Friday, March 29, 2013

My Name is Mihalis – Testimony about Outsiderhood in Greece

Translation from Greek – Original source, – 10/29/12

My name is Mihalis. I was born in Athens, in 1980. My parents lived in Pangrati at the time. Once I was born we moved to Patisia. My parents are from Nigeria. My father came to Greece for College, in the 1970s. My mother joined him some time later. I don't remember much from my childhood. It was fine with my schoolmates in elementary school. It was only during soccer-related brawls that they insulted me because of my color. I was the only black student in the school. I also remember this scene: One day, after a fight, they put me in the middle and kept cursing me. Then one boy, his name was Ilias, rushed to my defense. Since then we became buddies. At home we first spoke Nigerian and English. But this interfered with my school performance until a teacher instructed my parents to speak Greek to me. With time Greek became the language we used at home. Greek and hip hop. I exclusively speak Greek since I was nine years old. I am fluent in English. I understand Nigerian but no longer speak it. I got my passion for music because of all these different language sounds I was exposed to. In high school I developed a passion for street art, hip hop and Dream "N" Base. I spent a great deal of time organizing parties and exchanging music with my friends. At that time I became very religious. And with religion came existential conflict. Because religion advocated peace and hip hop spoke about revolution. Religion was a wish, hip hop was action. Hip hop and street art served as outlets for me. At that time I started writing poetry. I wrote about racism too. All of a sudden I became conscious about something I had repressed: the color of my skin; being black. I am proud to be black. To be black however, is to keep facing a wall in front of you. It means to spend a great deal of energy to convince people around you that you are not only good for selling CDs [many immigrants from Africa are CD vendors] or play basketball; to convince them that you can become a lawyer, a doctor, a writer, anything you wish. To be black means to live with the reality of your color, to breath it [color becomes an inherent part of you]. People do not allow you to forget it [color marks you as different in the eyes of the people; you are not allowed to pass unnoticed]. You shock them the most, however, when you speak to them in Greek without an accent. This shocks them. Anyway... It was one summer in the island of Syros when my life was turned upside down. I had just finished high school and wanted to study Fine Arts. I started taking private lessons in drawing. That summer I went to Syros to practice in my tutor's workshop. I was strolling one evening when a police car stopped in front of me. Two policemen asked for my papers. The only document I had with me was my birth certificate; I thought this was enough since I was born in Greece. I was taken to the police station where I was informed that the papers were not complete. One policeman told me that I would be deported. Where? I asked? To the border and then to the country you came from. I did not come to Greece, I was born in Greece I said. I got no answer. “Deportation,” “borders,” I felt like the whole thing was unreal (that it was like being in a film). Things turned upside down, I was scared to death. I stayed in prison for three days, sleeping on the ground in a tiny, dark cell with two Pakistani nationals who spoke neither English nor Greek. During these three days everything turned upside down within me. I was released after friends and lawyers intervened. Many questions torture me since then. Who was I? I understood then why I was not called to serve the army (army service is mandatory for all Greek males). "My friend you are a foreigner," I told myself. I didn't want to believe it though. I thought the police had made a mistake. [These thoughts] were a defense mechanism so that I will not collapse. The papers, the papers, the papers. When the words "papers" and "allodapos/someone from another place/foreigner" entered my life I saw my situation clearly. I went to the City Hall and asked if they could issue an ID for me since I was born here. They curtly said no. Then the whole bureaucratic process takes over: waiting in lines, going back and forth between one office and the next, the unending waiting. By the time the permit is issued it is already expired. Then the same process starts all over again, the endless waiting. With this your life goes to waste. Your best years are wasted chasing this permit. You cannot travel anywhere. I abandoned my dream to attend College because of this situation. In 2002 I was invited in France to represent Greece in a street art performance. I could not go because I had no papers. I wanted to start my own business but I could not because I had no papers. Greek is my language… Gradually you feel a gap between yourself and your friends. They move on and about freely. But anyone who has no papers cannot make plans for the future. Talking about a life that degenerates. You are twenty years old and cannot make plans for the future. As a result you are worn out imperceptible, you feel small, you turn inward (become anti-social). You have to watch out not to become a misanthropist; not to see everyone around you as an enemy. Then there are all these questions [you ask yourself]: Who are you? You were born here, you sing the Greek national anthem, you recited poems in school during Greek independence celebrations. Still, you are considered a foreigner. You have never been to Nigeria. Greek is your language. So, what are you? If this does not drive you insane, what will? You have to fight tooth and nail not to allow this reality to wipe you out. What do I do these days? I spend time listening to music and with the street art theater. I now work at "Cosmopolitanism," a cultural center that organizes many events with immigrant artists. [You are asking] about my papers? It has been two years that I have been waiting. About the future? The future, my friend, is my dreams. My dreams are my shield and my freedom…

Translation Yiorgos Anagnostou (March 2013)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Immigration Reform and the Greek American Experience

By Andy Manatos

Special to TNH

Washington is buzzing about Immigration Reform – a subject to which Greek-Americans can relate. We understand the subject of immigration and the need to update our immigration laws, which both shortchange today’s Greeks and fail to effectively manage the influx of immigrants from other nations. Today’s immigration reform can better secure our borders and more efficiently expel convicted criminals. It can also find ways to better integrate into our country, through proper channels, scores of people who, like the Greek-American immigrants of our community, are hard-working, family-oriented lovers of America.

Our community remembers how tough it is to be an immigrant. All of the Greek-Americans who immigrated to this country in the early 1900s were dirt poor. Like today’s immigrants, they came to our shores with nothing but a burning desire to improve their lives, and, more importantly, for Greek immigrants, a desire to improve the lives of their children.

As we participate in our democracy as it addresses immigration reform, it might be helpful for us to remember our history – to remind ourselves that although our immigrant parents, grandparents and great grandparents were dirt poor, uneducated, and often illiterate in English and Greek, they were among the finest people we have ever known. We all might handle the immigration reform issue more wisely if we remind ourselves that we really are for today’s immigrants, legal and illegal, their “fellow immigrants.”

For the entire essay see,

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Yannis Simonides Interview

Τοποθέτηση κλειδί για την πολιτιστική και πολιτική ευρωστία των Ελληνοαμερικανών

«Αν δεν πεις την ιστορία σου δεν πάς πουθενά σαν διασπορά. 
Αν δεν υποστηρίξεις τρία πράγματα: τέχνες, παιδεία, και επικοινωνίες
(αν δεν ενθαρρύνεις τα παιδιά να γίνουν συγγραφείς, δημοσιογράφοι)
[δεν πάς πουθενά σαν διασπορά]

Δεν έχουμε Ελληνοαμερικανική φωνή· ελάχιστη» 

Δέστε όλη την συνέντευξη:

"New Diaspora" Initiative

"New Diaspora is an open letter with multiple senders and even more recipients, focusing on the personal stories of Greeks who decided to move abroad.
Why did we leave? What’s our point of view on the current situation in Greece? How much have we adapted to our new lives?
The main narrative drive is a web documentary series directed by Nicolas Stamboulopoulos, who lives and works in Amsterdam since October 2009.
At the same time, New Diaspora is an open community, where expatriate Greeks can share their own creative content and opinions, from wherever they are. Documenting themselves on video, sending photos, writing posts and proposing ideas that are relevant to the platform’s subject.
Beginning our journey from what unites us instead of what divides us, our aim is to intervene jointly and dynamically in the public debate concerning what’s happening in our homeland. Also, to redefine our collective identity and to offer an alternative perspective on the international image of Greeks.
In order to retain our independence, we rely on financial support from our friends. Even the smallest contribution counts"

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ταξισυνειδησία: Η Άγνωστη Ιστορία του Ελληνοαμερικανικού Ριζοσπαστισμού

Συνέντευξη του Κωστή Καρπόζηλου στον Άκη Παλαιολόγο   
14.03.13Περιοδικό Εκτός Γραμμής, Τεύχος 32 / Μάρτιος 2013

2013 03 14 KARPOZILOSΤην πολιτική και κοινωνική δράση των ελληνοαμερικανικών κοινοτήτων στο πρώτο μισό του 20ού αιώνα πραγματεύεται το ντοκιμαντέρΤαξισυνειδησία: η άγνωστη ιστορία του ελληνοαμερικανικού ριζοσπαστισμού. Με αφορμή την ολοκλήρωση του ντοκιμαντέρ, ο Κωστής Καρπόζηλος, ιστορικός, μεταδιδακτορικός ερευνητής του Πανεπιστημίου Κολούμπια, εμπνευστής και κινητήριος μοχλός της όλης προσπάθειας, αναφέρεται σε όψεις μιας σχετικά «αχαρτογράφητης» και ταυτόχρονα εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρουσας πτυχής της ιστορίας του εργατικού κινήματος.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Greek America – Visualizing Identity

Many thanks to CC for alerting me to this

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Greek Language in the U.S. – A Resource

Πρόγραμμα Σπουδών για τη διδασκαλία της ελληνικής σε ομογενείς των Η.Π.Α.

Α Curriculum for the teaching of Modern Greek language to the Greek Diaspora of U.S.A.

Με χαρά σάς ανακοινώνουμε ότι το Ινστιτούτο Νεοελληνικών Σπουδών (Ίδρυμα Μανόλη Τριανταφυλλίδη) του Α.Π.Θ., στο πλαίσιο της συνεργασίας του με το Γραφείο Παιδείας Αμέσου Αρχειπισκοπικής Περιφέρειας της Ιεράς Αρχιεπισκοπής Αμερικής,ετοίμασε ένα Πρόγραμμα Σπουδών για τη διδασκαλία της ελληνικής ως ξένης γλώσσας που αφορά το Α΄ Επίπεδο (για αρχάριους).

Εναρμονισμένο με τις προδιαγραφές των εκπαιδευτικών αρχών της Πολιτείας της Νέας Υόρκης για την εκμάθηση ξένων γλωσσών, το Πρόγραμμα αυτό είναι διαθέσιμο στον ιστότοπο της Ιεράς Αρχιεπισκοπής Αμερικής ( Ήδη το Ίδρυμά μας έχει ξεκινήσει την εκπόνηση του αντίστοιχου Προγράμματος Σπουδών για το Β΄ Επίπεδο.

Με τον τρόπο αυτό το Ινστιτούτο μας αποδεικνύει ότι δεν βρίσκεται κοντά μόνο στους εκπαιδευτικούς και μαθητές/φοιτητές της πατρίδας μας, αλλά αγκαλιάζει τον απανταχού ελληνισμό, πιστό στις αρχές του ιδρυτή του, Μανόλη Τριανταφυλλίδη.

The message in English:

The Institute of Modern Greek Studies (Manolis Triandaphyllidis Foundation) of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki is pleased to announce the publication of a Curriculum for the teaching of Modern Greek as a foreign language (Checkpoint A) for beginners. This is the latest product of the Institute's collaboration with the Direct Archdiocesan District Office of Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

This Curriculum is in adherence to the standards of the New York State Education Department for the teaching of foreign languages, and is available on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America ( The preparation of the Checkpoint B Curriculum by our Institute is already in progress.

The new and the forthcoming publications prove that our Institute not only remains close to the teachers and students of our country, but it also embraces the Greek Diaspora, loyal to the principles of its founder,Manolis Triandaphyllidis.