Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hindus and Jews ask new Sofia mayor to urgently improve Roma plight

My post a few days ago about Hindus urging Yordanka Fandakova to help Roma out of poverty and discrimination needs to be expanded. Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada and California in USA joined Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu statesman in a joint statement in Nevada on the 22nd of November, saying that mayor Fandakova should make Roma upliftment her first priority as their maltreatment was a dark stain on the face of Sofia and Bulgaria.

Thank you, thank you!

The Roma suffered right alongside the Jews during the Holocaust, or in the Romani language, O Porrajmos (meaning "the great devouring."). This fact is so frequently overlooked! The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC has only a corner of the third floor dedicated to the Roma's suffering when half of the Roma population was wiped out by the Nazis! Roma children were a favorite of Nazi doctors for their torture experiments, such as injecting them with salt water and so many unspeakable sexual and physical acts of violence and cruelty.

This website, Patrin, is an excellent source for Roma information ranging from O Porrajmos to the history of the Roma and Roma organizations. It's very interesting! I suggest you check out the link! Just a little trivia, the word patrin is the name of a small bundle of colored cloth, ribbon, and natural material (such as feathers, twigs, etc.) that Roma leave for other Roma caravans to communicate where they have been or where they are going, what it is like, and who they might be!

Hindus ask financial compensation for Czech Roma women victims of forced sterilization

I got this email today for immediate release regarding the heinous crime of forced sterilzation against Roma women:

"Welcoming Czech Prime Minister’s 'regret' over involuntary sterilization of Roma women, Hindus have demanded fair and adequate financial compensation to the victims.

Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer should offer formal 'apology' as the misconduct in this case was very serious and just 'regret' would not be sufficient to heal the deep wounds caused. Perpetrators should be prosecuted for the irreversible crimes against these women which permanently deprived them from having children.

Zed, who is the president of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that neighboring Slovakia also now needed to acknowledge this blunder and apologize on this issue. Czech Republic should make Roma upliftment her first priority as they were facing apartheid like conditions. Their maltreatment was a dark stain on the face of Czech Republic and Europe.

Rajan Zed argued that Roma people in Czech Republic reportedly faced violent attacks, stereotyping, racism, prejudice, growing gap between Roma and other Czechs, fear, beatings, poor quality housing, systemic employment and overall discrimination, persecution, throwing of Molotov cocktails, social exclusion, segregated schools, marginalization; refused service at restaurants, stores, discos, etc.; municipalities/towns failing to support them; and the state being unwilling or unable to offer protection.

Zed stressed that the country of Franz Kafka, Antonin Dvorak, Jaroslav Hasek, Karlovy Vary, and rich cultural heritage should not continue staying apathetic and silent spectator ignoring Roma apartheid."

I absolutely agree that expressing regret is not enough. Forced sterilization is genocide, and a formal apology plus compensation need to be given by the Czech and Slovak governments. That would take another step toward mending the very broken relationship between Roma and non-Roma people. No one can give those women back the lives they may have wanted, or their bodies intact, but the government can at least try to make up for the many, many wrongs they committed.

I have received so many emails lately about the Hindu community speaking on behalf of the Roma community, and it really touches me. I'm so happy to see this solidarity. We are all people who deserve love and rights.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hindus helping Roma

Hindus ask new Sofia mayor to urgently improve Roma plight

Hindus have strongly urged newly elected mayor of Sofia (Bulgaria) Yordanka Fandakova to improve the plight of Roma people residing in Sofia, who are reportedly facing apartheid like conditions.

Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu statesman, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that mayor Fandakova should make Roma upliftment her first priority as their maltreatment was a dark stain on the face of Sofia and Bulgaria.

Zed, who is the president of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that it was simply immoral to continue staying apathetic and silent spectator ignoring Roma plight, who reportedly regularly faced social exclusion, racism, substandard education, hostility, joblessness, rampant illness, inadequate housing, lower life expectancy, unrest, living on desperate margins, stereotypes, mistrust, rights violations, discrimination, marginalization, appalling living conditions, prejudice, human rights abuse, etc.

Commissioner for Human Rights of Council of Europe Thomas Hammarberg, who recently concluded a three-day visit to Sofia, visited a Roma settlement in the Republika district of Sofia where he assessed the living conditions as inhumane. “No one should live in these conditions in today’s Europe” he declared.

Capital and largest city of Bulgaria, Sofia is the second oldest city in Europe whose roots can be traced back to about 7000 years. Lonely Planet has described Sofia as "city waking up after decades of slumber".

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Home Adventure

It's a bizarre concept, travel. A year ago I wanted to flee NH and all my bad memories rooted there and in MA. I wanted to escape America and its recession. I arrived in Ireland with the same memories, swimming in a worse recession. I'm still glad that I traveled, but it was a drastically different experience than I anticipated. And now that I'm full of distance and poverty-and-time hewn wisdom I discover that the adventure I most want to embark on this moment is home, to NH, where the snow, my friends, my complicated family, my good and bad memories, and my blind black pug wait for me. I really want to go back for a few weeks for the winter holidays, and if fate and family intervene like they suggest they will, maybe my want will materialize. I am so excited just thinking about travelling to Portsmouth, Boston, and all the places I loved or that I just knew. I remember being in those places years ago, chewing on pens in my favorite cafes with an open notebook and skinny chai lattes, wishing to be away.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blood Lust

As some may or may not know, I'm seriously squeamish. Not a fan of the red stuff... actually, it's so intense that I am likely to faint if the conversation turns at all gory.

Now, lately I've been watching re-runs of America's Next Top Model for a little research-- I was curious about the way the show dealt with race, sexuality, and body image. I was intending to write an article about the problematic lens of the show and the affects it may have on young women, but there was so much material that my analytical skills were somewhat overwhelmed. I doubt I'll ever write the article and I gave up on the show. But before I gave up, I noticed a very interesting contestant from cycle 12, Allison Harvard.

Aside from the fact that I think she is stunningly beautiful in the most intriguing way, she is a great artist with a fascination with blood, guts, and all things that make me lose consciousness. Her art is on her flickr account: here. She piqued my curiosity. In a Four Four interview she says that she finds blood to be graceful, especially nosebleeds, and that she loves painting them. She goes on to say that nosebleeds can be innocent enough, or they could be a sign of something much more serious like blood disorders, but by depicting them in art it lessens their harshness.

That resonated with me so strongly; so often when I see blood or violence in art (visual, cinematic, literary...) I feel that it intensifies it, and consequently I have difficulty enduring a lot of art. I can't help but feel that I'm missing out, but my senses overwhelm my desire to appreciate. But the simple, truthful way that she explained her opinion on blood translated to art, and the fact that blood is an organic and amazing fluid that does wonderful things for our bodies just took hold of me, and for a moment, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I looked her up on youtube and delighted in her awkward yet witty humour, and I even convinced myself to watch a video of her doused in fake blood. It took a lot of deep breathing and the repetition, "It's fake, it's fake, it's fake," but I made it through the full 2:30 minutes. I feel like I was given a gift! So, thank you Allison Harvard, for your fantastic art, alarming beauty, and your simple philosophy, "blood is graceful."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Hungarian Hospital Makes Efforts to Honor Roma Traditions

Some more good news on the Roma Rights front, a hospital in Gyongyos has reportedly set up a special room for Roma patients and their visitors to practice their cultural rituals.
This makes me very happy. The more gestures of tolerance extended by people and institutions, the more assimilated the Roma people will feel. It will also remind others that the Roma people have an important place in society. We are all kin. Keep the love flowing. Read the full article from The Budapest Times, "Hindus laud Hungary hospital for attempt to honor Roma traditions." I summarize:

Acclaimed Hindu statesman and president of Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA), November 10th, 2009, described this gesture as a “step in the right direction” and urged other hospitals of Hungary also to make similar accommodations to speed-up the integration of Roma.

This hospital in eastern Hungary was reportedly the scene of a cultural misunderstanding in 2002 when about a dozen Roma and police officials were injured in the conflict over the mourning behavior of Roma over the death of a relative. Roma have reportedly certain traditions linked to birth and death and they expressed their emotions differently than other Hungarians. This hospital is also reportedly considering having Roma liaison officers.

Zed reports that in Hungary, despite various government initiatives, Roma continuously suffer blatant discrimination, shanty town living, an atmosphere of hostility, huge unemployment rate, lower life expectancy, prejudice, significantly higher school dropout rate, racism, bias and stereotyping, school segregation, social exclusion, mistrust, human rights violations, etc. According to an estimate, less than 1% of Roma obtained higher education degrees.

These injustices are unfortunately true in many other countries including Romania and Italy. The Roma population in Hungary is estimated to be at 1 million, which makes Hungary home to the largest Roma minority in the world. The Roma people have been living in Hungary since the 14th century.

Zed stressed that it was moral obligation of Europe to take care of its largest minority Roma population and stop human rights violations suffered by them, who numbered around 15 million and lived in apartheid like conditions. There seemed to be no coherent and effective policy to assimilate them into the society. Their alarming condition was a social blight for Europe and the rest of the world.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Living Authentically

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of living authentically. I always thought that I was really doing what I wanted to be doing, I mean, I am writing and publishing, I got into the MLitt programme I wanted, so on and so forth. But I find this unemployment thing, the whole running out of food thing, not having a place thing, etc. is getting me down. As time has marched on over this past year of being stranded, I've been slipping deeper and deeper into a kind of bland stasis. I'm watching way more TV than, well, ever. For 4 years I didn't even own one, but now I have "shows." After I scan the papers and sites for jobs, I flick on the TV and lose my mind in comedy and nature documentaries. Granted, some of the writing is excellent, and I know more about mammals, amphibians, and deep sea creatures than I will ever need to know (Yay!), but I'm not exactly happy. Actually, far from it. I have several writing projects, but they are nowhere near complete, I have a stack of fabulous books that I've been meaning to read, and a list of journals to submit to, and yet, I'm one lazy bitch. I do walk 5-10 miles a day and I do yoga about once a week, but even so, I used to do yoga daily because it's what I love. I'm not even writing daily over the past few months. What's wrong with me?

At first I thought, well, I'm just depressed, which rationally makes sense. Being in a state of abject poverty is stressful and can easily turn depressing. But, I know myself better than that. Then I thought, I'm just not feeling well. It's been a trying year, which is also true, but, it doesn't seem to be the main issue. I've been through worse. I've felt worse. A few years ago I had scurvy. It's not that bad at the moment.


It turns out I'm just plain scared. Yup. I'm afraid to live authentically. I'm afraid to really and truly apply myself. I have been applying myself this year, sometimes quite a lot, but not consistently a lot. I have really bad weeks where I slip into oblivion, and that is just not "me." I'm afraid because when I was a child my abusers told me through their actions and words that I was inherently bad, weak, and deserving of abuse. I thought I had shaken these ideas loose, but they seem to have crept under my skin again. Upon deep meditation I realized that I had this belief that if I became my full, desired self, terrible things would happen to me and that people would hurt me again. That, of course, is preposterous. I'm proud of all I've achieved this year, and I know I can do more. I know I can work harder, and I know I'd be happier that way. So, I'm saying, "Screw you, Fear," and I'm dedicating myself to living authentically. I'll let you know how it goes. Authentic day 1, I submitted to another journal, edited a batch of poems, and wrote some stacked up correspondences, despite my raging cold (which is dizzying and yucky, but not incapacitating).

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been holding back. There's nothing scary about it. Go forth and live authentically!

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm a calendar girl!

Scars Publications has put out their 2010 Sexy Poets Calendar, and I'm Ms. September. My poem, "Ash" is published beside me as well. You can buy it here: http://www.cafepress.co.uk/Sexy_Poets if you want to fill 2010 with the sexiest poets around! At least check out the link for a preview....

For any Americans interested in buying it, here's the American website: http://www.cafepress.com/Sexy_Poets

Madonna raises $16,600 for Roma (Gypsy) children

That's right, Madonna is making me proud again. Thanks to Rajan Zed, Nevada Statesman, for emailing this information to me. I have edited slightly for brevity, but I quote,

Madonna donated one of her favorite specially made pair of autographed designer skyscraper gold heels Christian Dior shoes to a charity supporting education of Roma children, which was auctioned off at the fifth annual Ovidiu Rom Halloween Charity Ball held in Bucharest, Romania. One of the golden heels was reportedly marked with kisses and a heart by her while the other was autographed "Love Madonna". Oscar nominated Hollywood star Ethan Hawke (Training Day) reportedly spoke at the Ball.

A gold chain donated by Oscar winner actress Vanessa Redgrave (Mary, Queen of Scots) was auctioned off at about $8, 300. Money thus collected will be used to buy clothes and schoolbooks for Roma children, according to reports.

Welcoming Madonna for supporting Roma people, Hindus have urged her to “wholeheartedly” undertake Roma cause and do substantially more than just donating a used pair of shoes for the Roma charity.

Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Madonna, who was principally against Roma discrimination and who was the highest earning musician of the world making around $110 million in a 12-month period, should do more for the Roma people, who were facing apartheid conditions.

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that being one of the world’s most powerful celebrities, Madonna would be very effective in focusing public opinion world over on apartheid of 15-million Roma people of Europe. Many Hollywood and other entertainment bigwigs had successfully worked against South Africa’s apartheid in the past.

Rajan Zed argued that Madonna had promoted humanitarian causes world over and Roma would be the next worthwhile cause for her to undertake. If she wanted his services in regard to Roma cause, he was willing to support her. Madonna should not stay apathetic and silent spectator when fellow Roma brothers/sisters were reportedly facing blatant injustice and discrimination in Europe, he said and added that Roma had reportedly recently faced heightened discrimination in Hungary, Romania, Italy, etc.

The alarming condition of Roma people is a social blight for Europe and the rest of the world as they reportedly regularly face social exclusion, racism, substandard education, hostility, joblessness, rampant illness, inadequate housing, lower life expectancy, unrest, living on desperate margins, language barriers, stereotypes, mistrust, rights violations, discrimination, marginalization, appalling living conditions, prejudice, human rights abuse, racist slogans on Internet, etc., Hindu statesman pointed out.

Rajan Zed further said that references to Roma people in Europe reportedly went as far back as ninth century AD. How many more centuries Roma had to reside in Europe to prove that they were “real and equal” Europeans like any other, he asked.

Madonna was reportedly booed and jeered at her Bucharest concert in August by thousands of fans when she sympathized with Roma people. Cheers reportedly gave way to jeers, when Madonna paused midway before a sell-out crowd of about 60,000 in Bucharest during her song La Isla Bonita in her about two-hour concert, part of her worldwide "Sticky and Sweet" tour, and touched on the plight of Roma people, showing the deeply entrenched prejudice against Roma in Europe.

Roma are believed to have their roots in the Indian subcontinent.

I think this is a wonderful step in the right direction. I do truly hope that Madonna takes up the cause of Roma Rights, because the Roma people have been ignored for too long. Education is an enormous problem; I find that most people I talk to don't realize that Roma are an ethnic group with a culture and a need for rights and protection. Madonna, with all her fame and influence, would be the perfect spokesperson because of her ability to reach so many people through her music, charity, and personality. She has a good heart, and I hope she realizes not only the importance of this issue, but also the emergency. I also love to hear that other influential people, like Rajan Zed, are speaking on behalf of the Roma people and are urging others to support their rights. Unfortunately, the world is not safe yet for Roma, but I think with education, change, and love, this will change. If you can't open your wallets to the cause then open your mouths. Keep talking about this issue, keep reminding people that Roma discrimination is a crime that is being committed over and over again every day, all over the world, and that there are things we can do (like writing to government officials and the UN, and supporting roma rights organizations, etc.) to give the Roma people fair treatment and equal rights!