The first instition of it's kind in U.S. History!

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The WRF Culture & Heritage Institute consists of community leaders, politicians and educators of the Roma Diaspora and was formed to protect the Roma cultural and heritage practices from disappearing because of lack of use, curricular exclusion, or devaluation by the broader society. We feel it is important to spend the time and energy to protect our cultural heritage, especially in moments where our people are suffering due to a humanitarian crisis. 

The idea of preservation is integral to the definition of cultural heritage, as in order for cultural heritage to exist, it must continue to be passed on as it has for generations and preserved by the current generation.

 

However, throughout different periods and places in history, the “present generation” of the time has placed varying value on elements of our cultural heritage. Therefor, it is in the hands of our Community Elders, Leaders, Politicians, Educators and Parents to preserve our culture. 

About The Roma

The Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority.  Historians think the Roma’s ancestors first arrived in Europe from northern India, through what is now Iran, Armenia and Turkey. They gradually spread their way across the whole of Europe from the 9th century onwards. Many EU Roma are still victims of prejudice and social exclusion, despite the discrimination ban across EU Member States.

Roma were forced into slavery up until the 19th century in Romania and elsewhere. Roma were executed during the medieval era in England, Switzerland and Denmark. Many countries, including Germany, Poland and Italy, ordered the expulsion of all Roma. In the 1930s, the Nazis in Germany saw Roma as “racially inferior” and murdered hundreds of thousands of them during World War II. After the war, Roma continued to be discriminated against and oppressed, especially in the Soviet Union. Between the 1970s and 1990s, the Czech Republic and Slovakia sterilized around 90,000 Romani women against their will.

Romani slaves were first shipped to the Americas with Columbus in 1498. Spain sent Romani slaves to their Louisiana colony between 1762 and 1800. The Romanichal, the first Romani group to arrive in North America in large numbers, moved to America from Britain around 1850. Eastern European Romani, the ancestors of most of the Romani population in the United States today, began immigrating to the United States on a large scale over the latter half of the 19th century coinciding with the weakening grip of the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman Wars in Europe in the 19th century, which ultimately culminated in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), freeing many ethnic Eastern Europeans from Ottoman dominance and producing new waves of Romani immigrants.

That wave of Romani immigration comprised Romani-speaking peoples like the KalderashMachvayaLovari and Churari, and ethnically Romani groups that had integrated more within the Central and Eastern European societies, such as the Boyash (Ludari) of Romania and the Bashalde of Slovakia. Romani immigration, like all Central and Eastern European migration, was severely limited during the Soviet era in Central and Eastern Europe but picked up again in the 1990s after the fall of the Eastern Bloc

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A Note From Our Founder

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Observations and Opinion 

From education to employment, from poverty to poor living conditions, Roma have long been the most marginalized group in Europe. The FRA surveys have shown on several occasions that discrimination, anti-Roma and social exclusion are widespread.

“COVID and the associated restrictions have triggered a veritable wave of Roma marginalization across Europe. They, who are already marginalized in society, have suffered far greater degrees of lack, discrimination and harassment, ”said FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty.“Our governments must put Roma at the center in their efforts to build our“ new normal ”.”

The corona pandemic also shows how many Roma have become even more precarious due to persistent inequalities for years and how prejudices have intensified . ODIHR's 2020 media coverage of Roma has shown that hate speech has increased significantly and misinformation about Roma communities and their role during the pandemic is also increasing.

"This is the right time to focus more on vulnerable communities such as the Roma and Sinti, who have once again been targeted and scapegoated for a situation in which they have suffered greatly,"said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci.“I urge governments to step up their efforts to counter prejudice against Roma and Sinti and support communities that are still heavily affected by the pandemic.”

Roma communities have suffered particularly from health policies, such as the COVID -19 bulletins of the FRA becomes clear.

In many countries, Roma children do not have smart devices or internet access. This prevents them from taking part in online classes and could fall even further behind. Governments must provide Roma children with access to distance learning and learning materials, according to the recommendation of the ODIHR in its report (link is external) on the impact of COVID-19 on human rights.

But many Roma and travelers were unemployed or worked under precarious conditions even before the pandemic. For example, in 2019 every second young Roma or traveler aged 16-24 in the six countries examined by the FRA was neither in an employment relationship nor in school or vocational training.

Because governments restricted freedom of movement to contain the spread of the virus, many Roma, such as street vendors and traveling vendors, were unable to work. In addition, there is limited access to social benefits for informal work.

Successful participation by Roma communities requires a twofold approach: on the one hand, efforts to reduce poverty and fight racism and discrimination, and on the other hand, increasing the empowerment of Roma and efforts to give members of the community the opportunity to fully participate in the public To open up life.

The annual Roma Leadership Academy (link is external) "Nicolae Gheorghe" is one such example. Who rightly said “Roma participation in public and political life depends on education, enthusiasm, and empowerment, as participants in ODIHR's 1st Roma Leadership Academy told us.” He works closely with Roma to improve their knowledge and skills and to maximize their influence and opportunities to actively participate in politics and decision-making processes.

At national level, governments need to invest more in breaking down prejudice and anti-Roma hostility, especially in public administrations. The countries must work directly with Roma and traveler communities on the ground and ensure that Roma are taken into account when filling elected positions and that Roma civil society organizations are also involved. This would give governments reliable information and measures to end, or at least significantly mitigate, the negative effects of exit restrictions could be developed.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many Roma found themselves in an even more precarious position than they already were. Roma societies therefore need immediate and urgent support so that they can recover quickly and effectively from the pandemic. 

By: Djurica Nikolic

Our Founders

Our Affiliates

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