ATHENS – When the COVID pandemic crashed into plans for the celebration of the Greek Bicentennial, many organizations and individuals threw up their hands with the all-purpose Greek cop-out ‘τι να κανουμε – what are you gonna do? – but not AHEPA, EMBCA – or Lou Katsos, prominent leader in both.
Katsos is Chairman of AHEPA's Hellenic Cultural Commission and until recently was Governor of New York AHEPA District 6, the largest in AHEPA’s national and international domain.
He is also president and founder of the East Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance
Katsos spoke to the National Herald about the importance of marking the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution.
“I started to have events not when almost everyone else started, i.e. this year, but more than 1 ½ years ago, panel discussions with scholars from around the world on various aspects of the Revolution.”
There have been more than 15 events, mainly virtual due to COVID, and over time they went beyond historical highlights, diving into what made that particular Hellenic revolution a success. Previous efforts since 1453 failed, for example, Orlov Rebellion in the 1770s.
It was also his aim “to get people to understand the Revolution was not just about Greece, that it was also an international endeavor.” Katsos notes that, “the Hellenic Revolution had tremendous influence on other things happening in the world at that time.”
He emphasized the importance of the Hellenic Revolution for America. “Not only from the perspective of what America contributed to the effort – whether it was Americans going there to fight, or sending material support, but also the effect of the Revolution after it was over on America itself.”
The people who returned and who were members of Greek committees back in the United States – who were caught up in what was called the ‘Greek Fire’ – were not the same after their experiences. Members of those committees fighting to liberate Hellenes from slavery became imbued with ideas and concepts that caused them to also focus on what was occurring in the United States, so that some became major abolitionists like Samuel Gridley Howe, Jonathan Miller, etc.
“The participants also picked up on women’s rights and became leaders in the Women’s Suffrage movement,” he said.
Among the participants on the panels was Philhellene Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who caused references to entered into the Congressional Record. Congressman Gus Bilirakis spoke about the lives of Greek orphans who came to the United States and became prominent citizens. Both are members of EMBCA’s Hellenic Revolution Bicentennial Committee.
Of course, the recent events covered the pivotal role of the Hellenic Diaspora in the Revolution and one of the more fascinating ones was called 1821: Revolution and Poetry in Motion. “We discussed – in a very serious way – how poetry seriously affected the Revolution,” both Hellenes inspiring Hellenes and people like Lord Byron inspiring Philhellenes across Europe and the United States Katsos said.
Those panel discussions impacted other organizations in the Greek-American community and beyond as they picked up the topics for their own events.
In the fields of culture and commerce Katsos is involved with numerous communities. “The Greek-American community gains strength through involvement with other communities that can then support you, such as the African American community.” He has been an Executive Board member of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce.
Education being a personal priority, Katsos was an Adjunct Professor at Cooper Union and NYU for almost 30 years. His philanthropic efforts include donations to the Spartan Museum at UConn and making substantial donations for scholarships. He is also construction advisor for St. Nicholas at Ground Zero.
KATSOS DECLARES HIS AHEPA SUPREME VP CANDIDACY
AHEPA is the organization that ties together all of Katsos’ passions and hopes for Hellenism, which has motivated him to more directly address some of his concerns. He noted that in recent years, elections at the national levels were the result of cooperation rather than completion between AHEPA’s two major parties, with the holders of top offices being more or less set years in advance. While at first that was a welcome change from the bitter, often vicious battles and other kinds of dysfunction that prevailed through the 1990s, more and more Ahepans feel the net result has been, if not stagnation, a brake on the organization’s development and potential.
Katsos is among those. Despite AHEPA’s recent progress on many fronts, he said, “I believe there is something missing, and that it can become larger. I believe things can get better and that I can made a difference, just as working with great teams I built up District 6 and Delphi Chapter 25 in Manhattan, where we took a small chapter and made it the largest in the world.”
For all those reasons, he decided to run for Supreme Vice President knowing that all the current forces will be arrayed against him, “because there has not been a contested election in many years.” He is optimistic, however, despite the likely tough battle, because at the district level he has put up candidates other than the establishment’s – “and they won.”