VOA For Roma, Life in US Has Challenges

In the spring of 2011, I was featured in a Voice of America (VOA) piece about Roma people in the U.S. VOA is the broadcasting institution of the U.S. federal government.  Once a source of radio news, it has expanded with technology to include TV and internet programming. The interview was broadcast on International Romani Day, April 8. Since the beginning, my collaboration with VOA was very pleasant and beautiful. I had the great pleasure to collaborate with the wonderful producers: Glenn Kates and Valer Gregory. I learned many new things from them about media, television, and journalism. The interview was filmed at Vanderbilt, and it includes a few scenes of me doing ballet as well as some family photos. In this interview I discuss the differences in the way “Gypsies” are perceived in US and Europe and also touch on the distinction between the Gypsy lifestyle and Roma ethnicity.

April 8 is International Day of the Roma. Romani communities in Europe face a variety of challenges. Last month the European Court of Human Rights began hearings in the case of a Romani woman from Slovakia who says she was sterilized against her will. And France’s decision to expel Romani immigrants living in temporary settlements was met with consternation by human rights activists.

But do similar issues surface in Romani communities outside of Europe? In the United States, the country’s cultural diversity provides Roma with both benefits and drawbacks.

In the shadows

Cristiana Grigore studies at Vanderbilt University in the U.S. state of Tennessee – on a prestigious Fulbright scholarship. Grigore is Romanian. She is also Romani, or Roma, part of an ethnic group often referred to as Gypsies.

More at: http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/For-Roma-Life-in-US-Has-Challenges-119394819.html

The New York Times Bringing Out the Gypsy in Me

Shortly after my return to Vanderbilt in the fall of 2010, France decided to clear the camps inhabited by Roma people. They were deported to Romania and Bulgaria, the countries of their origins. In the ensuing scandal, the news was widely covered by international media. The conversations among my classmates and around campus were more heated than usual, with friends and colleagues turning their head towards me and constantly conveying what they heard in the news. Between school work and ballet lessons, I shared my opinion on the situation of Roma in France and Europe as well as my own “Gypsy story.” The article was published online as an op-ed by The New York Times (Nov 2nd) and in print by the International Herald Tribune (Nov 3). 

My classmates at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where I am a Fulbright fellow, are talking more about Gypsy/Roma issues than last year.

I wish I could claim credit for this, but it resulted from the recent expulsion of Gypsies from France. The Sarkozy government initiated a program to clear the camps inhabited by the Gypsies and to deport them back to Romania and Bulgaria.

I don’t even need to watch TV or read the papers to hear about this; I just have to open my e-mail to find a multitude of articles forwarded by friends worldwide. That’s because four years ago, I came out of the closet as a Gypsy.

I grew up in a small city in southern Romania knowing that I am Roma but not speaking the Romani language and living pretty much a normal Romanian life. I heard that Gypsies were dirty, ignorant and dishonest and I vowed that I would be the opposite: trustworthy, educated and accepted.

But years later, in the United States, a friend told me he was missing some money, and I immediately felt accused, even though he was just stating a fact to me. Even after he found the money, I couldn’t rest until I explained the reason for my reaction: I was not only Romanian, I admitted, I was also a Gypsy. Continue reading

BALLET I took my kid to ballet

I grew up in a simple family with parents who supported my education and encouraged me to be open-minded. However, they were busy making a living and did not have a chance to satisfy my need for sports and artistic activities. Years passed and, as a young adult, I almost fell into the trap of believing that ballet, a dance that I so much admired, was not for me because I had not begun in childhood. This article is about my journey from not even imagining ballet was an option to practicing regularly and discovering ways in which it contributes to my personal growth and development. Starting ballet in graduate school was a wonderful opportunity, and it offered me a completely new perspective on dance, sports, and artistic expression. 

I used to say many times that I want my future children to grow up focusing on what they would like, to be happy with who they are, and not struggle with their ethnic identities as I did.  For example, I imagined them taking ballet classes, playing sports, or making art. I told myself (and other people!) over and over until, one day, I finally got it: I wasn’t talking about my future, yet-to-be born children. After all, I don’t even know what their interests might be. Instead, I was talking about myself. It was the child inside me who wanted to do ballet. Imagine what it was like for me, the “adult,” to get in touch with this desire:  it turned everything upside down!  New ideas danced across my mind. The more I thought about it, the more certain I was that ballet was what I wanted to do. I was still a little embarrassed about it. How could I link my current work and activities with ballet?  Nonetheless, the thought of starting ballet lessons was here to stay.

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