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Holocaust Remembrance Day

holocaustlogoI’m reminded that Hitler and the Nazis had plans for when they invaded England. It’s an historical fact that all UK Romany Gypsy family names, including my Lovell’s were recorded by the Nazis along with UK Jewish family names to be rounded up and sent to the Death camps. It took only one Romani great grandparent to justify extermination, whereas two Jewish great grandparents qualified a Jew to the same fate.

The fact is we Roma survive and adapt in a world that often hates our race as the Nazi’s did during WWII to wipe us out. Yes, I’m proud of how my people, my Elders suffered great hardships and prejudice just for being Romany/Gypsies. We Roma, as a people have never, as far as I’m aware, become terrorists or made others suffer at our hand.

And yet, 74 years later we are fighting. We have much to do in the battle for ethnic rights for Romani/Gypsies in New Zealand. Okay, it looks like The Original Gypsy Fair (non-Rom/Gypsy) has removed the UK Rom Photos from advertising posters and marketing. But they are still trading and operating as Gypsies, aided by Tourist brochures and websites. The local newspapers give them whole pages on the fair and brands it with iconic prestige. This is absolute rubbish, of course.

Knowing the story of this fair and how it came into being is based on commercializing the Romantic stereotype of Gypsy life, the reasons, unfortunately very much alive in the minds and eyes of the mainstream culture. It is offensive and insulting. I ask the question; How long do we stand back and remain a hidden people, until we are no longer anything?

Genocide comes in many forms, not just gas chambers. We need to unite and fight with pen and paper, on computers and in social media. We must educate non-Rom that we are a true ethnic Romany/Gypsy people with same ethnic rights and human rights under UN charters granted to all other ethnic minorities.

 

 

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How can Rom move forward in a hostile world?

A New Year’s message of unity by Bob Lovell Kamulo

In 2019, we are called to unite as One, everywhere

We do not need one leader or leaders who preach from afar about how and what will be done, or about how many years since the Roma Union was started. Has it gained us as a people any real respect? No. It may have made gains for a few, but for whom and when and will it last? We still have to prove we are decent law abiding people rather than the negative stereotype. You know the score – thieves and non-tax payers and so on. Need I say more? Then there’s the romantic stereotype. You’ve all heard it – “Proper Rom are lovely, it’s the half breeds that are the problem!” All Rom would be guilty as none are pure blooded anyway. DNA tests prove this beyond any doubt, so please no more arguments.

We must stop the infighting

We as an ethnic people are not doing ourselves any favours with infighting that occurs on social media sites, such as Face Book, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. There is an increase in divisions among Rom groups each claiming more knowledge of Rom culture and language over fellow Rom.

It is especially sad when one reads posts that go like this –

“Oh I’m 100% Rom and have been brought up the Rom way.”

Or, “I don’t accept people who have only found out though DNA tests they have Rom blood – ratt.”

“Yes, they might have some Rom blood, but haven’t lived the life.”

There are many Rom groups unions, coalitions even guilds getting grants

But where are we, the everyday Rom on the puv? It’s either non-Rom academics telling us or a few chosen Rom academics and through the arts telling us as well. Again, where are the ordinary Rom to be seen? There are many of us out there doing good work for Rom ethnic rights yet remain in the shadow of the greats. Why?

We hear too often talk of coalitions and flags, meaning Romani – Roma/Romanichal/Kale

Which brings me to our Traditional Traveling people – Irish & Scottish ethnic Travelers. And now New Agers, also referred to as hippies due to dropping out and who have no claim to that ethnic status whatsoever, having taken up an itinerant lifestyle and travel about in vans. This group in the UK now outnumber Rom and Traditional Travelers. One only has to go out and drive around the UK as I have and you will find this is the case. A situation that is happening in other countries as well. It’s a practice so prevalent in the UK that the term Gypsy as it is under law can now mean anyone living an itinerant lifestyle.

All this confusion about who are Gypsies has contributed to the situation we now face

And requires a huge effort by all of us who have Romani blood lines (this includes those who through no fault of their own have only just discovered they have Rom ratt.). Who has the right to deny anyone with however much or little Rom blood? None of us have that right to refuse our own from being a part of our people wherever in the world we live today. As we all know many of us have family stories of our Rom children being taken by non-Rom officials and these children are then brought up by non-Rom. This, very much like what has happened to many ethnic and indigenous people such as in Indigenous Canadians, Aboriginals in Australia, American Indians and so on.

Many of us are active in fighting in our own corner

Even here, way down in the South Pacific – likely the most far flung of places – one can find a few Rom aided by other Rom in countries like Canada, US and the UK. We challenge misappropriation of our culture and the use of Rom imagery and the term Gypsy by people who are not Rom in anyway, but use us to earn money. To me this is a gross insult to all of us. More so to the memory of our Puri Folkie who suffered so much prejudice just for being born Rom/Gypsies.

The old stereotypes of the Romani/Gypsies were often written by non-Rom authors

And yet the writings of the Baro Ryes – great gentlemen and woman in the UK who wrote and published accounts over the past 150+ years continue to influence many. These accounts have been based on flimsy fact gathering. People such as, John Sampson, George Borrow, Dora Yates, Frances H Groome, Hubert Smith, Charles Leland and others who established the Gypsy Lore Society (GLS), published journals of mostly Welsh and UK Romany with family lines and stories of “supposed” Gypsy life. Much of this writing is based on highly selective hearsay and not from fact gathering at all.

Our people back then could hardly read or write

They had no real way of checking this writing of the Rye’s. It’s only in recent times we openly question their writings, as most of us nowadays have had some education as in a non-Rom education. We certainly all need to question the Rye’s and the GLS’s so-called “facts” of us as an ethnic people. These books by the Rye’s are still in wide circulation and used by some in the study of our people. Do we just stand back and allow this to continue as it spreads like a cancer on the true facts?

We must Nai bista – never forget the over 500 thousand Rom murdered by the Nazis

The Nazis used guns and death camps. Today the enemy is likely the greedy corporations that appropriate the term Gypsy with an eye for the $dollar and to get rich quick. Then we have other groups who often use the term “tribal” then turn this metaphor into Gypsy. Do we allow this? No, we cannot. It’s unacceptable as another form of genocide of Rom by the use of the pen. Never mind, the old saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” is very true today for Rom. We can use the pen just as well as the ones who appropriate our culture to make a living out of it.

Not all is doom and gloom for we Rom

Three prominent Rom have received awards in the UKs New Year’s Honours List. Dr. Ian Hancock received an OBE for his work on Romani and community development, and also Kim Maloney, Honorary President of LEEDSGate, UK. While young Romani Toby Gorniak received an MBE for his work with youth, founding The Street Factory in Plymouth, UK. We must stand proud of and celebrate what can only be seen as a victory for Rom ethic rights worldwide.

How do we fight back?

Always without abuse and racial put downs, but with facts, honesty and with dignity. Together we can overcome adversity. Without it we are in danger of slipping into the tribal mire and fog of confusion and hatred that is very much alive worldwide today.

Savvo Romani ker O Boktalo nevo bersh.

Bob Lovell.

In New Zealand January 2019.

 

 

 

 

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How it all began

A little more than a year ago, Bob Lovell started a petition protesting New Zealand’s Original Gypsy Fair’s cultural appropriation of copyrighted imagery for commercial exploitation by non-Romany. In all honesty Bob admits, “It has been a great worry for me here in New Zealand, as we Romany/Gypsies are few on the Pov – ground.”

How dPeition_Bob Photoid it all begin? “When I first approached these Original Gypsy Fair people, it was clear within minutes that there were and never have been any true Romany/Gypsy travelling with this fair.” However, Bob persisted, “I suggested to them that in my eyes and in my culture, it was insulting and basically is an abuse of we Romany/Gypsy People world-wide, not just in New Zealand.”

Their disparaging remarks would have been enough to galvanize any Romany/Gypsy activist into action. But for Bob, the unlawful use of his close friend, Mr. Barrie Law’s photos was his stake in the ground moment.

And so, this year, “We started the hard work of writing up a petition, letters to New Zealand Government Ministers, a Facebook page and a blog”, said Bob. The result? Our letter has reached the desks of two New Zealand government ministers. The news item was picked up by Al Jazeera. We’ve garnered a dedicated following from around the world on social media on other blogs and twitter feeds by human rights and criminal justice advocacy. With the result that the copyrighted photo has now been replaced with a generic graphic.

“Our overall goal”, says Bob “is educating non-Romany/Gypsies that we Rom are an ethnic minority, world-wide and the citizens of many countries, protected by the UN under ethnic and cultural rights.” The campaign is gathering steam and with high response rates on social media added to the mix, support is still growing.

A last word of thanks from Bob, “Parruka tute ta Bokt” to everyone for their support.

There’s more work to be done. Stay tuned for further details.

Activism, Gypsy, New Zealand, Romany, Uncategorized

Travellers’ Times Article

Travellers’ Times in the UK has printed a good story on The Original Gypsy Fair and its misuse and theft of Roma/Gypsy identity.

Screen Shot 2018-11-21 at 4.59.48 PM

Stop Stealing our cultural identity say

New Zealand Romani campaigners.

In the Travellers’ Times article, Mike Doherty, the Editor writes:

The campaigners believe that the use of ‘Gypsy’ in ’The Original Gypsy Fair’, a commercial event which is part of the New Zealand van and truck culture circuit – run by businessman Jim Banks – trivialises and appropriates their culture, heritage and identity, and is a form of “romantic racism”.

While Bob Lovell Kamulo has this to say to the New Zealand Government.

We would kindly request the New Zealand government uphold its commitment to defending cultural and race relations, human rights and ethnic diversity with a legal review that removes the language “Gypsy” from all registered business names.”

We thank Travellers’ Times and Mike Doherty for their continued support. We’ll have another update coming soon.

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Why non-Roma businesses shouldn’t use the term ‘Gypsy.’

by Cliff Harvey

The term Gypsy is commonly used in all manner of brand-names, products, and product descriptions. It has become synonymous with a free-spirited, wandering lifestyle, and thus, is evocative for those people who use it. But the use of the term by non-Romani people is incredibly problematic.

Gypsy is an exonym for the Romani people. This means that it was a name given to the people by those external to the culture, in this case, Europeans who mistakenly thought the Romani people were Egyptians, and thus, this became shortened to ‘Gyptian’ and eventually ‘Gypsy’. This takes on other forms too, like Gyppo (or Gippo/Jippo), which have negative connotations, and lends itself to the pejorative ‘gypped’, meaning ‘cheated’ or ‘swindled’. While most people would agree (at least when they become aware of the etymology) that using ‘gypped’ to describe being cheated or swindled is flat-out racist, the use of Gypsy, it would seem, is seen as less clear.

Romanticising and caricaturising ethnicities is a form of racism

Romanticising a lifestyle and the inevitable stereotyping that occurs, is in itself a form of discrimination. It is discriminatory because Romani have been systematically persecuted for their entire existence. Being Romani-Gypsy was, until recently a very precarious existence!

Many of our forebears could not openly practice their customs, dress, or language, and so, to see those things poorly imitated now by new-agers and modern-day hippie types is incredibly hurtful to Roma.

Romani have endured systematic oppression, criminalisation, and genocide for around 1000 years since the diaspora from northern India. They have been criminalised by race, forbidden in many places from owning land, enslaved (Romanichal, English and Scottish Romani, were rounded up and sent to the Americas as slaves), and killed.

As recently as 70 years ago, 25-50% of Europe’s Romani population were killed in the Porajmos (Holocaust), and many had been victims of periodic pogroms in eastern Europe.

This discrimination still occurs in more latent ways. Romani are the largest ethnic minority in Europe and bear some of the worst socio-economic statistics in the Union. For example, while 17% of Europe’s population overall is considered at risk of poverty, 80% of Roma face the same risk.

Romani still suffer systematic, societal, and individual persecution, especially in Europe, but also in other countries such as the US, Australia, Canada and here in New Zealand.

Testament to this casual persecution and ostracisation is the loss of language, and traditional names and customs. The reason why so many of the Romani population in countries like New Zealand, descended from Romanichal forebears have distinctly ‘normal’ surnames like Cooper, Lee, or Smith; names, taken to avoid persecution.

Using ‘Gypsy’ and imagery associated with Romani is cultural appropriation

Using the term Gypsy to describe a business ethos, product, or fashion statement of some type is clearly a case of racial appropriation. There is typically no consideration for the plight of Romani throughout history, nor for the continued oppression they receive, in Europe especially. Thankfully, people are now waking up to caricaturising of Romani and other ethnicities at Halloween and the backlash against ‘gypsy’ costume (and war bonnets,  ‘blackface’ etc) and yet, having a ‘gypsy fair’, or a ‘gypsy caravan’, or ‘gypsy-style’ that caricatures Romani customs, tradition, and dress, seems to fly under the radar.

A common retort is that the word simply does not mean the same thing anymore, but that argument holds no water. The very identity that people are trying to claim and evoke stems from Romani, misidentified as Egyptian, and thus called Gypsies. It is almost identical to calling oneself an ‘Indian’ because you like dream catchers and wearing a feathered head-dress… or even worse, calling that lifestyle ‘Injun-style’.

Much of the ‘Gypsy’ lifestyle simply conflates many minority and indigenous cultural memes with a mish-mash of new-age concepts…that’s why you see dream-catchers, crystals, poi, and many other things labelled as ‘gypsy’.

It is not the prerogative of non-Romani to determine the fair use of racial exonyms and pejoratives.

Many Romani do self-identify as Gypsy. This has occurred for many reasons, namely that as Romani were referred to as that for so long, it became a lingua franca, so to speak, and something that others could also understand. Try telling someone that you are Romani and they will, more often than not, simply stare back blankly. Whereas, say, Romani-Gypsy and they’ll at least have some idea. But it is also a way to reclaim the disempowerment of being misidentified, ridiculed, and caricaturised. That’s why, it’s not so much a case of the word itself being offensive (unlike Gypped, which is!) but that the use of it, especially for commercial purposes, by non-Rom, is.

If you slap the name of an ethnicity onto a product, you’re profiting by appropriation

Think of a few hypothetical examples:

Imagine a food truck that served faux Kosher cuisine, replete with yarmulke wearing serving staff and called itself ‘Kike Caravan’. Would that be OK?

What about a bunch of pakeha wearing fake moko, and wearing grass skirts, calling a restaurant ‘Hori Hangi’….

Or a bunch of people dressing up in blackface and touring the country in the ‘Original Negro Fair’ because they liked African American culture and traditional music and felt that they had a ‘negro-soul’.

I think you get the point…

There is practically no other racial grouping for which caricaturising, appropriation of cultural icons, or the blatant use of racist terms (like gypped) is still so accepted.

Now, I understand that a lot of people don’t really think much about it, and don’t mean any harm.

The question though, is not whether someone is racist by ignorance, the bigger question is, are you brave enough to change your actions when you learn more about us?

I have contacted several people about their use of Gypsy, and the reaction has typically been heartening. Several have immediately changed their twitter or Instagram handles or made commitments to change product names. Others, even those who claim to be holistic or spiritual, have instead come back with patronising responses like “well we’re all the same deep down”, or “I feel like I have a gypsy soul/was gypsy in a past life” (excuse me while I throw up in my mouth just a little), or that ‘the word means different things to different people”.

Uh uh. No, it doesn’t. Gypsy means Romani. Any implication that it simply means a free-spirited traveller doesn’t hold up to scrutiny when the etymology of the word is clearly from Rom, misidentified, into Egyptian and subsequently, Gypsy

So, just don’t.

There are better words to use, like traveller, carny/carnie, showie, new-age, wanderer, nomad etc. And I guess, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, do you want to be on the right side or the wrong side of history?

Cliff Harvey is a clinical nutritionist, researcher, and educator.
Cliff is passionately interested in ethnogenetics, history, and genealogy and is of mixed Irish, English, Scots, and Romani descent.
He was a pioneer in the use of low-carb and ketogenic diets in Australasia from the late 1990s and his research has included the use of Medium Chain Triglycerides to induce ketogenesis and mitigate symptoms of carbohydrate withdrawal, and the determinants of carbohydrate tolerance. He now focusses mostly on writing on a wide variety of topics, teaching, and research into metabolic adaptations to diet and mind-body healthcare.
He is the author of eight books including The Carbohydrate Appropriate Diet, The Keto-Appropriate Diet, and the Aston-Wylie Book Award Finalist Time Rich, Cash Optional.

 

 

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A Small Victory

Copyrighted Vardo photos have been removed from posters of The Original Gypsy Fair.2 Gypsy Fair Posters in Orewa Nov 2018 (1)

Looks like our efforts with the New Zealand government is paying off. The removal of the copyrighted images is a great result for our cultural misappropriation campaign and protest against The Original Gypsy Fair (OGF). It’s a small but important step. The first time OGF have listened to our concerns.

 

My thanks for this team of activists. Frances Roberts Reilly for posting, tweeting and Facebooking the petitions, comments and blog updates. Phil Ford for his steady hand on the tiller, guiding us. And a kushti welcome to Cliff Harvey who’s a wordsmith and advocate here in New Zealand for Roma.” Just so you know, we’re all Roma/Gypsy folkie.

“Romanticising a lifestyle and the inevitable stereotyping that occurs, is in itself a form of discrimination. It is discriminatory because Romani have been systematically persecuted for their entire existence.” Cliff Harvey, Romani Advocacy.

We’ve a lot further to go. I’m grateful for your support.

Parruke Tute. Thank you.

“Stop immediately using the name Gypsy be it a registered business name or otherwise.” Bob Lovell Kamulo.

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Unfair to Romany/Gypsies

Letter to the Editor, New Zealand Herald

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 8.32.15 AMHere is my letter to the Editor of the New Zealand Herald protesting the season opener of The Original Gypsy Fair on November 17th, 2018 in Orewa, New Zealand.

Dear Editor:

I am Bob Lovell Kamulo, New Zealand born Romany/Gypsy, responding to the article, “No lawns or power bills for travellers at Original Gypsy Fair” by Laurel Stowell published in January 2018. As the “Gypsy Fair” gears up for its season opener in Orewa on November 17th, 2018, I am protesting in the strongest terms the appropriation of Romany/Gypsy culture by New Age hippies.

This “Gypsy Fair” is a great insult to the Roma/Romany Gypsy people worldwide. Our history is one of suffering great hardship and so much discrimination just for being born a Gypsy. For example, 500,000 Sinti Roma Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz in WWII. Over hundreds of years our race has suffered discrimination and racist attacks with state sponsored separation of families, forcible emigration and worse. This continues today in many countries where our people are citizens.

Yet we have these New Age Hippies here in New Zealand travelling around trading as the “Original Gypsy Fair”, earning a living by pretending to be Gypsies. These hippies are making a living by romanticizing our culture. This must stop.

The “Original Gypsy Fair” is trading as a registered New Zealand business, trademarked and owned by Mr Jim Banks. This Fair was started some 20 years ago by an English couple who set it up on arrival in New Zealand. The couple in question are not Gypsies nor have they ever lived as Gypsy people. To date no true Gypsy has ever joined the Fair. Rather, the Fair has invited other like-minded people who want a free-wheeling lifestyle with “No lawns or power bills.”

If your readers know of our history and sufferings, perhaps this year, they will support us and stop this Romany Cultural Appropriation. And this newspaper will remove the “Original Gypsy Fair” ad from its event listings page.

Sincerely,

Bob Lovell Kamulo

http://www.trueromany.blog.