By Declan O’Driscoll, Traveller Movement Casework and Development Officer
2023 marks the 15th anniversary of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month in the UK, having been adopted officially in 2008. This year is also my 3rd History Month since I began working for the Traveller Movement, and every year I am increasingly blown away by the effort people across the country, and in various sectors make, to use this event to rightfully celebrate the rich history and culture of all Romany, Romany Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. I see this mostly in my education work, with school and local authority staff leading the way in making positive and representative education available, allowing more and more young people to understand who we Romany, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people really are.
This month is a precious tool for all of us as Romany, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, as it allows us to not just demonstrate our pride in our heritage outwardly, but it also serves as a reminder to ourselves of why we should be proud of who we are before anything else. We have seen positive changes for our communities in the last 15 years, however, despite this, being a Romany, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller person can be challenging, with negative public and media perceptions, hateful comments being made by our politicians, and racist abuse and social isolation still present in our society. It is no wonder being proud of ourselves can sometimes seem self-defeating.
If like me you have ever been fearful to express who you are and where your family has come from, or you just don’t want to take the chance in case the response isn’t how it should be, now is your chance to be proud, openly proud of who you are and where you and yours have come from. Together we have an opportunity, using events like history month to educate others, to challenge hostilities and misconceptions, and ultimately build a better world for our children and the many generations of proud Romany, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller generations to come.
In all that has been achieved and fought for in the last 15 years, let’s focus on how we can make the most of the next 15 years, to make those reasons which challenge our pride, a permanent thing of the past.