Recycling is the slogan everywhere. It was the Gypsy who first took scrap, took other people's trash, and turned it into resalable items again, whether the knives that many made from old knives or other things. More often than not it was not just “reclaiming” the metals and other items; often it was restoring and refurbishing the items for resale. This was anything from furniture to machinery, and many other items in between and later up to electrical goods. Fence wire was turned into the likes of toasting forks, barbecue forks, and many other items. Old knives were reworked into new ones, blade grade steel was made into knives and other cutting tools, and we could get on and on.

Now everyone is trying to do the same and then again it is not the same. While the practical recycling that was done by the Gypsy the industrial recycling, to some degree, to me at least, seems to be less good for the Planet. The impact of energy and factories and such is adding to the environmental footprint of us and those companies. Then again, rather have the material, obviously, recycled in such a fashion instead of it going into landfills.

But there are many aspects of recycling that could be done, yet again, in the way the old Gypsy did. All we need to do is to adapt to the materials. Entire community livelihood projects and programs could be set up for Romani communities to do recycling and there is a market out there for the right quality of recycled goods, made in a way as it was done before.

I know that there are some modern “totters” out there of the Romani community but most of them are only looking to pick up and carry scrap metal to this or that dealer. If we talk scrap metal then we should take it all the way.

What do I mean with taking it all the way? I mean that we should disassemble, say, vehicles and ourselves sell the parts reclaimed as secondhand spares. However, my real issue in this article is for ours to return to doing “recycling crafts” that can be sold locally and further afield. Many families and clans could be gainfully employed – by themselves – in recycling and refurbishing those things that others, especially the general public, throw out. There is also commercial waste available that could be used in such ventures, such as canvass and tarpaulin from manufacturers that use such materials, as well as, and especially, the material that has been used and would, otherwise, end up in the landfill. Time we got and did it again; we did it before. The only difference, nowadays, would be that the materials are different.

© M Smith (Veshengro), April 2008

The Rom were right after all

Dogs and cats do not belong in kitchen and bedroom

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

British veterinary scientists have told the general public in a report of April 2008 that they should not allow dogs and cats into kitchens, as dogs and cats carry food poison bacteria, and many other pathogens, including the MRSA virus, the often called “super bug”.

Now who would have thought that, after all, the Rom, who have had it as part of their cleanliness rules, their Mokadi Law, for ever and day that dogs and cats have no place inside the home and cited was always contamination, would be proven right. And yes, I am sarcastic here. We, the Rom, and our Elders and our Ancestors from ages past, have know well before the Gadje that dogs and cats carry diseases. While the Gadje had all their livestock and dogs and cats in their homes during the pestilences in the middle ages the Rom, in their wagon and tents never allowed dogs (and other livestock) inside and hence never seem to succumb to the plagues and pestilences. Hence the claim by the powers that be, in order to have a reason to act again the Gypsy that the Gypsy were in league with the devil (and our name for God sure did not help their one bit) and that the Gypsy were spreading the diseases while they themselves were not affected by them. The simple fact, however, is that the fleas, which carry the plague, for instance, did not have time to get too close to the Rom.

This is, yet again, more proof that rather than superstition and such the Law of Mokadi are well thought out and we would do well to adhere to them, still and especially in this day and age. The MRSA virus, as we keep hearing, for instance, because of so many people catching it in hospitals, is basically resistant to most antibiotics and could, therefore, be fatal. Best to go back to the Old Ways and definitely keep the furry pets outside, where they, after all, belong.

The Mokadi Law still is as valid, as said before, as it was in the old days though there are some aspects that are claimed to be part of this ancient Law by some that I am beginning to doubt that they ever were part of it, such as the ban on our People becoming medical practitioners of all kinds. We do need doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedics and others of Gypsy origin simply because only our own can treat those of the Rom with the respect demanded by our Culture and Traditions and as we do not want to teach those to medical staff we simply must have our own. Ideally, we need more than just our own doctors here and there and in hospitals but that is still some way off.

While there are some things that are claimed to be part of the Mokadi Law that may have been added to it at some stage for reasons unknown the points that make lots of sense, and that proven again and again must remain for sure.

It would seem that it might be a good idea for the Rom to look at the Mokadi Law with new eyes in the realization that medical science now realizes those things that our Ancient Ones knew ages ago.

While it may be, in today's age where we have the likes of chlorine bleach and other such chemicals for sterilizing, that the time may be passed to having to throw away and break a cup or a plate that has fallen onto the floor in the house or trailer (strangely enough often items fallen onto the earth were not regarded as defiled). But then again, I don't know. It is so ingrained with me that I still do such things and I do not think that that will change.

© M Smith (Veshengro), April 2008

Community Livelihood Projects and the Rom

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While Europe may not be the Philippines and we may not have those advertising tarpaulins available for making bags and such like as are being used by Trashe Bolsas (we shall be hearing lots more about that project in due course in the pages of this journal and others of Tatchipen Media), for instance, many Rom do scavenge on the rubbish tips, mostly and especially in Eastern Europe.

Nowhere, however, do there seem to be any recycling community livelihood projects – or other community livelihood projects – by Rom for Rom in existence. It would appear, as far as most of the Roma, at least, are concerned self-help and work is not on the agenda and both would appear to be dirty words in their vocabulary. They rather like to have women and children beg and steal on the streets and worse even, it would appear; e.g. have little boys and girls “sold” for sordid activities. This is no imagination for we have encountered those acts now even in the West.

The Gypsy Union and especially the Romani Institute are currently studying feasibilities as to what could be suggested by way of such projects to the greater community and one that could loosely be termed to be one is the recently launched and founded organization “IRMA”, the International Romani Media Association. This organization is for all Romani writers and journalists who may find it difficult to get accredited by and for professional bodies as they do not make their primary income from their writing or journalistic/media activities. While IRMA does not provide work nor promise and guarantee work for members, and therefore, probably, could not be seen as a community livelihood project per se it is also not claimed to be one. All the International Romani Media Association – IRMA – does is try to become a recognized professional body of journalists, other writers and other media personnel of Romani origin, and is intended as a definite self-help project, in the same way as is the RFA, the Romani Foresters' Association.

We have to help ourselves and do things and provide things for ourselves and this must include community livelihood projects and co-ops.

We cannot and must not just sit back and hope that someone will come along and do this and that for us like I have seen it with the Rom in the countries of Eastern Europe and yes, predominately amongst Roma, where the men sit about all day long, mostly, with a few exceptions, play cards, drink coffee and whatever else, and the women and children are our begging, choring and/or scavenging on the rubbish tips and such. They even did not get up and repair a leaky roof or a tumbledown wall, or whatever such on their own dwellings. Their excuse was that the authorities had to do that for them or they were waiting for this or that charity to come and do it. Or like those where the entire neighborhood around their houses was strewn with garbage and litter which they simply threw out of the windows and off the balconies of their apartments and they demanded that the municipality came to collect this rubbish, while they never thought that they would have to pay for the service.

When it comes to “job creation” the story also is always the same: we want this or that NGO – like Open Society Institute, as example here for many – to some and do this or that for us, and the same with community centers, etc. Why do we need to have some Gadje organization do it for us?

The problem would appear that the majority of Rom, especially the mushes, do not even want to do any work, and particular not, it would appear, with their hands. Yes, I do know that there are exceptions, but...

Am I the only one who is getting fed up with the mentality of the great majority of our Romanies – and I do include all of our People here now, including Sinti, Cale, Romanichals, Manush, the lot – of wanting things done for them and ideally for nothing. When are ours going to get their finger out of the orifice where they seem to have parked it and actually do things for themselves, Rom for Rom, by Rom for Rom and not done for us by the Gadje who then want to keep control over what we do.

Also for other reasons we must do things for ourselves, and we must work for ourselves, to bring in a living for ourselves and our families. Community Livelihood Projects, set us as co-operatives by Rom for Rom can be a help there in areas where there is no other means of earning a livelihood. We must get away from the slave mentality of dependency on handouts. That dependency can also be found amongst Romanies in countries other than those of Eastern Europe even, unfortunately.

Time for a change, a major change, methinks. There have always been those groups that earned a more or less honest living with their own hands and then, it would appear, there have always been those amongst the Romani, who appear to be in the majority in the countries of the former Com-Bloc, who rather send their women and chavies to mong and chor rather than themselves doing an honest day's work.

We all know the excuse they will throw about amongst them the favorite and much recycled one about Rom not (being allowed to) work for employers and also that Rom are not allowed to employ other Rom and all such, for lack of a better word, garbage. Therefore, they probably also would not be able to do any work in such “Community Livelihood Projects” even if they fell out of the sky with all the ideas and all that. They might be working (for a Rom) despite the fact that most should really be working for themselves and their families in a co-operative.

The dependency culture of the Romani People, that of the great majority, has to be put a stop to. It is, as I already said, not just present in the countries of the former Com-Bloc – though it seems to be rather deep seated there and I know that some would like to put it down to the fact that the Roma were slaves until the late 19th century in countries such as Romania – but it can also be found in other countries with a well-developed welfare system, such as Germany, the UK, and others. While it is no less better in countries such as the USA where such state welfare is not, necessarily, as easily available. Too many just sit there and expect things to happen. Life does not work like that and scam jobs too have no future. They should never ever have had a past either. I was taught by my Elders to give high quality and value for many service so that we would be welcomed back again and again in those villages and neighborhoods. Scamming does no one any good, least of all the one who perpetrates such scams.

Dosta penauas again, mandi djins... just to add a “let's get up and do it”...

© M Smith (Veshengro) & Tatchipen Media, April 2008

A Tale of Kings, Emperors, Judges and Pastors

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Kings of all Gypsies, such as Cioba, Kwiek, et al - Emperor of all Gypsies, such as Cioba's relation, and others - Judges who oppress the People rather than know anything about the Romani Laws and last, but not least, Pastors (shepherds – I think not) of the Pentecostalist and other “Christian” Missions - All do their part in damaging the Romani People.

We do not have Kings and such lord it over us, used to be the great scream amongst the People to those that would claim that this or that person was a Gypsy King or a Gypsy Queen with power over the People and, truthfully, we, at least the Sinti and Cale, have NEVER ever have had Kings, Emperors and such like. We have had Judges, the Rakepaskros, the Rechtsprecher, and Shero Roms, but none of those of today even deserve the name and title of either of those, with the exception, maybe, of one or the other Sherengro, or Shero Rom. They make judgments based on anything but the Romani Laws, for most would not know the Romani Laws even if they bit them; they turn women into slaves, which our women never were (in fact the women ruled rather more than did the men), and keep the People in total ignorance.

Rom Society once was, in the background, matriarchal and while the men led as Shero Roms or Judges, the old mother, the Puri Deia held the true reigns and it was her word that was law in the end and not that of Judges and Shero Roms. Women (and children) in many groups were the main breadwinners, as it was the women and the children who went into the streets, door-to-door, or onto the markets to hawk the goods produced, whether wooden pegs of all kinds, wooden flowers, lace, knives, and others.

The only men who worked the “calling circuits” were the knife grinders and the rag and bone men, and the tinkers.

Not only the men did made the wooden crafts, such as clothespins, tent pegs, wooded flowers, etc.; the majority of our womenfolk and children did too.

In the 20th century, however, and here especially after WWII, it would seem, this was turned upside down in mainland Europe, and here especially amongst the Sinti groups in Germany, Austria, France, and the Cale in Spain. The Roma, it has to be noted, always seem to have had this male dominated attitude.

The Catalan Gypsies, probably due to the influences of the Mediterranean “culture” also have this attitude of suppressing and oppressing their women. I actually assume that this may also be the reason for that attitude also amongst the Cale of Spain, e.g. the culture of male domination of Catholicism and the Mediterranean per se.

With friends like these, who needs enemies.

Kings, Emperors & Tsars

Roma Leader predicts crime wave to swamp EU

In a statement of August 7, 2006 the head of Bulgaria's Roma community Tsar Kiro has warned a crime wave will sweep Great Britain and the rest of EU member states, when the country joins the union.

The Rom certainly need no enemies when they have “leaders” such as this and while “Tsar” Kiro may be right as to a great number of his “folks” being involved in crime – and what precisely is he doing about it – this immediately says, once again, to the outside world that Roma = Gypsy = criminal.

What we were seeing here, however, was a rather blatant attempt in blackmail. Namely saying to the EU, though not in exactly those selfsame words, “give me money and I will ensure that my people will not flood your countries”.

The truth is that while some Bulgarian, Romanian and other East European Roma have ended up on the British streets and, I should assume, the streets of other EU member states, it was hardly a flood as predicted by the likes of Tsar Kiro or the British gutter press.

In addition to this we have things like this below, again in a short extract from a media report:

Romanian Gypsy royalty embroiled in leadership struggle

It is in Romania that you will meet the Gypsy elite, like Florin Cioaba. He is a politician, a businessman, a preacher - and wait there's more - because he is also His Royal Highness, the King of the Roma.

But the King of the Roma is not the only monarch in the neighbourhood.

Just around the corner, barely half a kilometre down the road, there is another ruler to meet, a man who claims to be the real leader of the Gypsies.

He is the self-declared Emperor of all Roma Everywhere - Iulian Radulescu.

Oh dear! Now the Romanian Roma have two buli bashas pretending to be their “leader” and being their slave masters, for that, for sure, is what those are, slave masters, keeping the grassroots of the Rom in bondage. “King” Cioba on one side and “Emperor” Radulescu on the other, the latter claiming to be the “emperor of all Roma everywhere”. Both the “king” and the “emperor” are only after filling their pockets on the back of the poor Roma who they think are their subjects, their serfs, by exploiting them through loan sharkery and by applying for EU (and other funding) for mostly non-existent Roma projects. We all know how good “king” Ion was in all this and I doubt that “king” Florin is any worse in soliciting funds this way. Nice to live in a palace while one's “subjects” have to make do with cardboard shacks on refuse tips.

The Romanian Roma have but exchanged slavery to Church and feudal lords to slavery to the buli bashas, the likes of the Ciobas. The communist governments in both Romania and Bulgaria used and aided and abetted the buli basha system as a means of controlling the Roma and was but a follow on to the Roma being serfs after slavery and the Roma, so used to being oppressed and told what to do just exchanged this for the modern slavery to the buli bashas, the kings and emperors of all Gypsies. The Black slaves in America also needed someone like ML King to come along before they came out of their “Uncle Tom” attitude and do something in order to liberate themselves.

While some of us keep preaching, though not being in Church, this writer definitely not, of a dream for the Romani, much like ML King had for the Blacks in America, the People, unlike the American Blacks, seem to, in the majority, rather content to moan and groan but still allow those leaches to suck their blood. And those leaches are not Gadje, are not the “Whites”; no, those leaches are Rom themselves.

Time to rise up and throw off the fetters that bind us, Brothers and Sisters and leave those royals (lol) to fend for themselves. What have you got to lose but your chains of slavery. Yes, Roma of the East and Sinti in Germany, you still are slaves to your various kings, emperors and judges.


Worst of all, and I will touch on this here but briefly, is the slavery that so many of ours have put themselves into more or less voluntarily, namely that of the “evangelical” churches and the Pentecostal missions. This is all but a delusion. But willingly they allow the pastors and elders, the latter who are often younger than many of them members of the congregation, to lord it over them and tel them who they can associate with and who not. And this from a people who always claim to have Freedom as their Religion.

I rest my case...

© M Smith (Veshengro), April 2008

Ueber die Sprache der Zigeuner

Ueber die Sprache der Zigeuner – Eine grammatische Skizze” (“About the Language of the Gypsies – A Grammatical Sketch”) is the title of a book from the early 19th century by Alfred Graffunder, who was a School Inspector. The book was published in 1835 and proves that Sinti never saw the language as secret and having to be kept away from others, as is claimed now by the so-called “judges” and “elders”. Another way of making oneself a laughingstock is all I can say to that. The posting of a link to this book, provided as a facsimile by Google, has already caused controversy on a forum for and by Sinti in Germany where the moderators removed both the link to the downloadable book and also the comment of the poster and the one by this writer.

With material like this in the public realm, material that was, like in the same time in the UK, freely given to researchers, Gadje researchers – everyone knew they were Gadje – how can the Sinti “judges” in Germany and such places continue to claim that the language was secret and was always guarded, on pain of expulsion, and never ever transmitted to outsiders. This is sheer and absolute stupidity in the same was as the “Dadeske vast” garbage that denies so many of our People their Birthright. Let's stop being stupid just for once.

This probably was/is not the first book on the language of the Sinti in Germany, and those were Sinti for the “me hom” is Sintitikes and not Romanes from the Roma, and this was neither the last book on the Chib, with information freely given by clans far and wide. During the time of this book and also in later times it was common for researchers to be given access to the language by Sinti in Germany and elsewhere on the European and Romanichals in Britain alike and many books were written on the “Language of the Gypsies” and this includes the famous “Sampson” study on the language on the Romanichal/Kale in Wales. Notwithstanding that a lot of what Sampson did conclude is utter baloney, e.g. the origin of words, it proves that here no one had an attitude of secrecy of the language and that was the same case, so it would appear from books that were published about the Sinti language, amongst the Sinti in Germany and other parts. So, from whence cometh the notion of the secrecy of the Chib and also the other notions that those “judges” (those who are not fit to even bear such a title) come up with? It is all something in order for them to appear big and something to lord over the People.

The truth will out, as they say, and it is no good, for instance, to remove links to such information posted by a well-known Sinto in Germany and any comments to such links and informations. The longer we perpetuate those lies that this or that was this or that when it was not the longer we will be perceived as liars and cheats by the general public.

While such forum moderators, hiding behind their web anonymity, and so-called “judges” have statements put out to which, when one asks questions as to who they are and such, one gets short and shrift and have one's questions removed from such forums, our People, and especially here the Sinti of Germany (and Austria) can never be seen as honest and open. In the same way when they want to declare someone as outcast because he has the title doctor, under which they immediately accuse him of being a doctor of medicine. And even if it were so; we need our own medical doctors, instead of going to Gadje doctors who then do not know how to treat us, in regards to our cultural aspects, and we then moan because they do not treat us right in that respect. While, at the same time, we are also, those Sinti “judges”, not prepared to let the medical profession (and others) know of any special requirements that we have as regards Culture. Oh no, it is said, we could not possibly do that. Well, then you have to suffer the con sequences and cannot complain, whether you are not treated with respect as far as our Culture is concerned and our Traditions and also as regards to other aspects. You cannot have it both ways. Better get used to it.

This book is available, as said, as a facsimile, from Google but, due to the fact that someone so nicely removed the link I could not even, if I wanted to, make it available as a link to anyone. However, because has been photographed rather than retyped, as would have been done by Project Gutenberg, some of the writing is not too easy to read either. Therefore it is also not possible to reproduce it as a text file.

Tatchipen Media shall, however, in due course, attempt rework this into typeface proper and then turn it into an e-book. A translation from the German into English shall also be done in due course, which shall be an exact translation, with all the bias of the time that we also find in the original German.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
© April 2008

National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups - Policy Seminar in Parliament

Open racist stereotyping in the media, denial of ethnic minority rights and political scapegoating – those are all rather far too common experiences of Gypsies and Travellers across Britain today, according to a meeting between MPs and community members on Tuesday 18th March 2008.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform (APPG) met with members and partners of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups (NFGLG) on Tuesday morning at the House of Commons. The meeting was co-organised by NFGLG, the charity European Dialogue, and representatives from key government departments were also present.

Underpinning the policy debate was the recognition that Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers continue to face open and severe discrimination in Britain today. At a time when such a strong focus lies on building a cohesive society to integrate all of the diverse communities which make up Britain, it appears that the Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers – communities who have been living here for centuries – are still being left aside. They continue to face a barrier of racism which British multi-cultural society has yet to tackle effectively.

Community representatives pointed out that negative stereotyping of Gypsies and Travellers is frequent in the media, particularly in the local press. It is also not uncommon for politicians to use local Traveller issues in order to gain leverage with local voters – a practice which would be considered unacceptable in relation to any other ethnic group. The Chairman of the Local Government Association Gypsy and Traveller Task Group, Councillor Richard Bennett suggested that an all-party concordat be drawn up to ensure that local elections would never be fought on these issues in the future.

Several members of the community called for a clear message to be sent 'from the top' stating clearly that, as for any other community, racism directed at Gypsies and Travellers will not be tolerated. The DCSF announced that the first Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month will take place in June 2008 to promote the culture and the positive role of Gypsies and Travellers in Britain society. This will be an opportunity for British society to celebrate the forgotten history and misrepresented culture of Gypsies and Travellers.

The NFGLG/APPG meeting put the question of Gypsy ethnicity and rights under the spotlight through a robust debate. The participants were reminded about the breakthrough in the recognition of Romany Gypsy and Irish Traveller rights as distinct `ethnic groups', equal to any other, brought about by the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000.

For the purposes of planning law however, Romany Gypsies still do not have rights associated with their ethnic status. Planning law bases the right to have access to planning permission for a trailer or caravan on a plot of land (known as 'gypsy status'), on whether an applicant has a nomadic lifestyle, "whatever their race or origin".

The community groups are fighting to have the planning definition altered so that 'gypsy status' is based on ethnicity too. It was pointed out that under the current framework a number of Gypsies who no longer travel have found their 'gypsy status' removed– even if this is due to ill health or old age, whilst relatives of theirs retain their 'status'!

Finally, the patchy delivery of services for Gypsies and Travellers by local authorities was also identified as a serious problem for many people. There was a call by community members for greater accountability over local spending, to challenge the 'slum-like' conditions of some Gypsy/Traveller sites. Across all the range of issues, better consultation with local Gypsy and Traveller groups was also an apparent need.

Despite the range of serious issues put on the table at the NFGLG/APPG meeting, this meeting made a significant contribution to the debates about the rights of Gypsies and Travellers in Britain today.


Editorial comment:

The press statement above mentions that Irish Travellers have been in Britain for centuries. Is this really so? How many centuries, for if the truth be told, it may be less than one century. This is yet again an attempt to put the Irish Travellers a par with the Romany Gypsy population in the United Kingdom but this will not wash and cannot be allowed to stand in such a way.

Irish Travellers, while, maybe, just about, could qualify as an “ethnic group”, if ethnicity is also made as including lifestyle and such like, which really it should not, but they cannot be ever seen as a Race, unlike the Romany who are a Race and a Race apart.

The discrimination faced by the Irish Travellers is NOT, therefore, for reasons of race but for reasons of their way of life and especially for reasons of how so many of their community, if you like, behave when they travel. This also, in return, causes problems for Romany Gypsy, and even well-behaved Irish Travellers. Something that the people themselves should police and the bad apples should be rooted out. How that is done should be left to the individual communities, for there are also rotten apples in the Romany community and we should deal with those. Maybe, and just maybe, we can then get a better reception by the Gohja when we come to a place, like it used to be in the old days. I remember always being welcome in the villages when I was younger, but then that was before certain elements destroyed it all by the way they behaved or should we better say misbehaved.

I would like to stress again, and I know it really bothers people that I do, that while the Romany are facing racial discrimination, this is not and cannot ever be termed like that as regards to the Irish Travellers. I do not care who is going to have a go again as to what I am writing here but the truth is the truth. Romany Gypsies (the only group to who the term “Gypsy” anyway applies) are a Race while the Irish Travellers simply are a group, a minority of maybe a rather ancient European nomadic people, like some of the Jenisch, but they are not Gypsy and they are not therefore of a different race. I know that is very difficult to understand to many of those do-gooders and hangers on, those that want to make political capital out of the issue, but the truth is different than they wish to portray it.

How can you have a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month? This is merging the two, for the Gypsy are Romani like the Roma, into one and this just cannot and must not be. There is NO common history bar, maybe, the history of being moved on from stopping places. But we, the Romany Gypsy, have the Irish Travellers and their behavior or misbehavior to thank for in the main for the closure of all the once common and accepted stopping places that were used by the Romany Gypsy in this country, and elsewhere, for the influence of the misbehavior of the Irish travellers is now reaching as far and wide as Scandinavia, Germany, France, Holland, and other such places.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be, basically, pushed into this false cooperation with the Irish Travellers, the majority of which do not like the Romany Gypsy, we, the Romany should separate ourselves and our work, political and cultural, from that done with, about and for the Irish Travellers and do our own thing and also have the governments accept the differences, including the overbearing and knowing all better European Union. For far too long have we been the play thing of the politicos that only really work for the Irish Travellers.

We have allowed ourselves to be steamrollered into this combined operations thing by those that accused us of being this that and the other for excluding the Irish Travellers, to the extent of calling those who advocated the separateness racist even.

We have allowed ourselves to be pushed into the use of the term “Traveller” instead of “Gypsy” and with that made a rod for our own back for as soon as the Gohja in Britain hear Travellers they think Gypsy and we all get included in the perception of those that live on a what ends up looking like a rubbish tip in some third world country.

I myself have seen Irish Travellers encamped in municipal parks performing their bodily functions, both male and female, and not just the children, in public with people passing by. Is it then any wonder that there is a problem with the general public's perception of the Gypsy? It is not. That is why we, the Romany, must separate ourselves from the entire claptrap of common Traveller culture. There is no such thing as a common culture between the Travellers and the Romany. None whatsoever and anyone claiming differently djins kek.

While the Irish Travellers may be a distinct “ethnic” group under the Race Relations Act 2000 it does NOT make them a Race.

The “Gypsy status” definition does need to be changed but it MUST NOT include the Irish Travellers in this. Gypsy is Romany and nothing more. All else are Travellers.

Personally, and I have stated that before, I do not think that Gypsies and/or Travellers should have any special treatment, nor be given any, as regards to the planning laws. Why not? Because it would then make us even more a target of the gutter press and the right wing, whether media or politicians, and of the general public and, I would add, maybe rightly so. The law should look at all people equally regardless of their ethnicity or racial background, and this should and must include the Romany and the Travellers.

Michael Smith (Veshengro), April 2008

The Kosovo Disaster

While the Western World was being conned by the Kosovo Albanians into believing that there was an ethnic cleansing being perpetrated by Serbs against Albanian Muslims the true Ethnic Cleansing and the only one that was going on, was not seen, namely the one committed by the Kosovo Albanians, via the KLA and others, was against the Gypsy population (and also against Serbs). All the Serbs ever did was to defend themselves and their people against attacks by the Kosovo Albanians.

The Gypsies that were driven out from their neighborhoods, from their Mahalas, by the actions of the Kosovo Albanians fled into Serbia, in the main, where they ended up forced to live, forced by the UN bodies, in makeshift camps which are, mostly, on grounds that are contaminated with various dangerous chemicals and substances at levels often 10x sometimes 100's of times above the safe levels.

A commander of KFOR troops expressed it very adequately when he said: “We have come out in the defense of the wrong people!”

Ethnic cleansing was, in the case of Kosovo at least, not committed by Serbs against others, such as the Kosovo Albanian, the Muslim, population but in fact by the boot was on the other foot. Those that were the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing at a tremendous scale were those that claimed to be the victims. It was, and still is, the Muslim Albanians of Kosovo who are doing all the ethnic cleansing and even Gypsies that dare to return to their Mahalas and wish to reclaim their homes are threatened, driven away again or, in many cases, so we have heard, even murdered. By who you ask: by the very same people that claim that they are being ethnically cleansed.

The Albanians in Kosovo only have one aim; they want a Kosovo free of Serbs and Gypsies and then join Kosovo to Albania to fulfill the long-held dream of a “Greater Albania”... and the Gods help us!

Who will then be the next on the list of the Albanians to be added to this “Greater Albania” that is envisaged? Think of another Balkan country with a large Muslim and Albanian population: yes, Macedonia; at least the part of it – for starters – which is closest to Kosovo, with centers such as Kumanovo.

Kumanovo is another city that has, like Prizren and Pristina, has a large population of Gypsies within its walls. The Gypsy community of Kumanovo, while not as large as that of Skopie, e.g. Shutka, it probably the largest in that area. While the great majority of Gypsies in Macedonia are, nominally at least, of the Muslim faith ethnically they are not Albanians and I, for one, can see the same happening in the Kumanovo area as has happened in Pristina and Prizren and other places in Kosovo with Gypsy neighborhoods. And no doubt I have either that it will be again the Albanians that will claim that it is they that are the victims. No one will notice the Gypsy victims who are only always seen as economic migrants, even when they come from such trouble spots and claim persecution, and not as “proper” refugees.

Every time, regardless of whatever trouble, Gypsy refugees are not granted proper refugee status under the Geneva Convention and others and are, again and again, claimed to be nothing more than economic migrants who will be shipped back to the countries whence they came regardless of threat to limb and life. But then, it is the most convenient way for Western governments as they then do not have to explain to their racist population, racist always when it comes to Gypsies, that those people are coming in to stay.

We all are always seen and portrayed as nothing but liars – economic migrants – they only want a better life – cheats and criminals and as “dirty Gyppos”. Never as real refugees in need of help.

Kosovo is not going to get better. It is going to get worse down there, folks. Mark my words.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), April 2008

BBC tried to silence only Romany Voice on air in UK

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

At the beginning of April the news reached us that the BBC was intending to cut broadcasting to the Gypsy and Traveller community.

Rokker Radio, the two-hour radio programme established two years ago by BBC for the Gypsy and Traveller community was to be axed at the end of April. As the show prepared to celebrate two years of broadcasting across local BBC radio in the East of England and across the world on the internet, the BBC had decided not to fund the programme beyond the end of April.

Each Sunday night, between 1900 hours and 2100 hours, that is to say, between 7pm and 9pm, Rokker Radio broadcasts to Britain’s Gypsies and Travellers, many of whom must drive long distances to hear it because they cannot receive it in their own area nor are able to listen to it on the internet. Not every Gypsy in this country has got a computer as yet, though there are more and more nowadays, and also not all areas are covered by broadband connections. Broadcast streaming is only a real feasibility with broadband. Others that can, obviously, do listen to Rokker Radio on the Internet, and not only in Britain alone. Rokker Radio is listened to by many an English-speaking Gypsy abroad as well.

Over the last two years, BBC Rokker Radio has attempted to address the lack of proper representation of Europe’s largest ethnic minority community in the media in Britain. It has raised issues of importance to the community whilst literally providing a common wavelength through which Gypsy and settled communities can begin to understand one another.”

Because of the unfortunate reduction in the BBC licence fee, regional management in the BBC have decided that it was too expensive to maintain. The £800 it costs each week to staff this vital service may well be in excess of the average cost of regional programming, but it remains the BBC’s only real commitment to date to the Gypsy and Traveller community. It is also insignificant compared to the financial commitment the BBC rightly gives to other linguistic, national and ethnic minorities across the UK.

With just one month before Gypsy and Traveller broadcasting is silenced in Britain, Gypsy and Traveller journalists, campaigners and Traveller education advocates launched a campaign to save and expand the programme. In an open letter to BBC Director General Mark Thompson, members of the European Romani Journalists Federation have started to campaign for equal representation on and within the BBC.

“The BBC should begin the process of dedicating the same level of resources to the Gypsy and Traveller community as it does to other ethnic and linguistic minorities in Britain. If it is right that the BBC broadcasts in Welsh and Gaelic and provides an entire network to the Asian community, it is also right that it provide the same commitment to Europe’s largest ethnic minority community, the Romany people.” said veteran Kosovan Roma Journalist Orhan Galjus.

He added: “Services in the Romani language are also badly needed to support and inform those communities who currently have no access to independent broadcasting. Across many parts of Europe a de facto apartheid blights the Romany community and it’s prospects. We urgently need the BBC’s help to inform and educate our 12 million strong European nation.”

While I agree with Brother Orhan as regards to the need for a radio service for the Romani People in the UK, the Gypsy People, and also for the Traveller community as a whole, in Britain we certainly, as a whole, do NOT need a Romani language service. However, a Romani language service on the BBC World Service might be nice for the Romani more outside the UK where Romanes in on or the other dialect is indeed spoken.

On April 5 what appears to be a victory had been won as, apparently, the BBC, under pressure from all those campaigning for Rokker Radio to remain (and be expanded), the BBC, apparently, backed down over it’s plans to end the only programme it has ever provided for Britain ’s Gypsies and Travellers. But I would suggest that we do not, as yet, count the chickens already for they are in fact not hatched as yet.

After a concerted lobbying campaign, by community members, as well as activists, journalists, writers, academics and teachers from the settled community, the BBC seem to have changed it’s mind.

I may be a cynic, that I for sure, but I will not believe it that they have backed down, on a permanent basis, until I see it in action and Rokker Radio remaining on air for years and years to come. We mist, however, be vigilant for they could just as easily axe it from on eweek to the next or curtail the broadcast times.

A statement from the BBC Press Office reads:

“There is no intention to close Rokker Radio. It is true that we have had discussions with the presenter about a range of options for the programme, including whether there might be potential for expanding the range and scope of programming covering these issues – for example by offering programming to other radio stations across the BBC local radio family.”

“We will continue to look at how best we can refresh our coverage and to ensure that we are achieving best value for our listeners, but we can reassure listeners that there is no plan to close the programme down at this time.”

“We are, however, keen to find new ways of reaching underserved communities, including the travelling community. It's important to explore options to provide wider and better coverage of the issues and concerns of this community across the whole of England, not just the East.”

“Technology is delivering a wide variety of new ways to deliver content to audiences and we will continue to explore a number of innovative ideas to help give the travelling community a voice and to improve understanding with the settled community of their issues.”

But while technology may be delivering a wide variety of new ways not all from the Gypsy and Traveller communities have access to computers and broadband I n order to listen, for instance, on the Internet.

This does go to show what people power can do. But it’s now time to meet constructively with the BBC at a senior level to discuss it’s overall representation of the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling community. Never again must we have to fight for our right to fair representation within the world’s largest media organization.

But, we must also remember that they, and the organization they represent, are Gadje (Gohja) and it is not the interest of the “dirty Gyppo” they intend to serve. They will only serve our interests if we stay on their backs. Is that the answer though?

Does this, however, prove, yet again, that only “Sin Fein”, that is to say, “ourselves alone” will work in anything we do. We cannot and must not rely on outsiders. They will as easy withdraw their supports, and they will do that faster than they ever gave it.

Maybe it is time that we, the Romani of the UK (and elsewhere in the English-speaking world) looked at an alternative radio medium to get a program such like Rokker Radio, or even Rokker Radio itself, out.

Shortwave radio is an option that, so it would appear, no one has looked at, actually, as yet, or AM radio even. A much greater coverage of the country could already be achieved on a medium wave channels while shortwave would make the program receivable, basically and practically, around the globe ON RADIO, depending on the person's receiver, though.

Campaigners will still be marking Romany Nation Day as planned by gathering outside Broadcasting House in London at 12:00 noon on April the 8th to hand in petitions in support of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller broadcasting before marking Romany Nation Day with flowers, music and food in Regents Park.

Broadcasting House is located at:

BBC Broadcasting House
Portland Place ,
London , W1A 1AA