Help us plan networks for parents and teachers.

Despite the thoughtful and largely positive recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee last year, we have just seen a Government elected whose only policy on Romanies and Travellers is to increase police powers against families on roadside camps.

Last year the professional association of teachers and supports workers for Traveller Education (NATT+) folded, and in most areas of the country, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents have no-one to turn to if they are struggling with their children’s education.

ACERT believes that parents, who have faced and overcome challenges in getting their children a decent education, could provide advice and support to others in a similar position.

Our plan is to try and develop and support a parent’s network, on-line and face-to-face, where parents can raise and discuss questions and concerns, and hopefully get answers from other participants. We are also developing a dedicated website where can find clear basic information for parents about enrolment, appeals, attendance, curriculum, Special Education Needs, exclusions, home education, further and higher education, and child protection, regularly updated in response to the issues raised is by the network.

With the demise of Traveller Education Services and financial cutbacks, teachers who may want to understand their children better often have nowhere to turn for advice and information. So we would like to plan something similar to help them give our children a better deal.

Our conference of 26th June in Manchester aims to attract parents and teachers and to engage them in developing the ideas in ways that will work best for them.

Our aim is to present ideas to the conference and for participants to discuss them in workshops. To make sure our ideas are relevant and realistic, we would like to discuss them as widely as possible in the run up. If you would be willing to help us in this you can join our mailing list on the topic networks-conference@acert.org.uk using this form. We also plan to hold online meetings in mid-February for anyone expressing interest.

Dr Ronald Lee 1934-2020

Last week the veteran Romani writer, activist and musician, Dr.Ronald Lee died. His funeral is on 29th January 2020, in Canada.

Dr Ronald Lee

Of his background and early education, of both Rom and Romanichal heritage, I heard various accounts, not least from himself. His life became public when, while working as a museum curator he wrote the semi-autobiographical novel “Goddam Gypsy”, which, along with his articles in the dying days of the Third Series of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, showed the most intricate and nuanced knowledge of the great variety of Romani communities in Canada. 

After finishing his novel he went to England in around 1969 to try to join in the great adventure of the new Romani politics of the Comite International Rom. He found this somewhat disillusioning; he had always been both a cultural and linguistic nationalist and an advocate of Romanestan, and the struggle for caravan sites for Romanichals in England and for civil rights for Rudari in Paris, which were the main practical activities of the CIR at that time, did not enthuse him.  He did however work with Donald Kenrick to produce what is still the easiest and most effective primer for learning Vlach Romani. (Learn Romani, UHP press) and spend time with Jim Penfold in his house in Battersea. He became a fast friend of the old London Roma, who were related to the Roma he had worked and lived with in Canada.

Disillusioned with both the Gypsy Council and the Gypsy Lore Society, he decided to return to Canada in 1970, in time for the actual publication of his novel, and following that earned a living for the rest of his career as a journalist. He remained the representative of the CIR, and sent a voice recording of his poem “Angla Mande Dui Droma”, about the agonising dilemmas of the educated Rom to the first world Romani Congress in 1971. I remember the awed silence as his sonorous, absent voice echoed around the school dining hall in which the congress was held.

He visited England occasionally as a journalist; I remember Mr W.R. Rishi and his sons hosting a dinner for him in Croydon  where I and his fellow-journalist David Altheer of the Times were present – Mr Rishi put photographs of us all, looking so much younger than today, in the journal Roma. But the bulk of the 1980s were a period of disillusion with the perennial failure of Romani politics, and of too much reliance on alcohol to dull the pain.

All that changed when Roma refugees began to come to Canada after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. One Canadian Roma activist started a small organisation to help asylum seekers and went to Ron and begged him to get involved again. And he did! It was as though his whole life had been a preparation for this moment. His intricate knowledge of the comfortable, settled, Canadian Romani communities meant that he could go to them, and had the right words to tell them that they could not remain silent when ignorant gajo Canadian politicians were unleashing floods of poisonous racist rhetoric on East European Roma fleeing the racism which the fall of communism had unleashed.  He knew the answers, and could pass them on to the younger generation of Canadian Romani intellectuals, and he could do the cultural politics of music and art which could engage the immigrant Roma.

In the 1990s he came to be what he had always wanted to be, an authentic hero of the Romani revolution, rekindling the networking and intellectual energy of his youth. But whereas in 1970, his message to the old London Roma had been “Stay hidden, stay safe from the anti-Gypsyism which plagues the Travellers” his message now was that the Romani bourgeoisie could not dare stay safe and hidden when other Roma across the world were being beaten, killed, robbed and marginalised just because they were Roma.

He not only wrote more, but taught a university course on Romani Studies in Toronto for some years, and was given, to the applause of the Romani political world, an honorary doctorate. Thanks in great part to him, the Romani political and cultural struggle in Canada is an example to the whole world. His years in the wilderness were essential preparation for his years of achievement. We miss him, but his writings, recordings and spirit stay with us.

Thomas Acton – ACERT Trustee

Have your say in survey that explores the impact of hate crime on mental health

A  pioneering pilot research project into the psychological effects of hate crime on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities is underway. 

Take part and have your say by completing this short survey here: https://bucks.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/a-pilot-research-project-into-the-psychological-effect-of-2

The project  aims to  establish an evidence base for the significant anecdotal evidence that highlights the ‘ripple effect’ of experiencing hate crime on mental health. In particular it has been suggested that repeated exposure to hate crime may be implicated in high incidences of suicide (or para-suicide) within Gypsy, Roma and Traveller  communities.

Buckinghamshire New University are undertaking this pilot research project for community led organisation GATEHerts. The project has been funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (MCHLG). 

Happy New Year?

ACERT would like to wish our members, friends and supporters a peaceful and prosperous new year.

We’d like to …. but it’s not easy to feel optimistic.

The re-election of a Tory government, on a manifesto which ignores the thoughtful recommendations of the Women and Equalities Sub-Committee and instead promise new laws to make lives of families living on the roadside more difficult, gives us no encouragement.

Brexit with its undertones of nationalism and xenophobia threatens Roma migrants in the UK and also fuels racism And intolerance which can impact on all of us. Austerity may be coming to an end, but the increase in inequalities and child poverty it created are likely to linger on.

New dawn

Nevertheless, ACERT has plans for 2020 which we hope will make a difference. They centre around our networks conference to be held in Manchester in June.

We recognise that very few families and teachers of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children have anywhere to turn for advice and encouragement. Our aim is to build self-help networks for parents, teachers and students, with the conference being the opportunity to identify potential users, understand what are the challenges they face and to plan and design the networks with them.

We have applied for a small grant to enable us to part-fund the event and to pay for some initial development work. We are also writing an online parents guide (downloadable and printable, for those without online access) and we will continue to work with other organisations in any way we can to challenge discrimination and create opportunities for our young people.

Wishing you all the very best for the upcoming year. Together we can make a difference!