This year and the coming year are both years of milestones; a bicentennial to celebrate this year, and next year, one centennial to celebrate and another, tragic, centennial to commemorate. This year, 2021, is the bicentennial of the start of the Greek War of Independence, which has had both great commemorations by some Greek Diaspora organizations and some Greek municipalities, and in the case other institutions, including the official committee of the Greek state, it has fallen woefully flat. Next year is another milestone year, wherein we commemorate the anniversary of the Greek Genocide and expulsion of Asia Minor/Thracian Hellenism, and the centennial of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), founded in Atlanta in the face of bigotry to provide Greek Americans with an institutional center of gravity to honor both country and heritage.
These dates must be honored.
I have been proud to have participated in any number of events, whether by the East Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance’s (EMBCA) series of digital panel lectures, a plethora of articles (including in this venue), and wider discussion in the community and academia about the Greek Bicentennial.
One of my greatest pleasures was to come up with the idea, and start the initial dialogue, for a Sister City relationship between my island, Hydra, and Tarpon Springs, Florida. The final protocol for this relationship was signed in September of 2021, a fitting year for an island with such a pivotal role in Greece’s fight for freedom.
I believe that the coming year, with the centennial of AHEPA and the commemoration of the Greek Genocide, there is yet another opportunity for Greek Americans to tie together their American communities with ancestral homelands in Greece. The nature of our chain migration patterns—of relatives bringing relatives or fellow villagers—has often resulted in distinctive regional clusters of Greeks in various parts of the country, which provides an interesting opportunity to leverage strong ties both here in the United States and in Greece to create city-to-city bonds that celebrate both countries and provide an opportunity to foster cultural, educational, and business exchanges. In spite of what people in DC would have us believe, “all politics is local,” and this program leverages “local” in both countries.
The “Greek Story,” put in a context that is relatable to our fellow Americans, is a story both of interest and worth telling. I have never lacked for an audience for my lectures when placed in an American context, such as “The American Revolution Exported: Greece in 1821.” Next year also allows us the unique opportunity to highlight the fate of the Greek population in the Ottoman Empire, one year before the Turkish Republic’s centennial—and you better believe the Turks will “big up” this milestone.
I hardly think that a goal of ten sister cities relationships between Greece and the United States is outside the ability of our community in the United States. Besides, the relationships need not be between mega metropolises, such as Athens and, say, Dallas. They could be a smaller town in the US with a Greek town with relevant synchronicities, for example, Greeks with ancestral ties there, or similar features, industries, or topographies.
I have proposed, for example, that my hometown of Salt Lake City form a sister cities relationship with a city in Crete, as a very large portion of Utah Greeks are of Cretan descent. I have also suggested that the small town of Salem, South Carolina, home to the Archdiocesan Diakonia Center, what I have termed as America’s Mystra, might want to form a sister city relationship with the municipality of Mystra—in Greece. The options are limited only by imagination and effort, and what better way to tie our country and heritage together.
The time is now, dates and milestones are important.
For more information about Sister Cities, click on the program’s website, here: https://sistercities.org/