NEW YORK – The 60th convention of the Chios Societies of the Americas and Canada, held under the auspices of the Chian Federation of America and the Panchiaki Korais Society, featured a panel discussion on July 5 on “The Past, Present and Future of the Greek American Community” at the Cultural Center of the Chian Federation.
The guests were welcomed by Nick Papagiannakis, the General Secretary of the Chian Federation, co-chaired the event with Amalia Bournias and Anna Condoulis.
The panel was moderated by Effie Lekas, Asst. Director of the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies and consisted of Dr. Spyros Orfanos, Dr. Sam Chekwas, and Dr. Grigoris Argeros,
Among the special guests was the Metropolitan Markos of Chios, who was accompanied to the Convention by Fr. Nektarios Kostalas.
Orfanos, who is the Clinic Director, Postdoctoral Program and Clinical Professor of Psychology at NYU, briefly outlined the history and challenges and opportunities faced by the community – about which the other panelists elaborated.
He emphasized the community’s complexity which makes it difficult to generalize about both its history and the future, he noted that Greek-Americans are characterized by a strong psychological need for community, that what he called the community’s “power elite” does not have the promotion of Greek language and culture as a priority.
Nevertheless, history demonstrates that diaspora Greeks know how to adapt and survive and noted the importance of community institutions in the preservation of Greek language and culture.
Argeros, Senior Policy Analyst for the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness, began his presentation by pointing out that the while the word “assimilation” has a negative connotation in immigrant communities and meaning the loss of their ethnic identity, among scholars in simply means that those groups have become integrated into their new country and exhibit behavior of their fellow Americans like the flight to the suburbs and the pursuit of higher education.
The point being that with bold ideas and action, Hellenic identity can be preserved – but it is vital that changes be acknowledged and addressed, including the pursuit of novel mean of education the youth. One guest noted community’s affluence can easily fund virtual classrooms the internet makes for tens of thousands of children across the country who cannot attend Greek day or afternoon schools.
Checkwas, who studied Greek language and Philology and dentistry in Thessaloniki, is the publisher of Seaburn Press. He has been named both an Ambassador of Hellenism and honorary Greek citizen by Greece, but he urged the community to turn all of its children into ambassadors of Hellenism, which he called a force in the world opposing barbarism through its power to make human beings better persons.
“We have to work to become beacons of Hellenism to the world,” he said, and on a practical level in light of the Greek crisis, promoters of Greece and its products.
Chekwas, who established a school in his native Nigeria that will begin teaching Greek this fall, echoed President Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you” speech and suggested that each Greek-American organization set two priorities: the promotion of Greek language and culture, and the attraction of the community’s youth.
He urged the establishment of an education foundation to fund schools and scholarships.
The vigorous Q & A which followed picked up where Chekwas left off, with speakers noting that the key to making youth feel welcome and free to create events and programs that interest other is for them to be elected leaders.
Lekkas suggested affirmative action – formally requiring that a certain number of board and officer positions be not only for young professionals but for women also.
CONVENTION RETURNS TO NEW YORK
The Convention of Chios Societies of the Americas and Canada (CSAC), which ran from July 3 to July 6, was held in New York for the first time in 17 years and was as hailed as a success by participants and organizers.
CSAC elected it is new officers on July 5 at its Cultural Center prior to the panel discussion. The new officers are: Stelios Tsagris, President; Dimitrios Kontolios, Vice President; Stamatis Tsatsaronis, Vice President; Antonia Firakis, Secretary; Anna Contoulis, Asst. Secretary; Stefanos Bouboulis, Treasurer; and John Vavilis, Asst. Treasurer.
The new leaders took their oath of office after the Divine Liturgy that was celebrated by Metropolitan Markos, on Sunday, July 6, at the Church of Kimisis tis Theotokou in Brooklyn.
The Terrace on the Park was the scene of a dinner dance on July 5 in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of CSAC’s the establishment.
On the evening of the 4th of July, the Young Adults of the Chian Federation hosted a post-fireworks after party at the Four Points Sheraton “Vista” Rooftop Lounge in Long Island City.
The Cultural Center also housed an exhibition of Chios’ high qualify agricultural products and an exhibit titled “Chians in America – A Photographic Retrospective.”