Bekim, the new RCC director with a groundbreaking speech in the mosque
Reaction of the audience — 'Congrats, Bekim on what you are doing!' 'Bekim, after six months your hair will turn white!' 'Bekim, i like it that you are doing this but stop it, it will be better for you, you are too young for this. Bekim Berisa, a young Roma leader originally from Kosovo recently got nominated as the director of the Roma Community Center in Sint Niklaas. Most of his predecessors have given up their seat as making a change in a traditional community facing deeply rooted prejudice and racism seems impossible. Bekim made his speech in the mosque with 160 participants arriving from various Belgian cities on 18 January 2013.
Below we are sharing Bekim's Facebook post after the nomination took place in the local mosque the previous week, before he shared his thoughts.
'A hard and a long weekend…
On 11.01.2013 we had the first official presentation of our RcC (Roma Cultural Centre) and its activities in ST-Niklaas, Belgium.
The Imam Nergim.D (muslim religious leader in the community) explained in the mosque the situation of the Center that we have to change a lot what means safety of the building for activities and meetings. In his speech he was also talking about the situation of Roma in St-Niklaas, and also mentioned what some of the Non-Roma think about the Roma in this town. He presented me as the new Director (I didn't make a speech) and explained the activities that we want to do especially for children and youngsters. He talked about the need to change the behavior of Roma children in schools as we, the parents are responsible for changing it. He was talking for 30 minutes only about the situation of Roma in St Niklaas and that has never happened before in the mosque. Nobody has opened this issue openly an the Imam did a really a good job. Personally I didn't speak on this occasion because for me it was important to see the first reactions of the people. How they reacted to what the Imam said. We were more than 100 people in the audience with around 30 youngsters in the mosque.
We also organized a youth meeting after the Friday prayers. We were with 23 youngsters and it was an exciting meeting.
For me it was important to know what they want and what they know about the situation of Roma in town, I saw that they didn't know anything about what happens around them. I do my best to share some information with them that they have to know if they want to live in this country. I said openly that we have to forget a lot things from our traditions and we have to change our behavior, and everyone agreed with that. The youngsters had a lot of questions and three of them said that they wanted to go back to school but they needed school equipment besides the motivation. A problem is that they lose hope and motivation because the leaders before always said things that they never dit. I said to them i can't do anything alone we have to do it together that is our way.'