'God Bless us All' by Lois Brookes-Jones
Romany poet, Lois Brookes-Jones from Shropshire performed 'God Bless us All' a spoken word mix of "poetry and prayer" at the closing ceremony of the international youth event 'Dikh He Na Bister' (Look and don't forget) earlier this month.
The unique event gathered around 300 Roma and non-Roma together to learn about the Roma Genocide.
The 20 year old, told Travellers' Times her motivation for writing the poem was a reflection of her own families struggle with anti-gypyism and the common struggle she saw for all Roma communities across Europe.
"I wanted to pour out my heart in a mixture of poetry and prayer, a form of therapy in making suffering a structured piece of art I wanted to share this poem at 'Dikh He Na Bister' to appeal to the interconnectedness of everyone in the room."
The young activist described how even whilst fundraising to attend the youth event she experienced 'blatant anti-gypsyism'.
"So often do I read out my poems regarding Roma identity in a plea for gadjes to recognise our existence as people, but this time I wanted to appeal on a common past and emotional bond. No more was I catering to the mercy of gadjes, but singing a song we all know in our hearts but can't always put into words" she said.
God Bless us All by Lois Brookes-Jones
I spoke to God one evening on a Summers day,
My prayers begging for the presence of a soul lost once with skin the colour of earth,
A voice that once grumbled "Travellers not Gypsies",
The sour taste of persecution still ripe on her tongue,
My knees bore to the ground for his grace and mercy,
Pleading forgiveness for the 'Gelem, Gelem' etched into my spine,
And the 'Opre Roma' entwining my speech as a lasting connection to a station that the Divine now claimed,
What had my familiar eyes carved by centuries of survival endured,
Oppression didn't end in 1945 alongside the gallows of eugenics echoing a European corridor,
It lives on with Becky down the street,
Dave up the road,
Simply feeling uncomfortable at the thought of occupying the same space as the dreaded pikeys,
It's a gadje on Tinder lamenting how exotic it would be to taste the fruit of tarmac and tambourines,
Because that would surely show how rebellious Chad could be to middle class parents sipping Chardonnay on weekends,
I will not be your Esmeralda,
For unfortunately your tarot cards read oppressor and not lover,
I implore to the Lord Almighty to show our reflection in both the waters that provide the essence of existence,
And on the screens to which feed us empowerment of the day,
Because capitalising on our romanticism as folklore is but another addition to not seeing me as a person,
But as distant from it as Peter Pan,
Providing nothing but a fantasy experience,
A token of accordions and velvet tracksuits to satisfy the assumptions of 'Wendy Darlings',
Only to disappear at the vengeance of a real Captain Hook in the absence of fairy dust,
My sanctuary is flocking to the bosom of the Divine,
Because as a famous song once said,
I thought we all were the children of God,
And my Lord have I given you my Genesis,
Only to find my cries as soft as a Psalm against a wave of voices as jagged as the fences that caged us to our fates,
But you can't silence this undesirable with gas or weaponry,
I open my eyes and blow out my incense,
I unlock my phone,
July 2018, Serbia, parents call for segregation from Roma children in schools,
24th July 2018, a one year old roma baby is shot in the back with a compressed air weapon,
21st July 2018, Slovakia, a Roma man is beaten into a coma whilst his attackers scream "We will kill you, Gypsy scum",
God Bless us All