Armenian Flag Raising

April 24th is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day and every April, the Armenian-American community of Lowell gathers at Lowell City Hall to mark the occasion with the raising of the Armenian flag.  On Saturday, April 20th, the 2019 Armenian Flag Raising was held in the front lobby of Lowell City Hall and followed by a brief reception in the Mayor’s Reception Room. In addition to Mayor Samaras and the Lowell City Councilors in attendance, Emily Byrne from the office of U.S. Representative Lori Trahan also presented a citation from the Congresswoman

Irish Flag Raising

Although delayed by a week due to weather, it is only fitting that the rescheduled date of the St. Patrick’s Cultural Committee’s Irish Flag Raising at Lowell City Hall would be none other than March 17th.  Last year’s celebration marked the 35th Irish Cultural Week in the City of Lowell.  Mayor William Samaras, State Senator Edward Kennedy, Vice Chair Vesna Nuon, and many other members of the Lowell City Council participated in this year’s edition #36.

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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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