CHICAGO, IL – Educational workshops, speeches, dancing, and celebration characterized the Pan Pontian Federation of the USA and Canada’s 4th Youth Awareness Convention held over Labor Day weekend in Chicago. Greeks of Pontian descent and their friends from several cities in North America gathered to celebrate their roots and engage in various culturally conscious activities promoting Pontian history awareness.
Kicking off the convention was a welcome glendi Friday night. Saturday morning started off with six hours of workshops and lessons for educators focusing on the latest methods and materials used to teach about the Ottoman Greek Genocide, hosted at the Courtyard Hotel. Co-hosted by the Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center (AMPHRC), the workshops included lessons from Kelley Szany, who spoke about teaching genocide in the 21st century classroom, Ron Levitsky, who discussed personal testimonies, and Anastasia Skoupas, who touched on Ottoman genocide in literature.
Jointly running the same day was the convention’s Youth Awareness Program. The event featured a PowerPoint presentation delivered by dance troupe instructor Stavros Stergiou about two teaching guides published by the AMPHRC titled “Hellenism of Asia Minor and Pontos” and “The Ottoman Greek Genocide of 1914-1923.”
“These guides are based on information we have gathered over the years,” noted George Mavropoulos, founder of the AMPHRC. “They are meant to serve as a guide or unit to instruct and inform educators as to the history and the events that led to the destruction of Hellenism in Asia Minor and Pontos and to reach the young people and teach them the Pontian history, culture, and what happened the Greeks of Pontos” he added.
The presentation was followed by a talk delivered by Peter Chresanthakis, vice president of Institutional Advancement of Anatolia College, who discussed the history of Anatolia, which was originally founded in the Pontus in 1886. A talk titled “Muhabeti or Parakathi: Pontic memory and identity as singing dialogues” was then delivered by Yannis Tsekouras, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who provided an in-depth look into Pontian tradition. For a number of the local Greek-American community’s younger members, the day also included Q and A sessions, lunch, and dance workshops.
The activity-filled weekend peaked at the Pontian Greek Society of Chicago’s 37th annual dinner dance held at the Meridian Banquet Hall in Rolling Meadows, IL that Saturday night. In attendance were Costas Tsilfides, president of the Pan Pontian Federation of the USA and Canada, who greeted guests, and Chicago-based journalist and political consultant John Davis, who stressed the importance of preserving the history of the Asia Minor and Pontos refugees.
The night continued on with a joint performance by three participating dance troupes from the cities of Chicago, Cleveland, and Norwalk, to the beat of the lyra, daouli, and music by Kostas Fetfatsidis, Peter Skoupas, and a number of visiting musicians.
Sunday’s activities hosted at St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Des Plaines, IL included a short theatrical play by Vasiliki Tsanatskidou, followed by more dance performances, closing a weekend of learning and fun in commemoration and celebration of Pontian tradition and history. The next Pontian academic conference will be held in New York in 2015. Visit pontiangreeks.org for more information on future events.