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Gyulla Banga: Roma Pride or a cheap circus?

Prague, 11.10.2014 1:03, (ROMEA)
Roma Pride 2014 (PHOTO: František Kostlán)
Roma Pride 2014 (PHOTO: František Kostlán)

This year, just like last year, I did not attend Roma Pride. Just like hundreds of other Romani people in Prague, who should completely logically outnumber other Roma from around the country, I wasn't there.

The question is, why were we not there? Did we not know about it?

Did we know about it and not go because we believe it's been stolen from us? It's hard to say, but of course we can presume that the Roma of Prague were informed that it was happening, at a minimum through social networking sites.

I have no idea how many of us live in Prague, but I can easily say that when a good event takes place, rather a lot of Romani people get together, decidedly more than the few dozen who participated in this year's march. I also recall another event, "Prague Pride", which took place here a few months ago.

At that event there were thousands of people in the streets, an unheard-of media campaign, and mainly, enormous support from heterosexuals. Why is Roma Pride different?

Where is everyone when Roma Pride happens, why aren't they enthusiastically telling the cameras that a human being is a human being and it doesn't matter if someone is black or orange? Why do 15 000 people come to Prague Pride and only 200 - 300 to the Roma event?

Could it be because of the organizers? I don't much believe that explanation.

When an event is good, people don't worry about that kind of thing. An example:  This year most people were there for the concert by the brilliant band Terne Čhave on the Old Town Square, which dominated Roma Pride 2014.

For sure nobody there was concerned about who had invited the band. So let me now explain why I personally do not like these events.

This is just my personal opinion and perspective. First of all, through such a march, we are supposed to acknowledge that we are Romani people and that we are proud to be Romani.

This is, for me, completely ridiculous, because I have been aware of this since nursery school at a minimum. I have never felt ashamed of my origins - it wouldn't even occur to me.

I am first and foremost a human being, and I, like everyone else, am not perfect, but flawed. Why should I be constantly proving to others that I am Romani?

I'm dark-skinned, so most people recognize that I am of Romani origin by looking at me. When I go to a supermarket somewhere in northern Bohemia, the security guards are willing to accompany me the whole time until I reach the check-out counter, where they then verify that the only goods on me are the ones listed on the receipt.

If I try to lease an apartment, or to get a job, and I introduce myself on the phone as "Dezider Lakatoš", there is no need to convince the person on the other end that I'm Romani - they will explain it to me immediately themselves. I could describe several other examples, but there's not much point.

I think what I am trying to say is completely clear. Many years ago, I worked in a theater company that shall be nameless, and one time the organizer invited a young Romani woman up on stage who had managed to stop taking drugs.  

The organizer took up the microphone and told us all "She stopped taking drugs, and she's Romani", and received enormous applause. At the time I said to myself "Super, but why add that she's Romani?"

I feel the same way about Roma Pride. Am I supposed to march through the streets and ask people to applaud the fact that I am Romani and to enthusiastically tell the cameras what fans they are of the Roma?

I really have no need to do that. If I did, I might go on marches with brown-eyed people (we are different, after all, our eyes are neither blue, gray nor green) or with black-haired people, etc.

I will be much happier when no one is interested in whether I am a Hungarian, or a Rom, but in what kind of father I am, what kind of musician, what kind of neighbor in my apartment building, what kind of - anything else. In my apartment building there are Asians, Russians, Ukrainians, and me and my neighbors, the old-timers.

You know what? There's nothing to it!  

No one is interested in our origins - and that's good. That's how it should be everywhere.

Everyone loves my daughter. Every year before Christmas, most of our neighbors bring her several gifts and wish her well.

Do you think they do that because I am Romani? Heck no!

These people love us for ourselves - they have known my daughter since she was born. They know I am a musician, and it no longer seems strange to them that other musicians (Romani ones, naturally), come to my apartment, and they aren't bothered when a few musical instruments can be heard from my place from time to time.

Some of the remarks made at the Roma Pride event are another story. I specifically mean the statement by Jožka Miker.

"Until the pig farm erected on the site of the Romani Holocaust is removed there will be no tolerance in this country. First get rid of that pig farm and then you can talk about 'inadaptables'," Miker said in his remarks.

I do not intend to analyze the Lety pig farm. My personal opinion is yes, it is undignified and it should be razed to the ground.

However, it is clear to me that it's just not that simple. On the other hand, these remarks make it seem as if all other problems are based solely on whether the pig farm will be removed.  

Personally I am not at all surprised that Mr Růžička wants the survivors of Lety to have peace of mind and those who died there to have a dignified memorial. However, some activists are unfortunately exploiting Lety solely to present themselves because they want publicity.

Most successful Romani people whom I personally know are truly proud to be Romani. At the same time they are proud to have accomplished something in life, and most, understandably,  want the same for their children.

None of those people are building their careers on the pig farm at Lety! Nor did most of them attend the Roma Pride march in person either.

Why? Because the people who know them are already well aware that they are Romani people who have accomplished something in life.

It's not necessary to be a businessman and make a ton of money. To have work, to raise your children, to behave normally - that should be enough to make anyone happy.

At least Terne Čhave played at Roma Pride. Without that, there would have been even fewer proud Roma there. 

The opinions published on do not necessarily reflect the opinions or standpoint of the editors of news server, Romano voďi magazine, or ROMEA, o.p.s. 

Gyulla Banga, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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