‘We’re not that stereotype’: Nantwich Romani Gypsy says ‘things have to change’

The Pride of Romani grassroots organisation aims to fight against the racist perception of gypsies in Cheshire

A Romani Gypsy in Cheshire has said ‘things have to change’ after the launch of a new grassroots organisation that aims to fight racist stereotypes in the county. Charmaine Abdul-Karim, from Nantwich, has spearheaded Pride of Romani, which recently held its launch event.

As well as encouraging gypsies and travellers to take pride in their heritage, the group is aiming to engage with the wider Cheshire population in a bid to break down racist attitudes towards the community. It will be working with the council, police and schools to make improvements in the area.

During the launch event, which was held at Nantwich Civic Hall towards the end of June, the group brought a wooden wagon and put up displays detailing the community’s rich history in the area. Some families in the area can be traced back hundreds of years to as far as the 12th century.

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Charmaine, who has previously spoken to Cheshire Live about the racist abuse she and her children have faced in the county, said: “We’re not asking permission to be part of the community – we are part of the community. We want to change things – change legislation, the narrative in the story and we can do that because we have a group now of gypsy people, powerful gypsy women, who really want to change things for the next generation.

“It’s very important to get the ball rolling, particularly with some of the legislation that’s gone through recently. We want to work with the council and they have been absolutely amazing. They want to include us.

“We want to work with them to create something that, I hope, will outlive me and change the lives of my children. We’re not that stereotype. You may have had a bad experience with a gypsy or traveller but that doesn’t mean that we’re all that way.

“We have a group of strong women who want to change things. We need to change things for our children and to create something that’s amazing – to teach that history of indigenous people.

“I can not say those words enough – indigenous people. We have been here since the 12th century. We want our children to be proud of our heritage and culture – that’s why we’re called Pride of Romani.”

Police officers, school teachers and councillors were among those in attendance in the event. They listened to presentations from members of the community and even sampled some traditional Romani foods.

They were also shown around some of the displays. One of Charmaine’s children even showed her school teachers around, taking pride in her heritage, which Charmaine said was exactly what she wanted this to be about.

She said: “We had a lot of people there from both the gypsy and non-gypsy communities, which was what we wanted. It wasn’t solely for gypsy people to come along because we know our history, we know our culture and we know the persecution that we face.

“It was for the wider community to come and see the heritage side of things. We had a wagon here, we had people come in to speak about the history and we had exhibitions. There were a lot of people reconnecting with their routes – I can’t tell you the amount of people who came over and talk about their family trees.

They are hoping to start working on a number of ‘micro projects’ to engage with the community. This includes event where they will bring a wooden caravan and serve traditional food while people learn about the history of the Romani people.

Charmaine added: “We also want to do a pledge with the schools in Cheshire East that they will include more gypsy, Romani and traveller history. It’s about working with the young people to empower them and dispelling some of that negativity.”

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