International Roma Day, is celebrated every year on April 8th. It is a day to recognize and celebrate cultural diversity while raising international awareness to all of the challenges which Roma face in today’s society. During my time here, in Hungary I have been working with Phiren Amenca. It is a non-profit organization based in Budapest; which is involved in several activities aimed at combating antigypsyism, and discrimination while building an international network of volunteers and partner organizations which work towards common goals. For International Roma Day, together with Livia, an EVS volunteer at Phiren Amenca we decided to lead workshops in my other placement site Deak Ter Gimnázium, in order to spread among the school desks the meaning of April 8th. We didn’t want to limit our work to a simple list of the decisions took during the first major international meeting of Romani representatives in 1971, in fact our goal was to engage the students by using topics closer to their age and background, in order to reach awareness of Roma reality by using a different way. For this reason, our workshop combined many different elements of Phiren Amenca’s work: Roma culture, antigypsyism and Non-Formal Education method.
We opened each workshop with an introduction into Romani culture and International Roma Day, explaining the importance of using the word “Roma” instead of its variant “gypsy” or “cigany”. After this first part, we passed to the second one, and by using the Non-Formal Education method we based our activity on Roma superheroes in Marvel comic books. We based our workshop on three Marvel characters: Scarlet Witch, Nightcrawler and Quicksilver. Using the descriptions and the biography of them, we showed to the students the current use of Romani characters in the Marvel Universe, demonstrating how discrimination and stereotypes expands into many different spheres of culture and society, existing also in the pop culture. It was a great way for us to show how discrimination knows no bounds, and that if were are not aware of how it can spread, we will not be able to challenge its existence.
For the first four periods on Monday, April 4th, we were running workshops in English classes in Deak Ter, and the students were quite engaged in our workshops, completing group tasks and asking important questions about discrimination in pop culture, as well as questions about the history of Roma. It seemed as though, the students learned a lot from our Non-Formal Education based activities. They learned about the different ways in which discrimination occurs, while also learning about the identities of characters which they were not aware of.
Overall, we had a great time teaching students about Roma culture, and how discrimination can spread fast and be very far reaching. We were very happy and satisfied by how the students responded to our workshop; and were happy we could take part in International Roma Day!
Dennis Brink, YAGM volunteer