Greeks in Hawaii and Their Festival

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Greek sailors found their way to Hawaii Islands on whalers and trading vessels after 1830. Beginning in the late 1870s, some forty men from the small Mediterranean country migrated and settled on the Big Island and O‘ahu. They set up produce-growing and shipping operations, cafés, bars, rooming houses, and hotels. To a man they supported the monarchy and participated after the overthrow in the movement to restore the queen to the throne. Imprisoned and suffering business losses for these activities, they reluctantly accommodated to annexation. By World War II, some two hundred men, women, and children formed a community. Migration increased after World War II and a Greek church was established. Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral is now the center of Orthodoxy in Hawaii.

Each year the small congregation of about 100 families puts on a festival of epic proportions. The purpose of the festival is to raise funds for the church and help introduce and perpetuate Greek Culture in Hawaii.

The Greek Festival is scheduled for August 29th and 30th from 12 noon until 9pm at McCoy Pavilion, Ala Moana Park with Greek music, dancing and food.

One of America’s principal Byzantine Iconographers, Diamantis John Cassis will be featured at the 29th annual Greek Festival. Cassis will give a thirty minute presentation each day as well as paint icons on site. Lithographs of some of his most famous work will also be available for sale.

A native of Galaxidion, Greece, Cassis produces iconography in the traditional Byzantine style in painted icons ranging from sets for the iconostasia of churches to single panels of all sizes. In addition to painted icons, Cassis specializes in hand-tooled metal icons in copper and brass. These metal icons, exhibiting intricate detail in low relief, are used as panel icons as well as being incorporated into processional and blessing crosses and liturgical banners.

In addition to Cassis, the festival features “all things Greek” including live and lively Greek entertainment and some of the best authentic Greek food available in Hawaii.

Festival highlights include performances by “FOTIA,” a popular Greek band from the West Coast, plus performances by guitarist Sotos Kappas, dance performances by The Nisiotes Dance Group and more. There will be Greek Folk Dance Instruction sessions where audience participation is encouraged.

Authentic and delicious Mediterranean Greek foods will be available including Spanakopita (Spinach Pie), Gyro sandwiches, Moussaka, Pastichio, Greek Chicken, Souvlaki (skewered beef and pork), Greek and Pasta Salads, Loukoumades (Greek Malasadas), baklava and a wide assortment of Greek Pastries. The Greek Taverna will feature imported Greek Beer, Ouzo, Red, White and Retsina Greek wines.

Admission is $3.00 for adults, free for children 11 years and younger and active military and their families.

The 29th Annual Greek Festival is presented by Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Pacific. For more information go to www.greekfestivalhawaii.com.

Modern Greek Department at Cambridge University is Facing Closure

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Lack of funds may force the Modern Greek department at Cambridge University to close, despite the fact it has been providing high-quality studies in the modern Greek language and literature at the undergraduate, master and PhD levels for the past 70 years.

Professor David Holton, currently chair of modern Greek at Cambridge University, spoke recently at the Academy of Athens in a celebration organised by the British Embassy to celebrate Cambridge’s 800 years. Holton said that despite an immense contribution to research of the Greek language, the department was facing closure unless some form of rescue was on the way and he appealed for support.

Due to retire in a few years, Holton was anxious to secure the future of the department to which he has devoted a substantial part of his life – and the continuation of the work he started when he first took the appointment more than 28 years ago.

Holton launched an appeal hoping to raise ₤4 million (US$7 million) to be placed in an endowment fund to provide sufficient income to replace him when he retires and to appoint a full-time lecturer on a permanent basis.

He is currently negotiating with Greek authorities but is also looking towards cultural foundations, charitable institutions and wealthy private individuals. Holton rejects criticism that Greece has not helped and points out that in the past the Greek Education Ministry and the Ministry of Culture have provided some support even if it was fragmentary and irregular.

One form of support was the secondment of a teacher of Greek by the Ministry of Education to Cambridge. But the arrangement was not ideal and caused a number of problems to the section and to the holder.

A grant by the Leventis Foundation enabled the university to set up a professorship of Greek culture which focuses on ancient Greece.

Holton is only the third academic to hold the Lewis-Gibson chair, endowed by wealthy sisters from Scotland who married and settled in Cambridge at the beginning of the last century. They never forgot their visits to Greece and Cyprus or their knowledge of modern Greek which made their studies in Mount Sinai so much easier.

Romilly Jenkins, who started as a classical archaeologist and became one of the leading Byzantine historians of his generation, was the first to be appointed to the chair. He was succeeded by Stavros Papastavrou, graduate of Aristotle University in Thessaloniki and Oxford University who held the position for 32 years until his death in 1979. He was fortunate to see four of his students becoming leading academics in universities in three continents.

During a short stopover on his way to a conference in Crete, where he was the guest of honour, Holton spoke to University World News about his plans, his hopes and his aspirations for the modern Greek section and the Greek language and culture.

“Whenever one mentions Greece one immediately thinks of ancient Greece,’ he complains rather good-humouredly. “Yet modern Greek language and culture have a great deal to offer. Modern Greek society today is full of energy and there are a lot of excellent examples in literature, poetry, music, film and many more.”

He reels off names such as Elytis, Seferis, Gatsos and Ritsos, Theodorakis and Hatzidakis, Aggelopoulos and others: “If only one can find a way to project them effectively,” he muses.

Postgraduate modern Greek studies at Cambridge have notched a substantial improvement in the last couple of decades according to Holton. Twelve students from Greece and Cyprus have completed their doctoral theses in subjects from medieval mythology and literature as well as the literature and the poetry of the 20th century. Many of these students are now in important positions in Greek and Cypriot universities as well as in the US.

During his tenure, Holton has published many books including The Tale of Alexander – The rhymed version, the early 17th century epic romance by Vincenzo Kornaros (1563-1614), Erotokritos and other modern Greek texts, Literature and Society in Renaissance Crete (1991), as well as two grammar books on the modern Greek language with Peter Mackridge and Irene Phillipaki-Warburton among others.

Over the last 16 years, Holton also published KAMPOS: Cambridge Papers in Modern Greek, with the edited texts of some of the lectures given by invited Greek and foreign speakers at Cambridge during the previous academic year as well as news and events which took place in the modern Greek Section.

His most important project however, is a new Greek Grammar which will be the first comprehensive description of the medieval and early modern Greek language funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

For the past five years, a team led by himself and co-directed by Professor Geoff Horrocks of the faculty of classics, with two full-time research associates and two honorary consultants, has been gathering, analysing and organising linguistic data for the period 1100-1700 when the beginnings of the modern vernacular became evident.

“Despite the increasing availability of material there has been no systematic and detailed account of the development of the Greek language during this crucial period’ says Bolton. “And this grammar aims to fill a serious gap in the history of the Greek language.”

The grammar spans a geographical area from Italy to the Black Sea and underpins a growing interest in medieval and early modern Greek literature and its historical, social and cultural content encompassing written texts of all kinds while it gives a full account of linguistic development within this period.

It is a high-tech project using electronic databases and digitalised corpora to store and sort out a mass of information. Once it is completed it will be published by Cambridge University Press.

Were it to be judged only on its output and the level and quality of its research, the future of the modern Greek section would be more than assured. Unfortunately, as Constantinos Dimadis, Emeritus Professor at the Berlin Freie Universitat and President of the European Association of Modern Greek Studies, wrote in the prologue to a Cambridge in Athens brochure: “The overturning of the conditions which defined the legal framework of European universities in favour of exclusively financial criteria, bodes serious dangers for the existence of many academic branches.”

Holton however, refuses to be swamped by the many difficulties and remains stubbornly optimistic. Justifiably, he claims that his modern Greek section at Cambridge, together with a few others spread around the world, are engaged in a sort of “cultural diplomacy” which is far too important for the Greek state, wealthy patriotic Greek individuals and Greek society to ignore.

The funds needed to sustain the Cambridge department are not only small but also great value for money.

(Source:universityworldnews.com / Makki Marseilles)

Greek American Attorneys Seek Ways to Work Together

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This summer, representatives from the Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois and the Hellenic Lawyers Association of New York, the two largest Hellenic bar associations in the country, met to discuss ways in which to promote the interests Greek-American attorneys. Diamond Mendonies, President of the Hellenic Bar Association (“HBA”) of Illinois, and Elena Paraskevas-Thadani, Vice-President of the Hellenic Lawyers Association (“HLA”) of New York, met at (where else) a Greek Restaurant called Yianni’s Cafe in Schamburg, Illinois. Their meeting was a long-time in the making– HLA President Mamie Stathatos-Fulgieri and former President Mark Pulakidas have been discussing ways in which the two organizations can help each other for almost two years.

The meeting between the two organizations was very fruitful. The grounds were laid for more frequent communication, possible joint programs and conferences and a free exchange of ideas and resources. While the goals of both organizations are very similar – scholarships to law students, outreach to the community, and programs and networking for their members, specific programs and methods vary and the two organizations hope to learn from each other and improve their offerings to their membership. The cooperation of these two associations is they key to the success of a national Hellenic lawyers association, which is in the works. For now, the groundwork having been laid, the leaders of the HLA and the HBA hope for more opportunities to break bread together.

The HBA and the HLA are believed to be the oldest and largest Hellenic Lawyer Associations in the United States. There are estimated to be about 500 Hellenic American attorneys in the Chicago area and more than twice that number in the New York City area. For more information on the HBA or HLA visit www.hellenicbar.org or www.helleniclawyersassociation.org.

(source: hellenicnews.com)

Expatriates reactions over flight itinerary reductions

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An upheaval of representatives of the Greek Diaspora of America and Canada was caused by the decision made by Marfin Investment Group (MIG) to reduce the number of itineraries of Olympic Airways, regarding destinations such as New York, Toronto, Montreal and Johannesburg. Anastasios Christoforou, president of the Federation of Greek Communities in South Africa, mentioned that the Athens-Johannesburg route is the most crucial link between metropolitan Greece and a sector of Hellenism that lives under special conditions in the southernmost tip of Africa, noting that the route boosts entrepreneurial activity that has recently been developed between Greece and South Africa. Circles at MIG noted that the company is gearing towards continuing Olympic Air routes to NY, Johannesburg, Montreal and Toronto via a common code with other airlines. MIG also states that starting October, the company will restart routes to Australia with the same method of cooperation and added that the reduction of the company’s network by 65% of the total of the previous company is an obligation made to the European commission. The related agreement has already been completed with DELTA airlines for the US with the existence of Greek crew members on board while the remaining agreements are in the final stages of completion.

From Greece to Turkey: A Sunset to Sunrise Train Ride

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View from the train as it leaves Thessaloniki

When most of people think of trains in Europe the first thing that comes to their mind is “The Orient Express”. Rightfully so, as it is still the most luxurious train running. And the most expensive. The new era of trains may seem less luxurious but is also more affordable. A ticket from Thessaloniki to Istanbul costs only 30 euros and is almost like having a hotel room in addition to transportation since you can sleep there at night. Cabins in the train come with a sink, a bed and a little sofa. What more could you ask for on a train ride that already provides a vantage point for one of the most beautiful sunsets Greece has to offer, as the train is exiting Thessaloniki and glides through bucolic farmlands. As night falls, and if you are lucky to travel with a moon, you will see its reflection at the meeting point of East and West on the Evros River, the natural border of Greece and Turkey.

Taking a train means dedicating a few more hours to your traveling, though most travels believe this is the preferred way of travel. “It cleans your mind,” I overheard a fellow traveller saying to his wife in their cabin. He was right. Taking the train means that you change ambience completely as you go back in time not only in terms of technology but in terms of feeling a slower pace of live and having more time to appreciate the beauty right outside your window.

The Train in Istanbul Station (right)

The second and final act of the ride is arriving in Istanbul as the sun is rising. Not only you get to see the city covered in the golden morning sunlight but you also get a head start. Aghia Sofia, Top Kapi and everything you have heard of are in front of your eyes as the train enters the city and your excitement peaks. Our suggestion is that after you arrival, head to your hotel and get into a Turkish bath. I went to “The Byzantium Hotel” where they also have a spa facility and the cleansing Turkish bath after the train completed my “traveling back in time” Eastern experience.

For more info about the trains visit: www.ose.gr

(Photo Credit Rachel Portele)

“The Greek American Image in American Cinema”

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“How American films depict Greek Americans tells us more about American culture than about Greek Americans. Cinema generally reflects contemporary cultural beliefs. By presenting those values in vivid forms, cinema reinforces them. The general rule is that screenwriters, directors, cinematographers, and actors do not have any special knowledge of Greek America and reproduce the dominant negative and positive cultural stereotypes”, states  Dan Georgakas in his latest project “The Greek American Image in the American Cinema”

He is the director of the Greek American Studies Project at the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, Queens College-City University of New York. He is also a long-time editor of Cineaste film quarterly. His major occupation is that of writer and editor. For many years, however, he taught courses at Queens College and New York University.

Dan Georgakas

He has conducted a unique filmography (still in progress), which offers an account of the image of Greek Americans in American cinema, reveals how mainstream America has perceived Greek Americans at any given moment and how American cinema has reacted to that perception. For the purpouses of the project, Greek America is composed of immigrants and any offspring who self-define themselves as Greek.

How did you come up with the idea to create the Greek American Film List?

The Greek American Image in American Cinema grew out of an article I wrote for Cineaste in which I noted that European ethnic images (not just Greeks) were largely absent in Hollywood films. The only exception to that rule is the Irish.

What is your goal with the project?

I wish to identify how Greek Americans are depicted in American films. I want to see if any thematic emerge that involve sex, chronology, foreign affairs, and the like. I commenced the project without any preconceived notions of what these themes might be.

Was there a previous bibliography similar to your project?

No other filmography of this type was ever been attempted.

What are the patterns that you can draw from your research in regard to how Greeks were portrayed throughout the years from the beginning of Hollywood?

I have identified approximately 80 films with Greek American characters. I have only been able to view about half of them at this stage of the project. But some themes have begun to emerge. From the 1930s-1950s well over half the Greek American characters are professional gamblers. There is also a theme of Greeks as wrestlers. Broadly, there are many more male characters than female, and the female characters are almost all stereotypical mothers or sisters. From the mid-1950s onward, there begin to be more and more Greek professionals such as attorneys and architects.The first Greek professional identified so far is from a film of the late 1960s.

What was the most common profession that Greeks had in the movies?

See above. Also there is a kind of minor genre featuring sponge divers of Florida. Greeks spongers are almost all positive images.

Were the characters realistic or close to the truth?

Most of the films seen to date tend to stereotypes, They reflect some actuality, they remain stereotypes. The films usually reflect attitudes of their time period.

Did Greeks appear often in American Cinema? Was their appearance in balance with regard to the actual population?

European ethnics are not well-represented in American cinema in other than minor characters. The major exception to this rule are Irish-Americans. Italians would seem to be well-represented, but if gangster films are excluded they are not. In that context, Greek Americans appear in films often as other European ethnics and far more than some much larger groups.

In your opinion were Greeks discriminated in the movies?

No, I don’t see any discrimination directed at Greek Americans. We should also note that many Greeks had prominent careers in Hollywood. Hermes Pan was the choreographer of all the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers. Theoni Aldridge is one of the industry’s most famous costume designers. Dean Tavoularis was set designer on all the Godfather films and most of Copolla’s other movies. Spyro Skouras was studio chief for Twentieth Century-Fox and many Greeks such as Jim Giannapolis remain powerbrokers at Fox. John Casavettes became a Hollywood legend for his innovations and Elia Kazan was a premiere Hollywood director for decades. A.I. Bezzerides was a prominent screenwriter of the 1950s. Telly Savalas was a frequent performer in Hollywood genre films. Etc.

Conversely, do you believe portrayal of Greeks in American cinema had any positive effects? Did it promote Hellenic culture?

Very few of the films have negative portraits of Greeks, which is positive. The stereotypes are usually benign. Most significantly, in the past 20 years, Greeks are often presented as model ethnic Americans. My Big Fat Greek Wedding actually represented culmination of the old trend. That is, the characters were stereotypes and not particularly well-educated, but they were presented very positively. Audiences laughed with their foibles rather than at them. Greek ethnic traits were presented in a manner that universalized them so that groups with far different cultures felt, “They’re just like us.” American cinema has not done much to promote Hellenic culture.

Please add anything else you want .

My comments have been limited to Hollywood films. When I looked at independent films made by Greek Americans, the patterns are much different. For example, there are as many full portraits of women as of men, and nearly all of the films have Greek themes as a major concern. Some lapse into the same stereotyping as seen in Hollywood films, but most present a far more accurate view of Greek America.

In many ways this is a collective project, but I take responsibility for writing all the entries and selecting their ranking. Vassili Lambropoulos reviewed everything, acting as my editor, an idea man, and general counsel. I’ve also received input from a score of persons who write about film or Greek America. I am particularly grateful for the insights provided by Steve Frangos.

Anyone wishing to contact Mr. Dan Georgakas can do so via email: smyrnapress@hotmail.com

Greek-American co-Produces Online Phenomenon “X’s and O’s”

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A comedy which was co-produced by George Themelis, a Greek photographer from Los Angeles, shows that if your movie won’t do it well in the box office there is the chance of doing well online. This is what happened when “X’s and O’s” was pirated in the Internet via the filesharing service BitTorrent. An estimated 150,000 people watched the downloads in one week, the filmmakers estimate.The people who invested the 850.000$ that costed the film may not be happy, but at least the movie found an audience. In its first week of being available online
The film is about a bookish biologist Simon (Clayne Crawford) who lusts after Jane (Sarah Wright), a blonde beauty who barely knows he exists. Against the advice of his womanizing friend, Lorenzo (Warren Christie), Simon decides to make Jane jealous by dating his lab partner, Trese (Judy Marte). But every part of Simon’s plan falls apart, trapping him between the pursuit of a hopeless dream and unexpected, real feelings for someone.

Written and Directed by Kedar Korde
Produced by Kedar Korde, George Themelis, and Judy Marte
Cinematography by Royce Allen Dudley
Edited by Chris W. Hill
Casting by Dino Ladki, C.S.A.

Documentary Film Entries Due September 1st for 2009 Oscars®

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Tuesday, September 1, is the deadline for documentary filmmakers to submit their short subject and feature documentaries to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for consideration for the 82nd Academy Awards®.

Each completed entry form must be accompanied by supporting materials, including an English-language synopsis of the film, a list of film credits, filmographies of the director(s) and/or producer(s), 30 DVD copies of the film, and proof of seven-day qualifying exhibitions.

A documentary feature must complete a seven-day commercial run in both Los Angeles County and in the Borough of Manhattan in New York, between September 1, 2008, and August 31, 2009. An extension of the eligibility period to September 30, 2009, may be granted only if the film has legal contracts with exhibitors guaranteeing that it will complete both qualifying commercial runs before the extension deadline. In those instances, all other required materials must still meet the September 1 deadline.

To be eligible in the Documentary Short Subject category, a film must complete a seven-day commercial run in a theater in either Los Angeles County or in the Borough of Manhattan in New York, between September 1, 2008, and August 31, 2009. For more info visit www.oscars.org

At the 81st Academy Awards this past February, “Smile Pinki” and “Man on Wire” won in the Documentary Short Subject and Documentary Feature categories, respectively.

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network.

Greek Americans Mourn Passing of Senator Edward Kennedy

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Nicholas Karacostas, Supreme President of AHEPA, the largets Greek-American Organization in the world issued the following statement on the passing of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts:

“The AHEPA family was saddened to learn Senator Edward Kennedy passed away in the early morning.

“The senator was one of the most influential senators in history. He strongly supported our efforts to honor Constantino Brumidi with the Congressional Gold Medal, and he supported many issues affecting the American Hellenic community throughout his 47 years in public life. We salute his decades of public service and the passion he demonstrated for the issues he felt were important to society and to the constituents he represented.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family of Senator Kennedy. May his memory be eternal.”

(press release)

Our Problem is Indifference

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By Aleco Haralambides, President American Hellenic Institute

Some Greek-American news organizations have recently taken up a critical review of the so-called “Greek American Lobby” and the players that are involved, including organizations like ours—the American Hellenic Institute. The articles make some valid points; however, they fail to mention perhaps the most pressing problem facing these Greek American organizations and perhaps the greatest threat to Hellenism itself—Indifference. It’s not that Greek Americans simply don’t care if Greece or Cyprus exists, but for one reason or another, these foreign policy issues do not seem to be a priority for the average Greek American. The following are a couple of common themes.

Is there Disunity on Foreign Policy?

Some say that there is a lack of organization or that the Greek American community lacks a unified message. In fact, on an annual basis AHI releases a policy statement that is endorsed by 8 other leading Greek American organizations. This policy statement clearly sets forth our collective position relating to the foreign policy issues affecting all Hellenes—whether they are the Greek minority in Albania and Turkey, or a Thracian living on the border with Bulgaria. The fact that at least 9 Greek American/Canadian organizations agree on foreign policy is perhaps an unprecedented demonstration of unity in the Greek community. Moreover, it clearly demonstrates that disunity is not our biggest obstacle when it comes to foreign policy.

Are we out of touch with Athens and/or Lefkosia?

Another theme is an ostensible lack of communication or perhaps disharmony with the homeland—Greece or Cyprus. Generally speaking, I think that it’s important to narrow the gap between Greece/Cyprus and America and the best way to avoid this problem is to visit the homeland. Our organization makes a formal trip annually to meet with different government officials in Greece and in Cyprus, which helps avoid a disjointed message on foreign policy. We also make sure to meet regularly with the Greek Embassy and Cypriot Embassy in Washington and I would say that we have developed some particularly good relationships with the Greek military. In fact, in March we attended the unrolling of twenty five F-16 fighter planes that the Greek government purchased from Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth. So, disharmony with Athens and Nicosia are really not the culprit.

Who is the culprit?

The culprit is indifference. So I recently asked a prominent Greek American friend about this indifference that I perceived and he said “Greece and Cyprus just aren’t being threatened right now; things are pretty good over there….” My friend may have described the crux of the problem; I only wish his statement was true.

The following are a few examples of international issues affecting Greece and Cyprus vis-à-vis United States foreign policy:

1)Cyprus: Turkey still has about 43,000 troops in occupied Cyprus and, although they seek entry into the European Union, they have given no indication whatsoever that they intend to demilitarize. As recently as June 17th of this year, Turkey sent military ships to thwart U.S.-based Noble Energy from performing oil and gas explorations that Noble had contracted to perform with the government of Cyprus.

2)Turkey: The Obama administration seems intent on creating a “special relationship” with Turkey, which is why one of the President’s first official visits was to Turkey. While he was there, it was laudable that the President made reference to the re-opening of the Halki Theological Seminary and Erdogan’s visit on August 15th to the island of Prinkipo with His All Holiness Patriarch Batholomew gives us reason for hope. However, Turkey continues to refuse to remove its illegal troops and settlers from Cyprus and it refuses to provide full religious freedom for the Patriarchate.

So, what would happen to someone in Turkey if they were to point out the hypocrisy in Erdogan’s recent public statement that the Chinese killing of 150 Uighurs (ethnic Turkic people) in China’s Western Xinjiang province was “genocide”? In 2005, Orham Panuk, the Nobel Prize winning ethnic Turkish author, was indicted under Turkish Article 301 for mentioning that one million Armenians were killed in Turkey. For similar reasons, Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist, was prosecuted and later killed by extremists in Turkey.

As Americans of Greek descent, we can not sit back and accept the current trajectory of U.S. foreign policy towards Turkey, which is not in the best interests of the U.S.

The good news is that it is easier than ever to take action. In seconds, we can research objective news sources on the internet; we can fire off emails capable of reaching people all over the world; and we can reach all of our friends and acquaintances simultaneously on Twitter or Facebook (I confess that I still don’t know how Twitter works). One of my favorites is Wikipedia—if you find an inaccuracy on any subject, you can log on and correct it yourself! We could never do this with our college history books or an encyclopedia. It is time to make it known that 2 million Greek Americans refuse accept the status quo.

(Source: hellenicnews.com)