Separately, we speak many different languages. But today, we all speak one language. That language is soccer.
Those remarks (more or less accurate) were part of the welcome to the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Redeemer Cup by main sponsor Chobani‘s CEO Hamdi Ulukaya. Ulukaya was one of the speakers getting the waiting teams and crowd pumped up and ready for the 3rd annual Redeemer Cup Soccer Tournament.
Saturday June 2nd at Proctor Park in Utica began rainy and cold, but it seems as though the excitement for the Redeemer Cup burned it away. Upon arriving to the festivities I found over a dozen different brightly colored shirts milling around and getting organized, with team names on the back representing ethnic refugee groups and refugee community organizations such as the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees and Redeemer Church. At about 10:30 the procession of teams began – truly a sight to see. Each group marched through the crowd lead by a flag and sign holder. The signs signified the ethnic group, followed by the world American – i.e. “Polish American” or “Iraqi American” – as Redeemer Church’s Pastor Rick Andrews said, no matter where we come from, we are all Americans now. Each team that processed by was bursting with pride, but as the groups assembled there was a lot of interaction with the other groups.
Finally, the whistle blew and soccer began. Games continued on four fields throughout Saturday and into Sunday, with lots of friendly competition. Many members of both the refugee and local community came to support their friends and neighbors. Sunday’s final game came down to the Bosnian American team vs Liberian American, with Bosnian ultimately coming out on top!
Check out a preview of Starting Over’s photos below:
Save the Dates! This year, World Refugee Day 2012 is being celebrated by the Mohawk Valley Resource Center with a series of events in June.
Saturday, June 16- Family fun at the Utica Public Library
Tuesday, June 19- Short film showing at the Uptown Theatre – Hard Truth, Levity & Hope (also was shown at the 2011 UNSPOKEN Film Festival)
Wednesday, June 20- Culture Fair at DeSales Auditorium
Saturday June 23- Bookfair at Barnes & Noble
Members from Starting Over will definitely be celebrating world refugee day, talking with the community and getting photo and video footage for our gallery project. We hope to see you there!
For more info, visit the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees here.
Many of the young refugees say they owe their survival here to soccer, a respite from trying, chaotic and often lonely lives (Santos, 2006).
Today, soccer is still a major part of refugee lives. I recently ran into a friend who came from Burma three years ago with her two sons. She said both her boys play soccer – she has to drive all over with them to games.
The Redeemer Church recognized this fact and in 2010 started the Redeemer Cup. The Redeemer Cup is a full on soccer tournament World Cup-style. It is designed so that each team represents a different cultural portion of our community. It is becoming an annual event in the Utica, NY area and is a great way to support the community and encourage cultural unity.
Redeemer Church Rick Andrew organizes the event. Andrew said those interested must be between the ages of 15 and 50 to play. One leader of a team must organize a group to compete. There’s usually about 16 teams representing different refugee groups in the area.
The 2012 tournament will take place June 2nd and 3rd at Proctor Park in Utica. Starting Over will be there to document the event – be sure to look for the Redeemer Cup display at our Gallery event in December!
Starting Over will be working very closely with the directors and staff of the UNSPOKEN™ Festival since the themes discussed are close to all of our hearts. A little about UNSPOKEN™…
UNSPOKEN™ is an annual human rights forum that combines film, art, music, and a conference into one festival. Held in Utica, NY in October of each year, this multi-faceted forum seeks not only to give a voice to human rights violations from around the globe, but also to offer practical solutions in order to shape a better tomorrow and give hope to the future.
The first UNSPOKEN™ occurred October 13-15th, 2011 in Utica. In had three main events:
1. Film Festival at the Uptown Theatre featuring over 50 short and feature length films focusing on human rights issues, along with talks with the film directors
2. Arts Festival which included art at the DeSales Building and storytelling through Utica Firefly
3. UNSPOKEN™ Conference at Munson William Proctor Arts Institute discussing the role of culture, heritage and the arts in process of resettlement.
The 2011 festival was a great success and the 2012 festival is already being planned for October 17th – 20th, 2012.
We will be debuting the Starting Over events at the 2nd UNSPOKEN™ Festival. We will also be featuring the festival at our own event, through photo dedication during the Gallery Event.
Additionally, UNSPOKEN™ director Michael Patrei we be hosting the Starting Over children’s event, featuring a puppet show.
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!