Irish America is Bouncing Back Better

Global Irish Campfire — I spent a day last month (August 19) immersed in all aspects of Irish American arts, culture, and business at the third annual Global Irish Campfire at Iona University, in New Rochelle, New York. The UICC was invited to send a representative to discuss innovation within Irish Centers for a post pandemic era and to discuss challenges in creating sustainable Irish community centers. We also had the opportunity to present on the 2025 Project. As part of the excellently organized symposium, speakers and panels were also afforded a national and international audience (via zoom) and so the Irish Center 2025 Project was beamed across the globe.

Founded by the Christian Brothers in 1940, Iona College is a newly named university campus (it was promoted to university status this past July). The campus is just about an hour north of NYC and easily accessible via the Metro North rail line from Grand Central Station. I love to return to New York City every chance I can. It’s where my own Irish American immigrant story began in June of 1995 when I arrived at JFK airport in Flushing Meadows, Queens. After disembarking the Aer Lingus flight from Shannon, I made my way to a US immigration kiosk where I handed over my passport which included my DV-1 visa (green card) paperwork. After a quick look up and down between documents, my passport photo and myself – the agent behind the counter said “Welcome to the United States of America”. What a great welcome to get from an immigration officer!

GlobaBAl Beginning — The Global Irish Campfire is the brainchild of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Publisher of the Irish Echo -the most widely read Irish-American newspaper in the United States. Developed as an online symposium with 700 participants and 100 Speakers in 2020, the gathering was hybrid last year in NYC at Rosie O’Gradys in midtown Manhattan. This year’s Campfire was almost 100% in person – save Gerry Adams and Congressman Brendan F. Boyle (PA) who appeared via Zoom.

All Together Now — It was great to hear about what other Irish centers are doing as we all emerge from the pandemic in terms of building back our in-person programming and bolstering engagement of the community. Many of the Irish centers across the USA are doing better than before the lockdowns as membership and support of Centers has increased. A common theme across the US at the moment is the lack of programming space for music and dance spaces—something we are well aware of here at the Center. Another is the hesitancy of the older generation to engage in in-person events. It seems like Zoom events (which are hard to monetize) are here to stay.

2025 Project Reaction — As part of the campfire program I got to present at length about the 2025 Project. After the talk and a showing of the 3D video fly through of our proposed new building, which many of the people were seeing for the first showed their appreciation with a loud round of applause. After the talk many people came up to me to wish us luck with our ambitious project. There are many people across the country rooting for us!

I must say the technical hookups and broadcast of the entire conference proceedings was top class.

Hats off to Aisling Events who was responsible for the recording, sound, and lighting at the conference. All of the talks and panels are now available on YouTube. We will share those on our social media channels.

Campfire attendees were amazed at the scale and ambitious nature of the 2025 plan and congratulated our efforts to expand our cultural footprint and facility as a community hub on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The symposium concluded with the awards luncheon where I collected a coveted Cara medal on behalf of all the work that the entire Board of Directors has done in the recent past to ensure the success of the Irish Center.

Blood Drive Success — Local 798 Firefighters Union teamed up with the Center for a Blood Drive on August 23. A total of 38 units of blood was donated which will help 114 patients. Thank you to SFFD Paramedic Jeff Marcaletti for coordinating the effort.

President of Sinn Féin — Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin President, will visit the Irish Center on Friday September 9th for a dinner hosted by the Friends of Sinn Féin in the St. Patrick’s room. Tickets: Ciarán Scally (510) 333-2677.

Irish Comedy Night — Ardal O’Hanlon makes his much awaited return to the Center on Saturday, September 10. The entertainment starts at 8 pm.

Robert Emmet Commemoration — The United Irish Societies Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day Robert Emmet Commemoration takes place on September 18, 2022 at the Golden Gate Park Band concourse. Eamon De Valera dedicated the Statue of the Robert Emmet in front of the Academy of Sciences 102 years ago. Starts at 12 noon.

Mad Hatter Tea Party — The annual Patrick J. Dowling Library Fundraiser takes place on Saturday, September 25 from 1-3pm. Hats encouraged, sandwiches, sweet treats, and assorted goodies served. Anne Cassidy Carew is once again the gracious host, and this event is one of most colorful days at the Centers each year.

Byrne Brothers Music — The Byrne Brothers will return to the Center on September 28. Their mid-week concert is a few days before they fly off to Los Angeles to pick up the “Young Artist Academy Award for Music Ensemble 2022”.

Hinterland West — As one of the sponsors of Hinterland West 2022, the Center is delighted that the festival events on the weekend of Oct. 1-2, 2022 will take place here. This two-day literary festival features a compelling lineup of leading writers, thinkers, and creative talents from Ireland and the Bay Area.

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Liam Reidy