(By Chris Sharp) As you probably already know, my mission is to write columns that other columnists are not writing.  It is in that spirit that I have written for example a Beacon column demonstrating the contribution to America by everyone ranging from the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the pugnacious high school teenagers I have been teaching.  Today we are going over the contributions being made to America by American Gypsies or – as these original people from ancient India prefer to call themselves – the Romani people of America.

Let’s begin by bringing up our associations with the word “Gypsy.”  So there are for example “gypsy” taxi cabs called that way because they will supposedly go anywhere, where others don’t dare go, in a supposed association with the wandering Gypsy people.  There was the world’s most famous stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee, who called herself that to draw more attention to her Gypsy flamenco moves during her strip tease performance.  And there was the actor Yul Brynner, who everyone thought created such good Gypsy performances with his gleaming shaved head and darting eyes on stage and screen that he even allowed himself to become president of an international Gypsy association.

Neither Lee nor Brynner were Gypsies by any known heritage.  But Americans like former President Bill Clinton and the late Hollywood star Rita Haworth are in fact Gypsies by descent.  Other Gypsies by their recent ancestry include Charlie Chaplin, the late Hollywood actor Bob Hoskins and English actor Sir Michael Caine.  If all these assimilated Gypsies seem to weigh heavily into the performing arts area – and you may even remember President Bill Clinton as a kind of performing president – you might that Gypsies for centuries have owed their survival by the receptions they have received for their performing gypsy guitar playing and violin playing and flamenco dancing and other performing.

The author who gathered the names of the above assimilated Gypsies and many others is the British Gypsy Ian Hancock in his book We Are The Romani People, with its two back cover subtitles, Treat Us All The Same and We Are Human Like You.  You see, I have been reading books about Gypsies to do research for a novel I am writing, which has something to do with how the Old Soviet Union tried to bend its Gypsy population into conformity with its Communist Culture.  The anticipated tension of the book has something to do with the unbending resistance to conformity of any Gypsies anywhere in the world.

Yet there is also something to be noticed in the long list of assimilated Gypsies that Hancock listed in his book. A great proportion of them are English Gypsies, or at least Gypsies who were in England before leaving for somewhere else.

The English Gypsies come out of a long diaspora that began in India from the most peaceful Hindus being driven out of their homeland by invaders from the West over 1,000 years ago.  They traveled to Persia, but did not stay long there, and finally they settled in the Balkan nations of Europe, especially what is today Romania.  Even today, Romania remains the largest habitat of the Gypsy, with a population of over a million Romani people there.  The present Romani language is in fact what remains of an old Romanian language and the original Hindustani vocabulary of the old Indian homeland.

Read more here: A Sharp View:  In praise of Gypsy California