May 16: Romani Resistance Day

 

Phiren Amenca is part of a movement across Europe of Romani Resistance. Conceived by the French organization ‘Le voix des Rroms” (the Voice of Roma), this movement seeks to change the narrative around the Roma Holocaust, and other examples of state violence and racism against Roma. It is important that Roma – those affected by these acts – be the ones to decide how the story is told, and how remembrance happens. As it stands, the state and its institutions are usually the ones making these decisions. For example, they organize commemorations and decide what is taught in school. They paint a picture of Roma victims who need the institution to step in on their behalf and be their protectors. However, the state was the original source of the violence. This is problematic not only because it focuses more on absolving the institution of guilt than on addressing the transgressions, but also because it perpetuates the power dynamic that made the violence possible in the first place. The institution continues to control the story and the fate of Roma, even to the point of shaping Roma’s own understanding of their history and identity.

That is why we choose to remember Romani Resistance rather than Romani Victimhood. The truth is that Roma were resisting from the beginning, from protesting policies with petitions and personal intervention, to collaborating and joining resistance groups and liberation movements. Sinti and Roma also found different ways of resistance in the concentration camps. A highlight was the revolt in camp section B II e of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the “gypsy camp”. On May 16, 1944, men and women organized against SS officers, after learning through an internal resistance network of the camp about a planned mass execution in the gas chambers that night (find more information here ) . While the leaders of the insurrection were captured, and the extermination was eventually carried out on August 2, the act paved the way for a successful uprising of the resistance network on October 7 of that year. It is this day – May 16 – that Romani Resistance is celebrated across Europe with public events and local actions.

 This video about International Romani Resistance Day was created by a French organization “Le voix des Rroms”, to show how resistance can fight against the monster of state violence and racism.

Romani Resistance is a story of banding together, of different groups of powerless people uniting, and finding power within their unity to RISE UP and challenge the established power of the institution. This is a different understanding of the story than that of Roma Genocide alone, which is rooted in the division and separation of people based on their differences, and centers the story around the ways that the institutions at the top BORE DOWN on the powerless peoples at the bottom. It is time to change the narrative. Telling the story of resistance, celebrating it publically, gives the power of that act back to the people, and reminds us to work together as a community of resistance fighters against the state violence and racism that persists to this day.

On May 16, 2016, Phiren Amenca will host a public event in Mátyás Tér, Budapest in recognition of the Auschwitz-Birkenau revolt and Romani Resistance, as will organizations in cities across Europe, like Paris, London, Prague, Skopje, and Petrosani. It will not only be a chance for remembrance, but will be an act of resistance in itself, an assertion of self and a celebration of identity that flies in the face of the story that has been created, forced upon Roma, and perpetuated by a state rooted in racism. Come join us, share your story, and remember the power of coming together in resistance.