Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Our Responsibility in Representing Greek American History _ And Why it Matters

At least two iconic images capture legendary moments of solidarity between Greek Americans and African Americans. One, of course, is that of the late Archbishop Iakovos marching next to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in support for Civil Rights. The other one is a photograph taken at a Greek immigrant diner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District circa 1930s, where the owners are seen serving African American patrons.

This is an important part of the history of Greek American–African American encounters that needs to be told, discussed, amplified, and developed.

But to have these photographs alone posted in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing does disservice to the anti-racist movement. It hides other instances when Greek Americans vocally opposed Iakovos's advocacy of Civil Rights. It silences other instances where Greek Americans opposed Greek immigrant/African American solidarities. And much more...

The publication of these iconic photographs without the acknowledgment of the multiple facets of the Greek American/African American story is absolutely misplaced, disrespectful, and dangerous in today's context. It produces ethnic amnesia and encourages ethnic celebrationism. In doing so it contributes to missing a historical opportunity for genuine self-reflection.

Ethnic self-patting on the back is disingenuous and hypocritical. What we urgently need in this heartbreaking moment is to find the courage for an open discussion about the ways in which sectors of European Americans, including Greek Americans, have contributed (and are contributing in direct and indirect ways) to the making of racial hierarchies in the United States. To transform the ways we understand ourselves in our aim to make our country a better Union.

Jewish Americans are leading the way. We cannot afford to be passive observers or merely issue general statements of support. We must indeed decide on which side we are on and identify concrete ways to act to better our country.

June 3, 2020

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Bibliography (in Progress) about Greek American–African American Encounters

The urgency of these days provides the context to learn about Greek Americans in connection to African Americans

Sources: Documentaries, novels, short stories, autobiography, biography, commentaries, book reviews, scholarship

• Dan Georgakas, "Black Metropolis," chapter in his book, My Detroit: Growing Up Greek and American in Motor City
Review by Nicholas Alexiou,

• Harry Mark Petrakis, A Tale of Color
For commentary see,

• Yiorgos Anagnostou, "Do the Right Thing: Identities as Citizenship in U.S. Orthodox Christianity and Greek America."

• George Lipsitz, Midnight at the Barrelhouse
The Johnny Otis Story

• Athanasios Grammenos,


• “The African American Civil Rights Movement and Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America,” Journal of Religion and Society 18 (2016): 1–19.

May 30, 2020

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Diaspora Literacy_The New Frontier

• Diaspora books translated into Greek.

• Novels about diaspora in Greek win European literary prizes.

• Diaspora poetry featured in Greek literary journals.

• Diaspora documentaries competing in film festivals in Britain and Greece.

• Diaspora films shown in Europe.

• Diaspora music performed everywhere.

There can be no meaningful conversation (and processes of evaluation) in all of the above without knowledge of the histories and cultures of the diaspora.

Hence the necessity for a diaspora cultural literacy across the diasporas and Greece.

In other words, it is necessary for Greek and diaspora institutions––schools, modern Greek programs everywhere, journalism, museums, literary and cultural criticism––to embrace a diasporic framework to discuss Greek cultural production.