Celebrating a century (+) of Lithuanian Independence in Lowell

“In honor of the Lithuanians who came to Lowell for a Better Life”

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Lithuanian monument on the centennial of independence (Photo: Jen Myers)

Those words adorn the Lithuanian monument in Lowell’s JFK Plaza.  Lowell’s Lithuanian community dates back longer than the modern state of Lithuania.  Like many other immigrants and refugees in Lowell, hundreds of Lithuanians fled oppression to work in Lowell’s textile mills, in the late 19th century,

Although they had settled in a new world, many expats kept in touch with the struggles in the old one, as the ancient nation of Lithuania struggled through centuries of occupation by Russian (and briefly German) governments.  The overthrow of Russia’s tsarist regime in 1917 opened the door for the reestablishment of Lithuania as an independent state.

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D.L.K.V. Club in Lowell

101 years ago this month, the Act of Reinstating Independence of Lithuania was signed.  On February 16th, 1918, the transitional council of Lithuania proclaimed the restoration of their country as an independent state governed by democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital.  That document has served as the basis of subsequent Lithuanian constitutions and February 16th is celebrated as Lithuanian Independence Day.

Two years later, Lithuanian Americans in Lowell established the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas (D.L.K.V.) club, named after the famous Lithuanian leader under whose rule Lithuania was the largest medieval European state.

Although the group sold their building on Central Street in 2017, the club’s charter remains intact and they are preparing to celebrate their 100th anniversary next year.

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It was with the backdrop of these recent and upcoming centennial anniversaries that the Lowell City Council welcomed the Lithuanian community to Lowell City Hall on February 16th, 2019 for the annual raising of the Lithuanian flag.

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Vice Chair Vesna Nuon presented a citation on behalf of Mayor William Samaras and State Senator Ed Kennedy brought greetings from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in his dual role as city councilor and state legislator.

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Vice Mayor Nuon spoke about the Lithuanian struggle for independence within the context of his own experiences as a refugee from Cambodia, (even after achieving freedom from the Russian empire in 1918, the country spent much of the 20th century under Soviet rule before finally becoming independent again in 1990).  Senator Kennedy also spoke about attending the Lithuanian flag raisings during his own term as mayor from 2016-2017.

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Unveiling of the Lithuanian monument, June 2012 (Photo Credit: Greg Page)

Both of the councilors were also on the Lowell City Council in 2012 when the Lithuanian monument in JFK Plaza was dedicated during the term of Mayor Patrick Murphy.

The monument’s design incorporates an important symbol of Independence the charging knight on the chield known as the “Vytis”, Lithuania’s national coat of arms. “Lietuva” the Lithuanian word for the country is inscribed below. The side banners reflect the “juosta” or woven sash in the stylized tulip design, a prominent feature in Lithuanian art and costume.

Following the speaking program and the singing of the American and Lithuanian national anthems, the flag of Lithuania was raised outside Lowell City Hall.

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More photos from the 2019 Lithuanian Independence Day Celebration in Lowell:

For More: 2018 Lithuanian Flag Raising Photos

Raising the Afro-American Flag

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LHS Step Team with Mayor Samaras

The first flag raising ceremony of 2019 featured step dancing, celebrations of past and ongoing achievements and a call to action.  For over two decades, the Afro-American Flag raising has marked the start of Black History/Heritage Month in the City of Lowell.

The ceremony was started by the late Robert and Mary Scott Mitchell of Lowell and the tradition continues under the leadership of their daughter, Terri Mitchell Morris and other family members.

On February 9th, 2019, Mayor William Samaras joined with several of his colleagues on the Lowell City Council and School Committee to take part in the celebration.

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He used his remarks to signal the importance of speaking up when you witness  injustice. Evoking the words of the Bishop Desmond Tutu,  the Mayor challenged himself and others, “Do not be neutral. Make a commitment that you will not look the other way when the elephant stands on the mouse’s tail. Make a promise to yourself to speak up when you see injustice.   I know that this group here today certainly does that and as the mayor I look to share that message to the entire city.”

Following the presentation of the proclamation and greetings from the other elected officials, the Lowell High School Step Team performed in the City Hall lobby.

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Terri Morris used her time at the podium to celebrate ongoing successes in Lowell’s African American community including the Step Team, The Kindred Project, and Mill City Barbecue, among many others.

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One person cited by Terri was her cousin, Darius Mitchell.  Darius, a former Lowell City Council candidate, has worked on improving voter turnout and participation in all levels of elections.

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Following the speaking program, those in attendance moved to the City Hall steps for the raising of the flag.

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Look Back at: 2018 Afro-American Flag Raising on Return To Room 50

 

Flag Raising Schedule 2019

Lowell is a true Gateway City.  In that spirit, many various community groups have hosted flag raising ceremonies at Lowell City Hall to celebrate the diverse backgrounds that make up the city.  On the eve of the first ceremony of 2019, here is a list of the confirmed flag raisings scheduled so far this year.

Afro-American Saturday, February 9, 2019
Lithuanian Saturday, February 16, 2019
Ghanaian Saturday, March 9, 2019
Irish Sunday March 10, 2019
Greek Monday, March 25, 2019
Khmer Monday, April 8, 2019
Zimbabwean Saturday, April 13, 2019
Armenian Saturday, April 20, 2019
Sierra Leone Saturday, April 27, 2019
Polish Sunday, May 5, 2019
Haitian Saturday, May 18, 2019
Pride Month Friday, May 31, 2019
Portuguese Monday, June 10, 2019
Franco-American Monday, June 24, 2019
Congolese Saturday, June 29, 2019
Colombian Saturday, July 20, 2019
Lao Saturday, August 3, 2019

Other groups expected to have ceremonies include the Puerto Rican, Indian, Liberian, Nigerian, and Zambian communities.

Welcome to Welcoming Week!

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Lowell’s history and status as a gateway for immigrants is well known.  When you consider the canals dug by Irish laborers that powered the city’s founding, it can be said that Lowell was literally built by immigrants.  So it was only fitting that Lowell chose to participate in the 2018 edition of Welcoming Week America with the first ever Welcoming Week Lowell.

New this year, Welcoming Week Lowell focuses on bringing together immigrants, refugees, and native-born residents in Lowell to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the ongoing contributions of immigrants and refugees to the City.

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Members of the Refugee and Immigrant Support Coalition are responsible for introducing and planning the week’s events. The Coalition is a voluntary group of community and agency leaders in Lowell, formed last year to collaborate and advocate for increased and more accessible services for immigrants and refugees.

Welcoming Week happens nationwide in more than 700 communities around the country.

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Welcoming Week’s kickoff ceremony was held on Friday evening September 14th at Lowell City Hall. Mayor William Samaras joined State Representative Rady Mom and others in raising the flag of the United Nations and celebrating the beginning of the week’s events which will run through September 23rd.

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The event began with a flag parade–with a twist.  Rather than a single procession, various ethnic groups gathered in different spots in and around downtown (Lucy Larcom Park, 75 Arcand Drive, the parking lot next to Friends) before converging at the City Hall steps.

The emcee for the evening was Molyka Tieng of Lowell Community Health Center.  Molyka thanked the over two dozen community groups that participated in the planning and execution of the week’s festivities.  Event planners included the City of Lowell, African Community Center of Lowell, the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association,, International Institute of New England, Jericho Road Project, Lowell Adult Education, Lowell Alliance, Lowell Community Health Center, Lowell Public Schools, Pollard Memorial Library, Middlesex Community College, Coalition for A Better Acre, the New American Center of Greater Lowell, and Solidarity Lowell.

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Mayor Samaras began the speaking program by issuing a proclamation officially deeming September 14th-23rd as Welcoming Week in Lowell.

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“Welcoming Week is a first of its kind celebration that will feature a wide array of events celebrating the very best of our city and I encourage all Lowellians, whether you are a newcomer yourself—or part of a fifth generation family—to take part in this week,” the mayor noted during his remarks.

Representative Mom, himself an immigrant, spoke both as a political figure and a small business owner.

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Other speakers included Gordon Halm from the African Community Center and Emma Tobin from the International Institute of New England.  The International Institute is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

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Other events this week include a Cultural Exchange Potluck, several Conversation Cafes, the opening reception of the Urban Landscape: Legacy of Immigration exhibit, a Community Conversation Town Hall event featuring city manager Eileen Donoghue, and a free movie screening of Coco hosted by the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association.  Full schedule below:

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Visit facebook.com/WelcomingWeekLowell for more updates on this exciting new annual event in the city!

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Liberian Flag Raising

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On August 25th, members of Lowell’s Liberian community came to City Hall for the annual celebration of Liberian Flag Day.

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Mayor Samaras was presented with a woodcut in the shape of the country of Liberia to display at City Hall alongside gifts from other ethnic communities in the city.

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Among those joining the Lowell City Council in speaking at the event was former Massachusetts secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez, who is running to be the next governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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Flag Day in Liberia was first observed in an 1847 convention, when the founding fathers approved the flag’s design along with establishing the new republic.  It is held annually on August 24th.

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Two Flag Raisings This Weekend

This weekend Lowell will celebrate two more flag raising ceremonies.  First on Saturday, August 4th, the City will celebrate the 14th anniversary of Lowell’s official adoption of the Lao Heritage & Freedom Flag.

In 2004 the City Council, at the request of members of the Lao community, adopted the red flag adorned with a three-headed elephant as the official Lao flag recognized by the city. It was the flag flown by the Kingdom of Laos from 1952 until the royal government fell to Communism in 1975.

On Sunday, August 5th, the 2018 Lowell Puerto Rican Festival will kick off with the raising of the flag of Puerto Rico.

The Committee of the Puerto Rican Festival “Hijos de Borinquen” have been organizing their annual celebration of the Puerto Ricans in the city of Lowell since 1980.  Throughout the years, the Festival has given Lowell an introduction to Puerto Rican customs which include music, ethnic food, dance, poetry, drama and speeches.

Here are some photos from last year’s flag raisings during the term of Mayor Edward Kennedy:

2017 Lao Flag Raising Photos:

 

2017 Puerto Rico Flag Raising Photos:

 

The Original Room 50 Blog also has some great photos from the Lao and Puerto Rican flag raisings of Mayor Patrick Murphy’s term back in 2013.

Congolese Independence Day

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The first six months of the term of Mayor William Samaras has seen three new flags join the ranks of Lowell’s flag raising traditions.  First was the Haitian flag raising in May, then the Pride flag to start off the month of June, and now we can add the Democratic Republic of The Congo to the list as they celebrated their first flag raising on June 30th.

 

Bonjour Amis! C’est La Semaine Franco-Americaine! (2018)

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Since 1971, members of Le Comité Franco-Américain de Lowell have officially gathered to celebrate June 24th, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, in the city.  What started as a celebratory day soon grew to an annual celebration known as Franco American Week.

2018 events included a ham and bean supper, a documentary film screening, painting lessons, and French Bingo.  Every year since 1975, the committee has also honored a “Franco-American of the Year” with the first honoree being then-Mayor Armand LeMay.

Another annual highlight is of course the raising of the flag of Quebec at Lowell City Hall every year on the 24th of June.

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Room 50 has wonderful photos from the 2013 Flag Raising including this shot of the oldest living Lowell mayor, Armand Lemay and the youngest one, Patrick Murphy (with Henri Marchand)

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2017 Franco American Flag Raising with then-Mayor Edward Kennedy

After rain moved the 2017 edition indoors,  an overcast but dry Sunday morning allowed the ceremony to return to the front of the City Hall steps. Here are a few photo highlights of the 2018 Franco American Flag Raising:

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The always dapper Armand LeMay adjusts his jacket.

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Flag procession by the Honor Guard

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Armand and Curtis LeMay

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Curtis welcomes the crowd from behind the wreath.

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Mayor LeMay sings O Canada in French as the Quebec Flag is raised.

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Next on the agenda was the laying of the wreath in front of the Franco American Monument.

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The Franco-American Monument was dedicated on June 24th 1974. It is located in front of the City Hall. It was erected “in memory of all Franco-Americans of the past who helped to build Lowell, to those of the present who are continuing a well and cherished heritage and to all Franco-Americans of the future who will help to keep Lowell the great city that it is”.

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Several notable political figures were in attendance including Congressional candidates Rufus Gifford and Lori Trahan, and former City Councilor Rithy Uong.

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Mayor Samaras delivered welcoming remarks and issued a proclamation for 2018 Franco American Week in Lowell.

“Lowellians of French and Quebecois descent have helped shape the City of Lowell in numerous ways.  The realms of business, government, education, the arts—each has seen distinguished Franco Americans from Lowell and the Lowell area,” noted the Mayor.

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Each of the other former mayors also spoke, giving greetings to the Franco Lowellian crowd.  EdFlagsFrancoCommittee

Franco-American Day Committee President Kevin Roy wrapped up the morning’s festivities by thanking all the volunteers who make Franco American Week possible.

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Following the ceremony was the traditional doughnut and coffee reception.  A great time was had by all.

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For more information about Le Comité Franco-Américain de Lowell , visit Francolowellma.wordpress.com or check out Lowell Franco American Week on facebook.

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