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Irish American Heritage Committee

Celebrating diversity virtually
New York Teacher
Members together at a zoom conference call

Participants (top, from left) Helena Lewis and Patricia Filomena listen to the history shared by (bottom, from left) Lenwood Sloan and Mick Moloney about the historical interrelationships — some tragic and some positive — among African Americans and Irish Americans.

The diversity of Irish Americans and Ireland was the focus of the UFT Irish American Committee’s first virtual meeting on Feb. 25. Jessie Riley and Rachael Gilkey, directors of education and programming at the Irish Arts Center, told the more than 40 attendees about the free, virtual programming for families and educators offered by their cultural center in Manhattan. Ciaran Madden, the consul general of Ireland in New York, spoke about the activities of the African American Irish Diaspora Network, a New York-based initiative that explores links between Irish and Black identity. Musician and scholar Mick Moloney and arts educator Lenwood Sloan discussed the history of Irish indentured servants and enslaved Africans who met in Appalachia as they moved north seeking freedom and opportunity. They played music together and formed common-law marriages before the Civil War. Despite rampant racism and oppression, Sloan said, “We find pockets of redemption all over the world.” For retired teacher Helena Lewis, the meeting was “valuable because I am an American of African descent with some Irish ancestry. My mother’s maiden name was McDay.”

— Cara Metz

Related Topics: Irish American Heritage