Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Koko Lepo Autonomous Kindergarten in Belgrade


There are so many stories and thoughts I want to share from the ten-day Mediterranean Anarchist Meetings in three cities (Athens, Thessaloniki, and Chania on Crete). I aim to pull many of them together, along with provocations to own anarchist world on Turtle Island, once I’m back — alas, too soon. But the thread that ties many of them together is the heart that’s embodied in all of the social anarchists’ solidarity projects.

The Koko Lepo Autonomous Kindergarten in Belgrade is no exception. It might even feel more heartwarming to many of you because it extends an anarchistic hand of dignity not only to kids but to kids who are born into a centuries-long legacy in of slavery, ghettoization, persecution, and extermination as Roma peoples. The “free quality alternative pre-school education based on solidarity and mutual aid” that the Koko Lepo Collective self-creates, with “the agreement and support of the parents,” is for Roma kids from a present-day Roma ghetto. Even the act of them being brought into town, and getting to go on field trips there, is a way of instilling dignity and confidence and challenging the hatred and invisibility they face.

Of course, as the collective is well aware, any “solidarity” project has to continually self-evaluate, so as not to become a “charity” project. The talk at our anarchist gathering that my new and wonderful friend Mala Suerte gave about being part of this collective touched on many of its limitations and contradictions, along with the incredlble inspiration one can’t help but take away from it. Dignity and/as exploring and putting into practice new kinds of egalitarian social relations goes a long way in this dehumanizing world of ours. And viewing such as project as both alternative pedagogy and antiracism (anti-Roma) adds further inspiration (another group does something similar in Bucharest, explicitly linking anti-displacement solidarity to antiracist solidarity in their anti-eviction direct actions).

This 15-minute film (https://vimeo.com/136904925), made by Mala Suerte, is an introduction to the kindergarten, made for two reasons. First, so as to share the basic story easily with others, especially in faraway places, to inspire other such projects. And second, to again supply dignity to the school and its Roma students; not to let themselves by represented or misrepresented by an outside filmmaker, as curiosity or oddity, but rather to directly share themselves on their own terms. I’m hoping that Mala Suerte and/or one of their collective mates will someday soon write up more detailed thoughts, critical and hopeful, to accompany this primer.

For now: enjoy. Share freely with others who are self-organizing for a free society.

And please note: the squat that’s been home to Koko Lepo Autonomous Kindergarten was recently evicted, a victim of the gentrification now hitting Belgrade. Such is the fragility that our hearts must bear, too. Follow this project for updates: facebook.com/KokoLepoAV/timeline.

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If you want to get word when I put out new musings, sign up at cbmilstein.wordpress.com. Enjoy, share, reprint, post, tweet any of my writings as long as it’s free as in “free water” and “freedom.”

(Photo by Cindy Milstein, street art of resistance, Athens, Greece, October 2015.)




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This entry was posted on October 22, 2015 by in Dispatches from Rebellious Spaces.
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