Did you know that June is Gypsy Roma Traveller History month? For us in the Travelling community, the month celebrates not just our history, but our resilience and strength in a nation that has often been hostile to us.
As a twenty-something Gypsy Traveller from Fife, I know all too well the discrimination and prejudice our community has faced. Gypsy Traveller Roma History month is a chance to educate the settled community on the issues affecting us. Especially issues surrounding racism.
In late March James O’ Connor – Fife Traveller – had his trailer burnt out and defaced with swastikas while he was self-isolating with a friend. Shockingly, it’s not the first time James has been attacked. In 2010 he had thousands of pounds worth of damage done to his possessions when arsonists set fire to them.
You would think that in 2020 this kind of hate would be considered unacceptable, so why is it that racism against us still goes on?
It’s only by looking at our history that we can begin to understand the reasons why. For centuries Gypsy and Traveller people have been persecuted in Scotland and the rest of the UK. In 1530, the Egyptians Act was passed by the English parliament ordering Gypsies to leave the realm. In 1554, Queen Mary would make being a Gypsy/Traveller punishable by death. Fiddler and outlaw James MacPherson – an Indigenous Highland Traveller (Nyakim) – was executed in Banff for being just that, a Traveller.
Thankfully, in modern day Scotland, being a Traveller is no longer considered a death sentence. That being said, hate crime continues to be ongoing despite there being an understanding that Gypsy-Travellers are a marginalised group.
Will hate crime against us disappear anytime soon? I doubt it, but I try to stay hopeful. It’s my belief that through initiatives like Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month that we can show others what true Gypsy-Traveller history is. Sure, it might be taking a look at our past, but it’s more than just that. Stereotypes on what being a modern Gypsy-Traveller is like are rife – even from within our own community! It’s not all caravans and wagons, or horse fairs in Cumbria. A lot of us live in houses now and have normal jobs. I happen to be one of these house dwelling Travellers and I’m no less a Traveller for being one.
If you’re unfamiliar with Gypsy Traveller Roma history and culture, now is the time to get educated. Listen to our youth and their stories, watch a podcast or two, or even ask an older Traveller what life was like for them in the past. Don’t sit back and stay ignorant.
You have a whole month ahead of rich history and culture to explore, so why not? Most of us are self-isolating from COVID-19 anyway. Really, there’s no excuse!
Interested? I recommend you check out grthm.scot to learn more. Trust me, you won’t regret it and who knows, you might learn a thing or two!
Article written by Samantha Donaldson.
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