World Music at our Premiere Event

We had some great performers during the World Music session at our Premier Event! Thanks to all the participants for making it a great event and for the wonderful attentive audience!

Songs of Love and Peace in 3 languages with Daniel Cribb. The first one is Karen song and the title is “Bah Ma Nuu Khoe” (Why). The second one is Burmese and the title is “Min Ko Chit Yin” (If I Love You). The last song is “Imagine” by John Lennon.

Bhutanese Nepali Folk Song 1. Thank you to the musicians, including Tek, Shyam, Santa, Dil, and Tila and to the beautiful dancers too, Dorna and Guyatri!

Bhutanese Nepali Women’s Dance. The musicians invited their mothers up on stage for a “Mom’s Dance.”

Shyam San Rai Nepali Dance.

Bhutanese Nepali Folk Dance party.
Thank you, Santa Rai and “Bhutanese-Nepali Folk” Friends!!!

Asian Folk Hour

Saturday, September 15th was the first Asian Folk Hour of the Utica Music and Arts Festival sponsored by Starting Over, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, SUNYIT and UNSPOKEN Human Rights Festival. It was the first event of Starting Over and our goal was to introduce the project, and ultimately, to bring the people of Utica and the local refugee community closer together.

Asian Folk Hour featured two prominent Utica refugee groups, the Burmese and Bhutanese Nepali.

First up were the Bhutanese Nepali and we started with a young girl danced to a modern Nepali love song.


Then we had a group of Bhutanese Nepali musician and singers on stage. The Bhutanese Nepali women quickly joined them for some traditional dancing!

The Karen Burmese took the stage next, coordinated by our friend Daniel of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees.

There were two dancers and a musician who entertained the crowd with Burmese culture.

The Asian Folk Hour went by too quick, and soon we had to wrap things up. Our performers had a great time showcasing their talents and many Utica residents came up to us to say how appreciative they were of the chance to experience the culture!

Thanks so much to everyone who volunteered and coordinated this event.

Firefly Stories – UNSPOKEN Stories

The Utica Firefly was started in May 2011 by Geoff Storm and Ryan Miller to explore the art of storytelling, focusing on Central New York and culture and themes close to the heart of our community.  A main portion of Firefly is the live event which has been hosted by local coffehouse/venue Tramontane Cafe, although it also includes recording stories of local interest.

The second Firefly event on October 13, 2011 has held in conjunction with the UNSPOKEN Human Rights Festival. The Firefly UNSPOKEN event featured stories of refugees, resettlement, human rights, equal rights, terrible stories, happy stories, and stories that made me want to laugh and cry. One different feature of this particular Firefly were that non-locals participated; filmmakers and participants of the festival shared their stories as well.

Deb Fowler, who teaches ESL classes in Massachusetts, shared the poignant story of her Burmese student Bawi. Bawi wanted nothing more than to attend school in Burma, but because of extremely poor living conditions and the high cost of education, could only attend school sporadically. Then Bawi’s village was overcome with Burmese soldiers and Bawi was threatened and tortured. Bawi escaped to Malaysia where he had to live in desperate conditions and work to survive. Bawi sent most of his money back to cousins in Burma to provide for education so they did not have to struggle as he did. Deb wraps up her story with this anecdote:

Last May, in a small village in Chin State, Burma, there was a graduating class of six. Five of those were Bawi’s cousins.

Bawi was able to start a new life for himself in Malaysia, and now is finally getting the education he desired in America.

This story, along with other UNSPOKEN Firefly stories, can be found on the Utica Firefly Live Events website.

Firefly has created a unique way of sharing stories of Starting Over. I look forward to seeing what stories of resettlement are to be shared throughout the project.

Karen Reunion and Thanksgiving

Banner celebrating Rev. Win's 30th Family Reunion

Today was the 30th Family Reunion and Thanksgiving Service for Rev. PU Nay Win at the Tabernacle Baptist Church on Hopper Street in Utica. The Church under Rev. Mark Caruana has strong ties with the refugees of the Karen community from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Over 1,000 Karen community members belong to the Church.


We arrived at 10am, unsure what exactly would be happening. The Church was filled with families and members of the Karen community from small children to the elderly. The service was in Karen, so nothing was understood. However there were some really great moments of song – young kids and a mixed choir with a backing band. The participation level in the Church seems high.

After the service ended, many community members greeted us hello. Although we didn’t know it was him at the time, Rev. Win thanked us for coming and invited us to the party. We made our way to the event room at the back of the Church where food was laid out. We learned later than the family and friends shared in the task of providing food for the party.We met members of the refugee community, including from the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees and the Redeemer Church, who came to celebrate.

We met a local woman, Mint, who we shared a table with. She explained the party was a gathering of family and friends from Rev. Win’s family who gathered together in celebration and thanks. Mint shared with us stories of her family, background and life in America.

It was a nice event and good to hear stories from the Karen Community about Starting Over in Utica!

Karen Community Members and Friends of Rev. Win