Beyond gypsy folk music and ceremonious memorials

Like a birthday cake isn't meant to be eaten alone, or mother's day reserved for mothers only, so Roma Day celebrations are only worthwhile if it is not observed exclusively by gypsies. In fact, confined to official ceremonies and authentic, positive stereotype enforcing gypsy concerts alone, one would have a hard time presenting Roma diversity to an audience of any ethnicity. Yesterday in Budapest and across the nation, Roma Day presented a rich and varied program to universal audiences.

It is essential, whether to experience and understand any kind of minority, or minority members to develop a healthy identity, minority celebrations must move beyond the immediate inner circle of the minority. Beyond presenting a set of accepted positive stereotypes, but use as wide a range of ways and means as possible to involve the general public. Roma people's identity should extend beyond recognized virtuoso Gypsy music, and presenting a wider scope of ethnic values is only limited by official ceremonies appealing only to a limited audience.

Provided that we do develop a setting for more genuine encounters, any form of personal appeal will go a long way indeed. As Roma activist Jenő Setét said at the Golden Hinge Award ceremony organized by the Roma Press Center yesterday, the point is for people to find ways for positive identification with one another, Roma or non-Roma, to recognize that we are similar, that you could be me, and I could be you.

A varied program offered a range of exciting activities for all. Besides classical Gypsy music, the bar called Telep gave an insight to Roma hiphop culture, while the Blaha Lujza square underpass was loud with Gypsy musicians' non-folk music, presented in dj Infragandhi's thematic special mix. Those interested in design and fashion could catch an eyeful of Romani Design fashion show, as well as Roma artists' paintings on Design Terminal's light projection gallery. Movie buffs had a choice of several screenings, while those up for a walking tour could tag along a guided 8th District walk hosted by Uccu and featuring an overview of Roma and non-Roma shared values past and present. Nobody had to go hungry, there was ample opportunity to explore Roma gastronomy in several restaurants. For the active-minded and adventurous, street soccer and boxing competitions gave the community experience a sporting feel, featuring Roma athletes.

Street soccer (source: Roma Press Center)

Besides indoor locations, activities were also rampant on the streets, reaching out to many who would perhaps otherwise never have considered participating in an ethnic minority event. Soccer on Rákóczy tér, the projected art gallery, the Blaha underpass dj set, tramstop memorial services all reached out to a wide public audience. Yet these events didn't intrude, even though many did have a markedly personal quality. Perhaps most simple and most personal of all was CFCF associate Roland Bangó's performance on Kálvin tér, who welcomed passers-by blindfolded. A sign beside him explained he is a Roma and as such will be generally suspected of criminality, he is a trusting person and accepts hugs as tokens of mutual trust. The results can be seen here:


It is paramount that we find role models equally important for us as Hungarians and Roma, so that Roma and non-Roma can accept Gypsy people as valuable members of society, that everyone may be equally proud of their roots without devaluing others. Nominees for the Golden Hinge Award were all Roma people whose everyday work deserved the respect of their environment. An important conceit was that they didn't work in Roma minority affairs, highlighting shared values. It was especially refreshing to see new faces, not well-known Roma celebrities but truly “everyday heroes” many could truly identify with. Their life stories provided accessible models for a wide spectrum of peers, Roma and non-Roma alike. Most regrettably, these candidates and the internet vote winner, research biologist József Horváth weren't invited up on stage, receiving their awards and prizes just outside and below the spotlight. Yet we sincerely hope this award will become a tradition whereby more and more ordinary heroes outside Roma celebrity circles will have their voices heard and their spot on the stage, grab a mike and have their voices heard on this day- as well as on all other days, it goes without saying.

József Horváth – Golden Hinge Award ceremony (source: Roma Press Center, photo: András Farkas)