Posts made in September 2016

2nd Annual Cultural Showcase At Fort Stanwix

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

The 2nd Annual Cultural Showcase at Fort Stanwix brought out many different folks from around the Mohawk Valley region with diverse backgrounds and cultures. Organizers say the event is not only aimed at celebrating America’s diverse culture, it is also a welcoming ceremony for new Americans who now call upstate New York, home.

 

 

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NPS Centennial And American Culture

NPS Centennial

NPS Centennial

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

The National Park Service, typically described as one of America’s best ideas, is marking its centennial year preserving the country’s national treasures and cultural identity in an increasingly complex global world. Historian, Enimini Ekong says the park service is part of chronicling the evolution of what we know to be America. “It has stories of our national landscapes and everything that we know man couldn’t create, and it also chronicles the human story. Everything that man has been a part of in making what we call this America,” Ekong said.

In addition to celebration 100 years of America’s national parks, Ekong who serves as Chief of Interpretation, Education and Cultural Resources at NPS’s Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, KS, says the park service is now making the point that its 413 parks has a diversified timeline of the inception of our country. “From the star spangled banner to Thomas Jefferson and Lincoln, on up to our more modern day movements of the Martin Luther King Memorial and sites like Brown v. Board that are national historic sites,” he said. He says NPS is curating the story that often times isn’t told in high school, or put in history books. “The national service almost serves as the supplemental text book to what education in its short and very compact year can’t cover in its history books and sometimes science books,” he says.

The National Park Service was born in 1916 during a challenging time in the country’s history. It was especially challenging for citizens who weren’t in the majority group. With this discernment in mind, including the recognition of our nation’s drastically changing demographics, Ekong says the park service is intent upon furthering its educational objective by having some hard conversations. “We have the conversations about slavery, we’re trying to lead the discussion now on reconstruction and for quite some time, we’ve endeavored on the conversation about civil rights. And, the individuals who have been very iconic in our American history, whose stories speak of the roads that have been trot, for us to speak of the equality that has been engraved, in many ways, on our American documents,” he said. Ekong adds that although the Constitution and Declaration of Independence make clear our rights as people and declaring that all men are created equal, the park service is at the helm of telling the stories of how these American principles and fundamental beliefs have, and are being executed. He says it’s imperative that NPS be a part of America’s cultural conversation.

Ekong goes on to say that despite the progress made to overcome the many social struggles of our nation, the modern-day citizen still has a responsibility to ensure history does not repeat itself. And, thanks to a program called Facilitated Dialogue the national park service is furthering this mission. “We’re inviting both visitors and the general public to have a conversation, not only about what the Arrow Head means, but what it means to the next generation. And so, we’re using our placed based history to engage in that conversation in a way that’s unique to each site,” he said.

For example, currently at Brown v. Board Historic Site, Park Rangers are engaging visitors on what desegregation looks like today, and if it’s still relevant. “What we’re finding in kind of an overwhelming response is that much of the same challenges that America had in 1954, there are many of those similar challenges that the country is facing today,” Ekong said. The National Park Service is another avenue for communities across the country—especially those that don’t have the same resources or the same educational opportunities—to learn about our nation’s history and culture. “The National Park Service is trying to be a part of that cultural conversation in what the modern-day citizen is responsible for in trying to prevent history from repeating itself,” he said.

Borrowing the description she got from a professor, Michelle Riter, Chief of Visitor Experiences at Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, NY describes the NPS as the world’s largest university system with over 400 branch campuses. “It’s like one of those little Russian nesting dolls when you go to a park. You open up the big doll and there’s another one inside it and you’re like, oh I’ll open this one too, and it just keeps going on and on the amount of things you can learn,” she said. New York is home to 22 national parks, including Fort Stanwix, known as the Fort that never surrendered during the revolutionary war. “There are always resources and ranger programs and other things to learn if you want to go even deeper within those kinds of Russian nesting dolls so to speak,” Riter said.

Riter says in a way the NPS takes care of America’s treasure box, the things we most value and want to remember as a country. In addition to celebrating the centennial year of the National Park Service, Fort Stanwix is celebrating 40 years of being open to the public. Officials with the Fort are celebrating the event with an initiative launched in July called, 40 for 40. Riter explains that they are releasing 40 videos on YouTube highlighting 40 different NPS stories. “The last one that they launched was actually one of a new immigrant artist. She’s a story teller who actually received her citizenship here at Fort Stanwix and so it’s a way for us to tell different stories of the Fort that people maybe weren’t aware of,” Riter said.

Another initiative the Fort is embarking on as part of its 40th anniversary and the NPS centennial is the launching of a new exhibit in partnership with the Rome Historical Society. “It’s basically going to focus on the creation of the Fort, which includes what the community was like before the Fort was built, as well as, the archeological dig and the building of the Fort. And since a lot of the people in the local community had a lot to do with that, I mean some of them were working as part of the construction, some of them might have been some of the first people to do living history in the Fort. It’s a part of the community and so we’re working on collecting and giving voice to some of those things and showing some of the pictures that were a part of that whole experience in the 1970s around the bicentennial, “Riter explained.

The official launch of the exhibit will take place on November 12. Part of the exhibit will be featured at Fort Stanwix and the other part will be on display at Rome Historical Society.

Riter goes on to say that we are living in a period of time were a lot of the battle fields and historical sites are being looked at not just for what they commemorate but how they commemorate them and tell stories about American society. “Any part of history you’re going to find someone with very strong interests, opinions and passions, and for us we don’t just interpret the story of the American Fort we also interpret some of the stories of the British troops that fought against us. So, it’s not just for us to tell the stories of the victors of the battle, it’s for us to tell the story of the whole experience and so I know that it can be a little challenging for folks to remember that there was a different side,” she explained.

Another interesting development that has increased attendance at Fort Stanwix and other national parks across the country is the search for Pokémon. “I would never have guessed that this would be Pokémon summer at the park but apparently we are quite the hub for Pokémon activity, which gets a lot of millennials and young folks to the park that wouldn’t normally come,” Riter said.

The mission of the NPS is a never ending process she explains, and it will continue to find new ways to reach people, encourage attendance and get visitors excited about American culture.

15th Anniversary Of The 9/11 Attacks

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

The 9/11 attacks that brought down the iconic World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon and causing the death of nearly 3,000 people, is being remembered ceremoniously across the nation. It’s been 15-years since that awful day altered the course and culture of our nation and subsequently, the world, especially the Middle East. From the on-going war against terror, The Patriot Act, immigration policies, to the boom of U.S. intelligence gathering through a number of surveillance operations. Greater precautions to ensure the safety of Americans have been instituted in the wake of the attacks.

Whether the steps go far enough or violate human rights is still a topic of contention and debate among politicians and the average citizen. Nonetheless, the lessons of that tragedy are still being learned today. The consequences of it are not only visibly apparent, on this particular day, it cloaks the hearts and minds of many people like a heavy quilt made of sorrow and pain.

 

 

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Suriname Day In Queens, NY

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Most people who hear the name Suriname will likely ask you where the country is located. Suriname is a mystery to a lot of ordinary Americans despite it bordering Brazil; the country just about everyone on planet earth knows and loves. Understandably, Suriname does not project ideas of Fantasy Island, sandy beaches with blue water type of get away destination for tourists. However, when you get to know this unique place, its people and culture, you’ll wonder why the rest of the world always asks: Where is Suriname?

Despite it being a relatively unknown location in South America, Suriname is celebrated every year in Queens, NY. Sranang Dei or Suriname Day just marked its 40th annual celebration in Roy Wilkins Park. The event is typically held in early August. This year it happened on the 7th.

Our nation, currently going through a very sensitive period with issues like police brutality, racism and divisiveness amongst its people, it is calming to know that America is still beautiful, still unique and still the great melting pot of the world. We celebrate culture, all cultures, despite what you may hear in main stream media, and Suriname Day fits right into our identity as Americans.

Suriname, located on the northeast coast of South America, can also be seen as a melting pot of cultures and people. The country is made up of immigrants from India, Indonesia, the Island of Java, Japan, China and Africa just to name a few. The indigenous population of Arawak and Carib Indians, although small in number, represent a large part of Suriname’s culture and identity. And although I loathe the term, Maroon, (due to its origin) this group of former escaped slaves also call the interior of the country home, and also represent the heart of Suriname.

Suriname Day brings all these people out for a day of celebration and togetherness. It’s also a great opportunity for them to enjoy traditional foods, games and music. What is special about this celebration is that it takes place right here in the great state of New York. And, you certainly don’t have to be Surinamese to come out and enjoy the festivities. These are the traditions and customs that bond us as one nation of people. This is American Culture.

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MVLA’s 11th Annual Latino Festival

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

The Latino Festival at Hanna Park brought out many people to celebrate a unique culture, and its significance as part of the fabric that makes up our American culture. The event marked its 11th year this time around, highlighting the lives of Latinos in the Mohawk Valley.

Latinos have called the area home for many years. They’re comprised of a diverse group of peoples from Mexico, Central and South America, and Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations. Latinos have made enormous contribution to society and American culture as a whole, however, according to a NYS Office of Cultural Education study, a historical account of their lives and migration across New York State is surprisingly very limited. Latino influences are all around us. Nevertheless, the commercialized celebrations of Latino culture barely cover the day to day realities many of them face in communities all across New York. In other words, Latinos are still struggling in an increasingly hostile world despite being one of the fastest growing communities across the state. And, we’re barely taking notice of it from a historical and archival view point, according to the study.

The State Education Department also found that only a handful of organizations are keeping historical records of Latino history and culture in the state. The researchers responsible for the publication; A Guide to Documenting Latino/Hispanic History & Culture in New York State stress that the discovery of limited data makes it all that more important for people, especially in the Latino community, to collect and record artifacts and make records to help preserve their history in New York. The study also serves as a guide for anyone interested in becoming a record collector. Another important notice taken by the researchers is that Latino activists and politicians on every level of government across the state take on tremendous tasks to support their community, but rarely get any type of official recognition for their contributions, making it even more troublesome to keep historical records and documentations of Latino lives.

With this in mind, it’s only fitting to mention the organizers of the annual Latino Festival in Utica; Sonia Martinez, Anthony Tony Colon, Lindy Colon, Kevin Marken and Ed Jackson, board members of the Mohawk Valley Latino Association, (MVLA). Mr. Colon said, “The Latino Association was formed approximately 14-years ago and we decided that every year we would have an event, invite friends and family from the community, not just Latinos but everybody, and here we are. This is our greatest turn out so far and we certainly are very supportive of the community and this is just another example of being members of this community.” Through its work in the community, MVLA in many ways serves as an unofficial collector and preserver of Latino culture in Utica.

Martinez, a founding member of MVLA fits the description of one of the community leaders that contributes substantially to Latinos in Utica. Her many contributions go largely unrecognized. Martinez is constantly on the move helping with language services, assistance with housing, social and immigration services, and even acting as a chauffeur to help those struggling make appointments. Young Latinos throughout Utica have benefitted from Martinez’s service and activism. The Latino Festival is a great opportunity to highlight the culture and its roots, and document the achievements and contributions being made by Martinez and many others like her.

Like any other official event, the festival opened with the singing of the National Anthem, sang by Lindy Colon, followed by greetings from the organizers, special guests, and local politicians, including Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, State Senator Joseph Griffo and former Congressman, Michael Arcuri.

Marken sums it up best when he said, “It’s a rich tradition. With the food, the music, the language, all of the different elements that really help America to be what it is. And the Latino, Hispanic cultures are some of the most critical important parts of that entire wonderful thing that make it up to be America.” The study noted that the Puerto Rican community is not only the largest and oldest Latino community in the state; they’re also the most documented. Their documentation and archives started in 1972 at Hunter College, “It is the only archives in New York State that is devoted primarily to Latino documentation.”

Here are some historical events and milestones in Latino/Hispanic history worth sharing:

  • Spanish American War 1898
  • Puerto Ricans granted U.S. citizenship 1917
  • Immigration acts of 1965 and 1986
  • Events in Latin America leading to emigration: Cuban revolution (1959), Dominican rebellion and U.S. occupation (1965), wars in Central America, etc.
  • Aspira Consent Decree (1973) which led to the Bilingual Education Act,( later renamed the English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act, as a result of No Child Left Behind.)

Efforts to achieve economic, social and political change remain an on-going struggle in the Latino community right here in Utica. Find out how you can help advance these goals by contacting MVLA to join local, grassroots work already underway.

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Utica’s 11th Annual Latino Festival

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

The Latino Festival at Hanna Park brought out many people to celebrate a unique culture, and its significance as part of the fabric that makes up our American culture. The event marked its 11th year this time around, highlighting the lives of Latinos in the Mohawk Valley. Latinos have called the area home for many years. They’re comprised of a diverse group of peoples from Mexico, Central and South America, and Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations. Latinos have made enormous contribution to society and American culture as a whole, however, according to a NYS Office of Cultural Education study, a historical account of their lives and migration across New York State is surprisingly very limited.

Latino influences are all around us. Nevertheless, the commercialized celebrations of Latino culture barely cover the day to day realities many of them face in communities all across New York. In other words, Latinos are still struggling in an increasingly hostile world despite being one of the fastest growing communities across the state. And, we’re barely taking notice of it from a historical and archival view point, according to the study. The State Education Department also found that only a handful of organizations are keeping historical records of Latino history and culture in the state. The researchers responsible for the publication; A Guide to Documenting Latino/Hispanic History & Culture in New York State stress that the discovery of limited data makes it all that more important for people, especially in the Latino community, to collect and record artifacts and make records to help preserve their history in New York. The study also serves as a guide for anyone interested in becoming a record collector.

Another important notice taken by the researchers is that Latino activists and politicians on every level of government across the state take on tremendous tasks to support their community, but rarely get any type of official recognition for their contributions, making it even more troublesome to keep historical records and documentations of Latino lives. With this in mind, it’s only fitting to mention the organizers of the annual Latino Festival in Utica; Sonia Martinez, Anthony Tony Colon, Lindy Colon, Kevin Marken and Ed Jackson, board members of the Mohawk Valley Latino Association, (MVLA). Mr. Colon said, “The Latino Association was formed approximately 14-years ago and we decided that every year we would have an event, invite friends and family from the community, not just Latinos but everybody, and here we are. This is our greatest turn out so far and we certainly are very supportive of the community and this is just another example of being members of this community.” Through its work in the community, MVLA in many ways serves as an unofficial collector and preserver of Latino culture in Utica.

Martinez, a founding member of MVLA fits the description of one of the community leaders that contributes substantially to Latinos in Utica. Her many contributions go largely unrecognized. Martinez is constantly on the move helping with language services, assistance with housing, social and immigration services, and even acting as a chauffeur to help those struggling make appointments. Young Latinos throughout Utica have benefitted from Martinez’s service and activism. The Latino Festival is a great opportunity to highlight the culture and its roots, and document the achievements and contributions being made by Martinez and many others like her.

Like any other official event, the festival opened with the singing of the National Anthem, sang by Lindy Colon, followed by greetings from the organizers, special guests, and local politicians, including Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, State Senator Joseph Griffo and former Congressman, Michael Arcuri. Marken sums it up best when he said, “It’s a rich tradition. With the food, the music, the language, all of the different elements that really help America to be what it is. And the Latino, Hispanic cultures are some of the most critical important parts of that entire wonderful thing that make it up to be America.”

The study noted that the Puerto Rican community is not only the largest and oldest Latino community in the state; they’re also the most documented. Their documentation and archives started in 1972 at Hunter College, “It is the only archives in New York State that is devoted primarily to Latino documentation.”

Here are some historical events and milestones in Latino/Hispanic history worth sharing:

  • Spanish American War 1898
  • Puerto Ricans granted U.S. citizenship 1917
  • Immigration acts of 1965 and 1986
  • Events in Latin America leading to emigration: Cuban revolution (1959), Dominican rebellion and U.S. occupation (1965), wars in Central America, etc.
  • Aspira Consent Decree (1973) which led to the Bilingual Education Act,( later renamed the English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act, as a result of No Child Left Behind.)

Efforts to achieve economic, social and political change remain an on-going struggle in the Latino community right here in Utica. Find out how you can help advance this process by contacting MVLA to join local, grassroots work already underway.