The Roma have been nomads for centuries. People have called them gypsies. Scattered across most of Europe, their unique way of life stands out amongst the countries who host them. In Greece, their numbers are estimated between 200-300.000, although they consider themselves to be more.
The Roma do not have a particular religion. Yet customs and traditions have kept them together in the course of their history. In general, they fall under two categories: those who have settled and those who still roam the lands as nomads. Most earn their living through trade, agriculture or performance, keeping constantly on the move and staying in the outskirts of the big cities, in self-governed settlements.
The Roma have to constantly fight off many negative stereotypes which are attributed to them, often intensifying their unwillingness to adjust. Many of them are organized in unions (Greek Confederation), with over 300,000 registered members, while in 2006 they formed a political party in Greece, called ''Rom Shield''. As complaints about the violation of their rights increase, the Roma people keep on struggling to survive and to keep their identity alive in a society that seems to have forgotten all about them. In the past years they have experienced a new wave of persecution initiated by the State, in countries such as France and Romania. Many have characterized these newly introduced displacements as pogroms.
Until the 60s, it used to be one of the most beautiful areas in the center of Athens. Today, Agios Panteleimonas Square, with the commanding Orthodox Church, has turned into an unofficial war zone among certain Greeks and the rapidly increasing immigrant population, and a neighborhood of poverty and violence.
During the 90s, many legal and illegal immigrants flocked to this area in search of cheap accommodation. As the years passed and the number of immigrants kept increasing, with many of them sleeping around the square or squatting abandoned houses, the Greeks got wary of their presence and conflict began.
In 2008, certain residents of the area, with the support of extreme right-wing groups resolved that, if the state was reluctant to do something, they would act themselves. Citizen patrols appeared, using violence to repel the immigrants. The message sent to the foreigners was sharp and clear: they were not wanted.
In the past 2 years, the once only sporadic incidents against immigrants gradually became more frequent and more violent; the streets around the square are no longer safe for dark-skinned people.
Hatred has become deeply rooted, and the opposing sides are trapped in a gridlock with no common ground.
Cruising on the surface of the sprawling cement crust that covers the Athenian basin, a bunch of lunatic bicycle riders, reclaim public space, with their environmentalist DIY style. Their guerilla films, caustic performances and adrenaline pumping rides through the city local/Athens seed their Athens with the hopes and aspirations of a more involved youth. The crumbling city is at the mercy of those who are willing to piece together or tear down the relic of a time that has passed.
This group of people of all ages and nationalities seize the fertile moment to share a common vision of their future. Self organizing and initiating new ways to explore public space Local is one of many new young communities which have given up on elected officials to look out for their interests and are no longer going to sit on the side line. Hopefully this is the dawn of a new era where Greece’s youth is more intimately involved with their environment and their community, equipping them with the weapons to survive in the difficult times to come.
Marchers singing anticapitalist Soviet anthems and university theatres packed to watch Communist Germany black and white movies: Either History evaded Greece and the Berlin wall never fell or it is in the making in a Greece shaken by protests and rage against the political and economic elite.Radical leftist movements, all the spectrum covered, got about 30% of the votes in the November 2010 local elections.These groups are renewed with hundreds of angry and frustrated youngsters for reasons that escape to the understanding of the casual visitor. Teenagers, sometimes as young as 12, throw stones against the Parliament, brand hammers, and justify the use of Molotov cocktails as valid means of protests. At a time when Greece has achieved its higher level of economic development, how to explain this anger? Is this movement specific to Greece given its historical particularities or is it a signal of the rise of more active and aggressive leftist protest movements?
Manolis, a.k.a Olayinka or MC Yinka, as most people know him, is a Nigerian, 2nd-generation immigrant who was born and raised in Athens, Greece.
His African roots, interwoven with his Greek upbringing, make Yinka a unique voice in the downtown music scene. A well-respected MC, he works with various bands ranging from ethnic fusion to jazz, and pop. He also plays with dub veterans Direct Connection and has his own band, Urbanix.
Recently, his neighborhood has been a battleground for tensions between a growing racist neo-right wing youth and the numerous immigrant inhabitants of the area.With all the madness that surrounds his dilapidated neighborhood, he manages to rise up above the pollution, inspired by the things he sees, using his lyrics as weapons to fight against the discrimination that permeates his world and stand up for the rights of his people.