But why should the others be denied entry?

Author: Iveta Dirdová
Location: Brno
[recorded by Katka Holubová]
I’m Romany, twenty-eight years old, and I have two daughters.
I also run a group of dancers called Red Rose. A year ago this summer my grandmother registered us at Drom, the Romany cultural center. They were interested in starting a folk dancing group, and because I’m interested in maintaining Romany culture and traditions, I decided to go for it. There are forty people in the group, dancers and musicians, and it includes several whole families. We’re accompanied by my uncle and his dulcimer ensemble. And we are divided into two smaller companies: kids from six to thirteen and people from sixteen up.
Usually, we rehearse twice a week, but more often if we need to. Our first show took us two months to prepare. We entered a contest and won. Since then we have performed at many different places such as Alterna club in Brno, where we were a part of a multicultural program. Most often we take part in charity activities. We are planning to perform at the Brno Municipal Festival and the Romany festivals in Karviná and Strásnice. If we’re lucky, we’ll go to Holland, too.
Because most of the dancers are elementary or junior high school kids, I pay a lot of attention to their school attendance and their grades.
Once we were performing for the Crossroads Foundation at a school in Brno. It was a two-day-long festival featuring many different dancing groups and theatre ensembles. We were scheduled to perform on the second day. While we were waiting for our turn, we wanted to watch the others perform. But some groups were reluctant to perform for "Gypsies.” Under these conditions, we didn’t feel like performing either.
The girls wanted to pack up and leave. But I told them to stay. “We have our pride, too,” I said. “We’re a competent group and we will not get into a conflict.”
Finally, we did perform. Everybody liked my uncle’s Romany melodies and soon people started dancing and singing along. We were very surprised and happy to have had a chance to show the others treasures of our culture. The message was that we are Roma and we can make a lot of fun.
But what I want most to tell you about started with bouncers denying us entry to bars and discos. When this became the rule rather than the exception, I had the idea of inviting a journalist to accompany us and see how we are treated.
My idea was to tell people what’s going on: that there is racism in this country, and that one should not pretend there is not.
I went over to the daily newspaper Rovnost and asked whether a journalist might be interested in doing some disco hopping with me some night. That’s how I got to meet Ms. Budínová, a journalist interested in Romany issues. We agreed to meet at nine that evening.
Ms. Budínová showed up with a photographer. I can’t recall his name. We were seven people: three women, two men, the journalist and the photographer.
We decided to go first to the Metro disco on Postovská street.
When we rang the bell, the door opened, and Ms. Budínová said to the bouncer: “Good evening, these are my friends, and we´d like to come in.”
“That won’t be possible,” replied the bouncer.
“Why not?” Ms. Budínová expressed her surprise. “I am a good citizen, and so are these people. I wanted to invite them here to celebrate my birthday.”
“That won’t be possible,” insisted the bouncer. “Roma are not allowed in here.”
“Why aren’t they?” she asked.
“We don’t have to tell you.” He was about to shut the door.
But Ms. Budinova was strong and kept the door open. She demanded an answer.”Why aren’t Roma allowed in?”
He pushed her away and banged the door closed.
So we decided to go to the police. Just the day before a spokesperson for the police had advised Ms. Budinova that the best way to solve this problem would be to bring a policeman in too. He could investigate and find out whether the disco was full or whether there were technical or other reasons for not letting Roma in.
We decided to go to the Bihounská precinct. Even though our request was first turned down, Ms. Budínová did what the Police spokesperson had instructed her to do and finally managed to convince the policemen to give her a police escort: a young policeman. Though it took her quite a while.
We all went back to the disco. The door opened and the bouncer was visibly scared, saying that he had done nothing wrong.
The policeman asked him, “Why did you deny entry to people who just wanted to go in and enjoy themselves?” And he asked the bouncer to let him in.
“It is not possible, ” said the bouncer. “For technical reasons nobody is allowed in.”
The policeman wrote a report saying that entry had been denied for technical reasons. That was it for him.
But the journalist, Ms. Budinova, showed the bouncer her business card, and told him that she would write about what had happened.
He ignored her and joked about her taking a photo of him.
She decided to file a criminal complaint with the Police.
We proceeded to another disco, Tabarín in Divadelní street. The journalist, accompanied by the photographer, approached to entrance first. They rang the bell and told the bouncers that they needed a reservation for a bunch of friends due to arrive later. The bouncers agreed.
Ten minutes later we arrived and it started all over again. As soon as the bouncers spotted us Roms he said the disco was full.
The journalist told him that just ten minutes ago she had reserved places for all of us.
As the bouncer moved to close the door he said: “Sorry. Not possible. There is no space down there.”
So that was it, once again.
We tried a couple more discos. But it was the same story everywhere: either it was full or it had just gotten smashed up by a Rom.
OK. If something like that happens, they should have a photo of the offenderon them and never allow him in again. why should the others be denied entry too?
Jirka [aaa@mujbox.cz] responded on 30 September 2001:
Quite interesting.
In Prague we never experience such a thing – that somebody doesn’t let us in. It is interesting that such things happen mostly in Moravia / Brno,Ostrava…tell me why? Isn’t there something in the attitude of Moravians?
I definitely agree. A Czech fights at disco, he breaks what comes in his way, he insults and offends people and regardless this event Czechs are always let in. It is important to put such cases in the media, publish them in papers.
The one who is responsible for it must be punished – it was a porter or theowner of a club in this story. In most cases Roma don’t defend themselves.It is a mistake. Publish and publish!

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  1. Perform for Gypsies? I should be so lucky again. One of the best experiences of my life was performing at a Gypsy wedding in Los Angeles in l983. I was told by another dancer that the guests would try to take money from me, but someone gave me a picture of the bride and groom to give to them while I was performing. The bride had a lacey white dress and a gold mark on her forehead, a headscarf and braids and gold belt in a double paisley shape- a man in a white suit with a red carnation in his lapel came to dance with me and people started dropping red flowers on me. A woman followed me to the dressing room and wanted to buy my tape and something I had used during my performance. I glady just gave them to her. I had gone with a friend and she was presented boxes of food that the family had been cooking non-stop for 2 days. They wanted to share with us. The children covered us in ribbons and put silk flowers in our hair. I still have the flowers and am still performing.
    I wish I could study true Roma dance and wish all my experiences with audiences could be like this.

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