Tag Archives: Urban Gypsy

Help SR name a new column and educate ourselves about racism all in one

In this week’s Street Roots we published a Letter to the Editor, in which an avid reader, and elder from the Watoska Band of Ramanichal took offense to the liberal use of the word gypsy in Street Roots, specifically referring to the column, “The Urban Gypsy’s.”

The column has stirred many emotions over the past year, including a sobering piece about what it’s like to be a woman and become homeless.

The column is written by Julie McCurdy, a woman who is still experiencing homelessness with her dog in the Rose City. She has written a regular column with the newspaper and help break the news story about the police inviting themselves into St. Francis Dining Hall back in October.

When we showed the letter to Julie she immediately took ownership of the liberal use of the word, and said, “Absolutely, let’s change that now.” After thinking on it for a night or two, Julie has come up with the idea of asking SR readers to help name the column.

So, readers, what should Julie call her column? Julie is hoping for your suggestions and would love to introduce the next column under the name readers come up with.

And lastly, both Street Roots, Julie and Soup Can Sam, all give thanks for the letter and apologize for any misgivings.

The Letter to the Editor is below.

I have been an avid reader of your paper for quite some time and like what it stands for.  However, there are quite a few of us in the Romani community that find one thing distressing. One of your columnists calls herself “The Urban Gypsy.” Well according to The World Romani Congress established in 1971, the term Gypsy is racist. So used in improper context, saying Gypsy is similar to the N-word. If you want to know what our culture is about go to the Patrin Web site.

I do not know if your contributor has Romani heritage, but I would appreciate it if she would please stop it.  We have a very rich culture and have endured a lot of discrimination. They used to brush my teeth with hospital soap in school for speaking Romani. I know a Roma who was placed in aboarding school by the government, in a brutal forced assimilation program (similar to what the Native Americans endured).

I’m sure you can reply with some such comeback that so called ‘Urban Gypsies’ are living in the spirit of the Gypsies of old.  Well we are not so easy to understand, as we live by our own laws and understandings; and we are driven by a different force.  So respectfully I request… please do not debase our culture by calling yourselves Gypsies.

Thank You!

Casimire Watoska
Elder, Watoska Band of Ramanichal
Life member Romani against Racism

Posted by Israel Bayer

The Urban Gypsy

From the June 12 edition of Street Roots

I’m sitting here, looking around my city, hard pressed. I still feel that Portland is full of potential and possibilities.

I wait with the patience of a newly awakened predator. For people’s smiles to fade at the sheer numbers of the newly homeless. It breaks my heart to see the innocence leak out of eyes and faces that shouldn’t be here on the street.

Pardon me if I begin to snarl in frustration. I am speaking directly of the mentally challenged that our overloaded system has tossed to the street.

There are several people in my mind’s eye causing this strain of thought. One in particular who is not new to the streets, but was on the day she got there 30 years ago.Let me show you what I saw. First of all, I would have missed her totally without that second glance at the enclave next to the alley. Up close I recognized what caused the strange hesitation in my approach. However, caught in her gaze, I couldn’t very well back up. So we stood for a moment frozen, sizing each other up. There was a surprising strength to her fragility, which was momentarilly reasurring. Her story tumbled out in a sing-song voice, in between bites of stale bagel. Thirty years outside in this heaven and this hell. Her eyes were eerily innocent and detatched as she spoke of sodomy and rape, of laughter and love, like they were the same thing. She crackled but didn’t cry, even when telling me about things that I have only seen in horror movies.

I, on the other hand, wept like a newly widowed woman. Later that night, safe in my solitude, it made me think that maybe sometimes insanity is a mercy. I wept for the woman she was now because the world would never get to see her specific genius, it having been scattered over the concrete streets of Portland’s potential.

Julie McCurdy resides in Portland and is experiencing homelessness with her Italian greyhound, Maggie. She is a regular contributer to Street Roots.