8-th of April – We can do it! Better, faster, harder…!!!

 “If you want to make beautiful music, you must play the black and the white notes together.”  – Richard M. Nixon

Since 1959, Roma started to seek for a united way of organization, their efforts resulted in having the first World Romani Congress in 1971. Many important decisions were taken back then, decisions that will reflect themselves over the years to come. In 1990, 8th of April was declared the international day of Roma, a day to celebrate and raise awareness about Romani culture! The End! What a success story!
Unfortunately, 45 years later 8th of April remains a dire reminder ofdiscrimination and social exclusion faced by Europe’s largest ethnic minority. It became a day to remember failed commitments and false integration attempts. It became a reminder of the failure to recognize and grant access to human rights of the Roma, European citizens who have been here since 800 years. 8th of April became a day to warn Europe about the rise of Antigypsyism nowadays!
“It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.” – Malcolm X
In April 2015, on the occasion of the International Roma day the European parliament passed a resolution saying that Antigypsyism is “incompatible with the norms and values of the European Union” and “constitutes a major obstacle to the successful social integration of Roma”. A year later, 25 MEP’s and several NGO’s, among them ERGO network and ternYpe-International Roma youth network organized the “Roma week” in Brussels, a unique occasion to consolidate the commitment of the European Parliament and other institutions to fight against antigypsysism and to formulate this commitment into action. An important role was played by the Roma and non-Roma youngsters, who invited the Director-General Astola and Members of European Parliament for a breakfast to discuss the situation of young Roma in Europe. The main discussion on the breakfast table was revolving around the challenges faced by young Roma today and how can their local organizations work together with EU politicians to achieve better conditions for young Roma and fight together against antigypsyism in the EU.
“Hate looks like everybody else until it smiles” – Tahereh Mafi
The events in Brussels indicate that the younger generation of Roma is quite aware of the importance to dialog with the institutions, bring evidence from the ground and offer solutions. This means “celebrating” Romani culture and raise awareness about the situation of Roma in Europe in a different way. This can be also noticed on the local level, where many events take shape as debates and round-tables between decision-makers and Roma civil society representatives. Initiatives, for example, are investigating whether the Youth Guarantee is successful in reaching out to and creating meaningful opportunities for young Roma, or what the inter-relation between their rights as minority and youth entrepreneurship and its impact on active citizenship are. Roma youth represent an opportunity not only for Europe, but the community itself and must be treated as such! Take for example, the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative by ternYpe and its impact on the Roma youth movement, or the recognition of the Roma genocide during WWII … 5 years ago, 2-nd of August was just another day for the majority of Roma youngsters and now we have an adopted resolution by the European parliament and even a handbook “Right to Remember” by the Youth department of the Council of Europe dealing with the education of young people on the Roma genocide.
What is troubling are the words of Martin Luther King jr. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” describing exactly what is going on in Europe nowadays. Hate speech towards Roma becomes a socially accepted phenomenon, which indirectly feeds the rise of antigypsyist rhetoric, even inside the European institutions. Those institutions facing are serious tests to differentiate between the freedom of expression and hate speech, the latest example was the racist speech of the Golden Dawn MEP and the immediately action of President Schulz. However, the real question is would the outcome have been the same, if Roma came into the same context or speech? So far, this has been not the case and it’s getting worse on the local level where “Gypsy” bashing before/during elections in EU member states becomes a national sport. We should not close our ears or eyes to this phenomena and use the opportunities provided to act properly!
In the end, we must be aware that 8th of April should not be turned into a celebration of a “victorious defeat”, neither into mourning over our unlucky fate. 8th of April must be treated as that what it represents, namely a symbol to our community’s ideas, the restless spirit of Life, its struggle and fight for dignity, equality and respect! We won’t give up! Today is hard, tomorrow is going to be probably worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine! Upre Roma!

Written by Mustafa Jakupov