We already learned from the Kony 2012 video that with a catchy tune, high quality video and a sincere message or cause can start a massive amount of viral activism. I had believed that employing these features were ‘cheap’ and tasteless, maybe offering a less glitzed-version of the same message in order to  be more factual and taken more seriously than just being passed around cyberspace. But after seeing the group of Roma kids rapping in their Youtube video, its hard to maintain that opinion. There’s something about the visual stimulation of a well-done video and a song that speaks to the viewer, and as our readings about advertisement has proven to us this week, social networks have a huge hand in spreading a brand, or in this case a social message.

Screenshot from UGC’s youtube video

The article from Deutsche Welle outlines the reasons why the United Gypsy Crew, the musical group of four Roma teenagers, created the video. The groups urges that both Czech educational authorities and Roma parents need to stop sending Roma kids to pratical schools. Practical schools are schools in the Czech Republic usually for the mentally challenged and has a less rigorous curriculum. The four teenage rappers in the video stress that Roma kids can live up to their full potential given the opportunity of attending a good school. Despite not being able to understand Czech, the video is expressive and includes a lot of visual clues that goes along with the message being conveyed.

According to our class readings about social media and advertising, the old way of traditional print advertising is out. No more blatantly selling to or manipulating the customer; companies have to find a way to advertise in a new medium that has customers constantly engaging in it. E.K Clemon’s article stresses how marketing has changed over the years, and traditional push-based advertising is dying. The loss of trust in advertising makes consumer reports more reliable than what advertisers say, making social networks the key to future advertising. Though Clemens states that this mode of advertising may be unclear whether it is effective, I believe that if a company can get a large following via social network, the customers basically do the work the advertisers were supposed to do: spread awareness of a product, how great it is, and spread influence to purchase (of course, we are talking about a good product, otherwise this idea would never work). This same idea is applicable to social activism: if it is a worthy cause, then social media is the key to spread it around, gain popularity, and eventually make a real-life change in the world.

There have been reports how the Czech media stereotype the Roma by publicizing stories that worsen their public image. With the media constantly linking the Roma with crime and highlighting negative stories about them rather than positive ones, it may be hard to get our facts straight when we can’t rely solely on the news or media. But, similar to how we can trust consumer reports and user reviews, I feel that sharing stories and social messages through social media can counteract false or unflattering news reports.

The Roma discrimination issue has been pointed out as a serious human rights issue, and many are reaching out to help the Roma and the general Czech public try to bridge this divide between them. Between Prague’s One World Film festival highlighting Roma discrimination in some of its documentaries and the 2007 European Court of Human Rights verdict stating that the Czech treatment of Roma children was “tantamount to segregation”, awareness of this issue is becoming widespread. With the help of SNS like Youtube, social change may come about through widespread awareness and a persistent following.


2 thoughts on “Roma Rap Combats Discrimination in Czech Republic

  1. This rap group really represents some of what needs to happen bring change to the Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe. The Roma communities need leaders to step up on their behalf and lead a reform movement. This video shows 4 fou Roma boys that have stepped out to represent their disadvantaged communities.

    My first reaction to watching this video was trying to think of how these four made it to a better position than the rest of the community. They look well dressed, educated, and use expensive high-quality film equipment. They are clearly have more opportunities than the rest of the Roma community. This helps to dispel the idea that all Roma will always remain held back in poverty.

    When people such as them made it to a better position, they can help to represent an entire community. They can further their cause in the external community and increase awareness of their people’s plights.

    Talking a Czech student in the main library in Prague, he knows it is unfortunate that the Roma are held back, but they need some sort of Martin Luther King type leader to fight for them. He believed change needed to be led from within that community. Keeping that in mind, it is promising that change like this can be led from a group of kids with talent in rapping. As more people are educated, I think more Roma youth will begin to lead a change the community needs.

    Ambassador Eugen Wollfarth, the Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, says”Education will help to pave the way towards access to employment, as well as full engagement in civic and political life,” This journey will take an undoubtedly long time, but the light can finally be seen at the end of the tunnel.

    OSCE: http://www.osce.org/albania/89513

  2. After seeing two of the One World Film Festival’s documentaries dedicated to Romas, I was so pleasantly surprised to see this video. So many of the ways in which people are trying to combat and reinforce the Roma discrimination are violent and unsuccessful. It is nice to see a peaceful solution to fighting the problem.

    One of the films in particular reminded me a lot of the United Gypsy Crew. “Vojta Lavička: Up and Down” follows 15 years in the life of Vojta, a talented musician and member of the once popular and successful Roma hip hop group with folk influences, Gipsy.cz. However, it is so evident in this movie how much of a struggle it was for the band to gain any legitimate recognition, as in international competitions they were never accepted. Eventually, the group split up and Vojta loses hope that the Roma discrimination will ever end. Maybe with the help of social media, he would have continued to have a voice for his people and he could have created a difference.

    None of gipsy.cz’s songs ever really directly talked about the discrimination like the separation of Roma children to practical schools. They were more so trying to spread their culture and unique music to the world. At one point early on in his career, Vojta says to his stepdaughter, “Social networks are the curse of our generation”. Maybe if he had seen what these young boys were doing, he would have changed his mind. Vojta decided to become the host of a Czech TV news program, but he still experienced discrimination and could not figure out a way to combat this hate. Eventually, he lost faith in his cause, accepting a fate as a second class citizen.

    I think that a visual medium can reach more audiences than maybe an article or a song sung in one language would, particularly global audiences and the younger generation. Visual mediums like YouTube videos allow the general public an it let to speak out on. Although the Clemens reading stresses how social media can help business marketing, I think it is even more effective at spreading social messages and activism. But does it translate to actual change? Only time will tell.



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