Our spirits are made of songs and our hearts are made of gold. We live in abject but picturesque poverty. We fear God and the police. We are passionate and indestructible.
We are childish, exotic, backwards, barbaric. Genetically averse to hygiene, education, and employment.
Nomadic, wild, primitive.
The embodiment of difference; of other.
Yesterday, I discovered (via Facebook) that someone was attempting to sell a shirt via the popular website “Zazzle” (an online retailer that allows users to upload images and create their own merchandise, or buy merchandise created by other users, as well as use images from participating companies), that was extremely offensive.
Juanita Casey – England and Ireland
My grandmother was a refugee; she had no home.
My parents were home – but that home didn’t want them.
My family fled the war in Germany that ate up the continent. Half of my family swallowed whole by Hitler’s campaign. The other half crawled home with scars that wrinkled their voices as they spoke. They were not welcome where they tried to make their homes. Their way of life, illegal; their skin too brown and too suspicious. They ran for their lives, across countries, across oceans. When they finally placed down their hearts, they were asked to leave. They had no passports, no birth certificates, no official documentation.
That was the word I heard every day of my life growing up. We were Gypsies and sometimes Tinkers, Knackers, Pikeys. I thought we were all the same – all the Irish Travellers (Pavee), Scottish Travellers (Nagin), Kale, Romany, Romanichal, and Romani. My grandmother called the Pavee and Scottish Travellers who lived near us “parne romane” – White Roma and didn’t treat them any differently to her own family. If someone needed something, we all helped each other. It wasn’t only Romani being evicted, it was Travellers too.
If I asked her, Maami Babka was only Romani (or accordingly, Gypsy). If pushed she refused to identify herself, saying nothing but, “sam Roma, som Romnji!” I used to get angry with her, sometimes, as she seemed to deliberately evade or misunderstand my questions. In my grandparents eyes, we were not immigrants, we were refugees. Still running from a war-ravaged Europe full of Nazis and hungry smoke. They saw no changes and no reason to change in the world. They didn’t live anywhere. They waited. They waited to be evicted; to be told to move; to be chased by demons of the past.
But, the stories they told belied this fear and continued flight.