April 8 is International Roma Day, a time to bring attention to the challenges that continue to face the Roma people. It is also a day to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights for all people, but particularly the Roma, worldwide.
With the support of the Roma Community Centre, the TDSB’s Equitable and Inclusive Schools Team will be hosting a retreat to honour the day on April 13 at the Norval Outdoor School in Georgetown, Ont. Forty secondary school students of Roma heritage will participate in this important event focusing on overcoming the challenges they and their parents face while attempting to adapt to our school system. Staff and students will work to strengthen relationships between the Toronto District School Board and the Roma community, while building awareness of its unique needs. The ultimate goal is to develop student and parent awareness of the Ontario public school system to increase student engagement and achievement.
The Romani Diaspora began about 1,000 years ago from what is now Northern India. There are at least 12 million Roma scattered throughout the world. In Europe, Roma people are the largest minority population and have been living in primarily Eastern European countries.
Despite being Europe’s largest minority group, the Roma have been voiceless for centuries. As a people and as a culture, the Roma continue to be misrepresented, mythologized, stereotyped and persecuted.
During the 1960s a number of Romani organizations were established in France and the United Kingdom. As the number or Romani organizations grew so did an interest in the creation of an international Romani organization. After a number of failed attempts, success was found when Roma people from a number of European countries met in Orrington, UK, in April of 1971.
This congress, the first truly international meeting of Roma, brought a number of successes: the International Romani Union was founded, the Romani flag was accepted, and the song “Gelem, Gelem” composed by Jarko Jovanovic was adopted as an anthem. The delegates also unanimously declared April 8 as the International Day of Roma.