Writer’s block. Because I don’t know how to convey the sense of momentum that I feel about tomorrow’s special event hosted by the Romanian Cultural Centre as part of the The Roma – from ‘extra’ to ‘ordinary’ exhibition.
First, we will screen the award-winning film Our School by Mona Nicoara, documenting an ubiquitous aspect of institutionalized racism in Romania: educational segregation of Roma children and what has or has not been done about it in today’s Europe.
And then, in sharp contrast to the sense of despondency and discouragement that pervades ‘the Roma issue’, it will be my honour to give the floor to four of the most inspiring Roma artists and activists that I have met.
For me, Alina Serban (Actor, London), Nicu Dumitru (Project Manager – Terre des Hommes, Bucharest), Artur Conka (Photographer, London) and Ewelina Pawlowska (Roma Community Support Worker, London) are the real McCoy when it comes to Roma activism. Four ordinary people, getting on with their ordinary lives and at the same time contributing to a tremendous wave that is sure to change the face of Europe in the next decade or so. Getting to know them and their work gradually over the past few months has been both a privilege and a confirmation of what I already knew: that Roma liberation is alive and kicking and way ahead of the curve of media perceptions and even the efforts of policy makers (albeit helped by some of those efforts). And it is something we would all do well to notice since it will change all our lives to the better.
Because when a people awakens and starts to question their history, they question everything about all of us. They hold up a mirror to society at large and to each one of us who has been stuck in the old ways of believing that we must fear those who are different, lest they jiggle us out of our carefully manicured but precarious existence.
I recently watched the film Searching for Sugar Man. It is the most beautiful story about how the white anti-apartheid movement in South Africa was inspired by a mysterious Native American musician known as Rodriguez. And so, Europe finds itself in its own ‘before-Mandela moment’. It is an exciting time and full of promise. The question is: are we going to rise to it? and would we know Sugar Wo/man if we stumbled across her?
* the title of this blog is inspired by W.E.B. du Bois’ Credo: ‘I believe in Pride of race and lineage and self; in pride of self so deep as to scorn injustice to other selves; in pride of lineage so great as to despise no man’s father; in pride of race so chivalrous as neither to offer bastardy to the weak nor beg wedlock of the strong’ (in Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920, page 3)