-- Provides Comprehensive Look at Their Immigrant Experience Beginning in the 1960s
and Serves as a Centralized Resource for Research on Greek Americans --
FLUSHING, NY, January 28, 2013 — Although Astoria, New York, can lay claim to the largest Hellenic-American community in the United States, the experiences of Greek immigrants who settled there between the 1960s and 1980s have never been documented in any meaningful way. On Thursday, January 24, Queens College held a press conference to introduce a new oral history and resource website, Hellenic-American Oral History Project: Greek Americans. Its goal is to provide these second-wave immigrants and their children with the opportunity to make their stories part of the city’s historical record, and to document the changing face of Astoria: http://www.qc.cuny.edu/greekoralhistory.
With its proximity to Astoria, its 1,500 students of Greek ancestry—more than any other American university—as well as its center for Byzantine and Modern Greek studies, Queens College is the ideal place to host the site. It currently features 23 oral history interviews in English and Greek; data drawn from the U.S. Census and other surveys; maps that reflect changing Greek immigrant settlement patterns; demographics; and an historical overview of Greek immigration. The site will also serve as a data bank to help understand Greek-American communities in the New York metropolitan area and provide centralized resources for conducting research, proposal-writing, and policy making on Greek Americans.
Queens College President James Muyskens led a list of speakers that included Provost James Stellar; Professor Nicholas Alexiou, the director of the oral history project and a Queens College sociology professor; Georgios Iliopoulos, consul general of Greece in New York; Irene Stathatos-Vasilakos, deputy chief of staff for NYS Senator Michael Gianaris; Alexia Makrigiannis, constituent liaison and district office administrator for Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, and a QC alum; Stelios Vasilakis, senior program officer for strategy and initiatives, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, major funder for the project; and oral history site participants, including Panos Adamopoulos, entrepreneur and president of the Athenians’ Society of New York, and Alexandra Kavouras, Queens College student and Greek Club President.
“The Hellenic-American Oral History Project promotes understanding of New York City's Greek-American community, capturing its transformation over time,” says Alexiou. “We have to record the stories of the people from these generations so there is a continuous link between the past and the present. After all, by documenting the history of Greek Americans, we are also preserving the history of ethnic groups in New York.”
“The documenting of the individual immigrant experiences of Greek Americans plays a critical role in mapping and understanding the social, economic and historical parameters that define the community and its evolution,” says Vasilakis. “The oral histories that comprise the Hellenic-American Oral History Project are essential in preserving the historical memory of the community, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation is proud of its collaboration with Queens College and of the opportunity to support this project.”
Oral history project founder and director Nicholas Alexiou was born in Volos, Greece. He studied economics in Athens and migrated to New York in the mid-1980s to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology from the City University of New York. He has taught in the Department of Sociology and the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College since 1990, focusing on ethnic studies, social statistics, social theory, and issues concerning the Greek-American community. Alexiou is the Chancellor’s Lecturer in Sociology at the college, a recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the author of five books of poetry. His latest poetry collection, Astoria: Exile People Places, is forthcoming in April 2013 from Somerset Hall Press.
Major funding for the project was provided by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, one of the world’s leading international philanthropic organizations, making grants in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and medicine, and social welfare. The foundation funds organizations and projects that exhibit strong leadership and sound management and are expected to achieve a broad, lasting and positive social impact. It also actively supports projects that facilitate the formation of public-private partnerships as effective means for serving public welfare. For more information, visit http://snf.org/index.php
As it celebrates its 75th year, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. With its graduate and undergraduate degrees, honors programs, and research and internship opportunities, the college helps its over 20,000 students realize their potential in countless ways, assisted by an accessible, award-winning faculty. Located on a beautiful, 77-acre campus in Flushing, the college is cited each year in the Princeton Review as one of the nation’s 100 “Best Value” colleges, thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. More info on Queens College at www.qc.cuny.edu.