Septmeber Newsletter

This week I was lucky enough to find a link to a wonderful, moving archive of Romani oral history. The Roma Support Group in London has launched a traveling exhibition of recent narratives, many of them available on YouTube, and via this link 


If you are passionate about justice in school, jobs and housing, I encourage you to watch one of these touching testimonies, many of them narrated by young adults. 


Scholar-artists of indiginous background showcase their work at the Yale School of Architecture. It is long overdue that Native American women show their work in the field of design. I include two Native American women in my upcoming novel, so I was particularly glad to come upon this article celebrating Native women in the field of architecture. See the full story here.


American Roma and The Justice System

Why are the Roma under special scrutiny in America? Why are they so often taken for criminals? Centuries of outrage — slavery, expulsion, genocide, hate crime —  have forced Romani people to conduct work and make homes that are often hidden from mainstream communities. Desguised sometimes with bright Americana, Old Glory, white picket fences, and at other times, protected behind yards of old tires, the Roma hold tight to what is theirs — their income, their valuables, their children. Sometimes their guarded nature keeps Romani chidren home from school, and Roma historically avoid American employers. This self-segregation can appear to the unimformed eye as dissembling or lying. But avoidance of majority culture is not a crime. Just as it is not a crime to live in a monastery if one is a monk. When centuries of family have been forced into dangerous housing, endured assault at school, or the torching of their home, there is little choice but to make a profession by onesself and among ones’ family members. The professions most ofen associated with the Roma include metal smithing, car repair, horse trading, music, dance, carnival arts, and fortune telling. 

However, in the twenty-first century, paths to professionalism have broadened. So, today, Romani men and women participate in the same professions and industry that we all do: law, fine arts, medicine, business, engineering, politics, activism, film and theater, etc. 

There was a time, however, when the Roma were still new to the United States. And like many of our immigrant forebears, they kept their valuables near them, their loved ones close, and their money zipped into the mattress.  These old-world habits became pretext for a Washington police force to raid the home of Jimmy Marks in the late 1980s, where deputies seized heirlooms, cash, even earrings off the Marks’ young children. To this day, units of “bunco” officers train to search and raid Romani homes and buisniesses in pursuit of fraud, which can result in trauma for entire families. 


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