Friday, 8 April 2016

We Do Not Need to Be Perfect to Be Good, or to Be Respected Only If We Are Perfect

The International Roma Day, 8 April, is the day when we celebrate and promote the Romani culture, but also the day when we remind of and point at difficult position of Roma women and men in society, and of the obligation to do more to improve their situation. Despite the improvements made over the past years, problems faced by the Roma women and men in Serbia are still numerous, and daily life for most of them still remains below the limits of dignity. The Roma are still discriminated in almost all spheres of social life, while the access to status and socioeconomic rights is impeded or completely impossible to them.

On the occasion of the International Romani Day, throughout this week we have been pointing at impediments faced by our fellow citizens, but also at practices by which such impediments may be alleviated or overcome. We have talked to Bajram Kafu Kinolli, Balkan Bob Marley, and, as many people are already calling him, the successor of Saban Bajramovic. We met Bajram, the front man of Gipsy Groove and peace activist, while he was facing numerous impediments to exercise of his own rights.

We wanted to know what this day means to him personally…

For me, the International Romani Day is the same as the International Human Day. And, every day should be a human day. The rights of Roma are for me the same as the rights of any other person. Every person deserves respect and decent life. And we cannot defend the rights of one person and neglect the rights of another. There is no respect without exchange, without a dialogue. Therefore, it is nice that there is a day when we pay homeage to one community, its culture and customs. However, if the spirit of 8 April fails to come to life on other days in the year, then even that one loses its value and significance.

Greater social changes are never a result of one-side effort...

All due respect of the majority community would not make any sense if we do not invest the effort to acknowledge ourselves for the beginning, and then take a responsible position within the wider community. As long as we accept the role of a victim, and sometimes it seems to me that it is the easiest for people to lull in that role and blame others for all the injustice happening to them, the situation will not change. The changes should come from the community itself. People within the Roma community must be united in the fight for these changes. But, if you fight for your basic existential needs on a daily basis, your power to stay consistent to some struggle, to take a stand and step up as a social and political entity and, most importantly, to hold on it….is very limited. Therefore, major changes come rarely. However, I believe that we all have to fight for our own place. Support is always welcome, but the engine that drives a change is our responsibility. We should not be those who people talk about, part of statistics that is always considered and pointed at, but those who talk about themselves and represent themselves and their community in their daily lives.

One of the song from the Gipsy Groove’s first album starts with the lines “To be the first, to be the last, in the end you are just a Gypsy”…

Discrimination and violence go along with vulnerability and weakness. The stronger you are, the stronger attitude and greater support you have, the fewer people dare to express negative attitudes and practice violence guided by hate. And vice versa.  When we started with Gipsy Groove, there were all kinds of situations…every fascist, every neo-Nazis, every nationalist would grant himself the right to insult, and leave offensive comments and threats.  As the bend became more recognized and after some of the unpleasant events I personally faced were publicly condemned, there are fewer such situations. However, the colour of your skin marks you. At the end, it is up to you which attitude you will take. You decide not to look back on the fact that someone looks back on you because you are different. This is clear to all people who face problems because they are different. Not only are the Roma discriminated. Discrimination is, unfortunately, present in all social spheres, it occurs along with vulnerability and that is exactly the reason why we all have to combat discrimination. United. Just like when we fight for the rights of all citizens.

“I know it’s hard to be not for the black and not for the white…but, people, wake up”

My statements are the loudest and most direct, exactly through music. Gipsy Groove was created with the idea of engaged art. Each song of ours is a message. Through music we promote the values we believe in. We call for understanding, solidarity and loudly condemn single-mindedness, racism, nationalism and beliefs that encourage hatred. But our story does not stop there. Sometimes we present Roma culture with satire, we make jokes about our own customs, because it is the dehumanization and victimization of what we want to avoid and gladly make fun of. Roma, like all other people, are not the worst, or the best. We do something well, and something don’t. And that is a characteristic of every man. We do not have to be perfect to be good. Nor should we be respected only if we are perfect.

April 8, 2016 should be remembered by the sentence...

Education. Education as empowerment. Education as power. As a voice. Education as a path to understanding. To skill. Education as an attitude. And manner. As a goal and a path to every good change.

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action