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Do You Speak Gaelic?

Do You Speak Gaelic?

“Ar mhait leat brioska?” asked a student, handing another cookie. “Ba mhait. Go raihb maith agat,” another replied.
The room was packed with more than 50 students who were attending La Gaelige: Irish Language Day at the Ireland House at New York University on a recent Saturday.

According to the teachers at N.Y.U. and other schools, there has been a renewed interest in the old Irish language known as Gaelic in recent years. The classes are populated by people whose Irish families have been in the United States for generations. And, curiously, by some recent Irish immigrants who never mastered the language when they lived in Ireland. They see these classes as a way to stay connected with their Irish heritage much like other recent immigrants will seek out Irish pubs, Irish churches and Irish hurling leagues.

“I learned it [Irish] before, but I thought it would be an opportunity here–when I saw they had the classes to improve it, I thought it would be a good social outlet with the Irish community and the Irish American community,” said Christopher Fox, a law clerk from Ireland who moved to New York in January and is enrolled in a Gaelic course.

There are currently 11 institutions in New York City that offer Irish language classes.

“We just added Irish 5 this fall,” said Rachael Gilkey, Director of Communications, Education and Outreach at the Irish Arts Center, in Midtown Manhattan

Most classes at the center have seen their numbers growing since last year. Irish 3 for instance, went from zero students in Winter 2011 to eight students this Fall.

“Most people who are learning Irish do it as a continuing education subject either in colleges or at cultural center where they are teaching Irish classes,” said Hilary Sweeney, a N.Y.U. Professor who has been teaching Irish since 1998.

According to Sweeney, the language is developing as undergraduate course in many universities around the country.
This growing interest is partly a reflection of the growing number of Irish people who migrate to New York every year in search of employment. Immigration experts say that the increase is due to the troubled Irish economy.

“We probably see about 300 people come through these doors every week,” said Agnes Delaney, the Chairwoman of the Aisling Irish Community Centre in New York in an interview with WCBS News. “More and more are coming, especially for the last four years, since 2008, when the economy in Ireland started to go down.”

Many economists say that Ireland is making progress economically but that it still faces a number of years of continuing austerity, so many Irish people decide to move elsewhere. Despite the growing difficulties to get a visa, the United States and especially New York, is still a top destination after Canada and Australia.

“Immigration is really restrictive now to get in. Often people come by themselves; it’s not them with a group of friends,” Fox said.
Fox started to take Irish classes at the Irish Arts Center right after he arrived with a H-3 visa, a non-immigrant visa allowing aliens to attend a traineeship in the U.S. The 25-years-old graduated from Law school in Ireland in 2009, and worked as a law clerk before moving to the U.S. The tough economy in his home country is a main reason why he wanted to get a job overseas.
Learning Irish has been on his “before he turns 30 to-do-list.” “Now it’s the first time I don’t have exams. So I wanted to learn it,” he said.

Due to the increasing number of classes offered, long-time Irish-American want to try as well.
“Right now there seems to be a lot of excitement about the Irish language. So I was interested because of that. On the internet there’s been a lot of talk and excitement about the language,” said Jason Roe, a student from Texas.

Roe said he would not have taken Irish if he had not had ancestors from Ireland.
But for many immigrants, it takes a while before they reconnect with their culture. Many say the process of becoming an American citizen is stressful and it takes years before they can focus on connecting to their culture.

“Very often we have second generation Irish immigrants who are coming to class,” said Murieann Ni Chuiv, an Irish teacher at the Irish Arts Center.

Ni Chuiv moved from Ireland to New York in 2009 and she was surprised that the language was so popular. She already teaches six classes, so the Irish Arts Center will hire another teacher next quarter to deal with the growing enrollment. Ni Chuiv said two-thirds of her students have a link to Ireland.

“My family had spoken the language way back but it was never passed on,” said Dan Maher, a New Yorker with deep Irish roots who is taking a class at the arts center.

“It is growing in America. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the Irish government really started treasuring the language,” Maher said.

Irish became an official language of the European Union in 2007 and it has been given official status outside of Ireland next to English. About 30% of the population can speak Irish and 5% use it on a regular basis. Gaelic used to be spoken by millions of people but was reduced to some tens of thousands speakers. The important decrease frightened the Irish population which decided to support the language and make sure it remains alive in the twenty first century.
“Even for those who don’t speak it they recognize that legally it’s our fist official language,” Fox said.

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After Sandy, Hackers Help Storm Victims One Hack At A Time

After Sandy, Hackers Help Storm Victims One Hack At A Time

Hackathon in BrooklynRelief came to the victims of Hurricane Sandy in numerous ways. Emergency personnel were on hand, as were hundreds of volunteers, many of who brought food and clothes and assisted in the cleanup. But one group of relief volunteers took another approach. They gathered in a school in downtown Brooklyn to help electronically by creating apps.

A week and a half after Sandy struck, 100 people participated at a “hackathon” at the Hacker School to create apps. One of the apps helped make a list of information such as supplies or services needed, in a natural disaster situation, easy to gather and to download into a computer before being sent to disaster relief offices. Another app helped anyone in the same situation to send a SOS SMS to emergency services and family members with the push of one button.

The volunteers availed themselves of piles of pizza, red wine and a large variety of sodas, as they mingled and shared ideas on their projects.

Sandy affected the New York area but it was heavily reported around the country and some viewers felt they had to get involved in the recovery.
“I experienced Sandy through images.” Said Patrick Cushing, a product manager who came all the way from San Fransisco to participate in the hackathon.
“Part of that was seeing all the people who were stuck charging their phones in Time Square or off of a light post. It dawned on me that we really rely on these phones.”

Cushing wanted to build an app, called “Storm Search” to take control of the power of people’s phones. His idea was to trigger signal text messages that would then trigger several other text messages to important family members and send a tweet to NYC 311. His four members team started working on Friday night.

Glued to his laptop screen for hours in a row, Cushing, wearing a navy blue and black layered hoodie, seemed stressed, but his natural detached composure helped him overcome it.
“The first time you download it you register to a bunch of important contacts and it sits there and just waits until you need it,” Cushing said.
“It allows us to reach out to a bunch of people with a single SMS,” he added.

Other participants of the hackathon experienced the storm live.

“Yesterday I was volunteering in Red Hook before I came here,” said Ana Becker, a designer from New York. “I wanted to use my experience volunteering as inspiration for a mobile website.”

Becker was collected information from the people living in Red Hook, and she had to scribble on it, write extra information in the margins and circle yes or no on a list of supplies or services people needed. Once back at the headquarters, someone had to type everybody’s scribbles into the computer. She found the system disorganized and wanted to fix it.

“I thought it would be great if there was a way volunteers could go out with their smartphones and take all their information that they’re gathering about the neighborhood and submit it via a web app,” she said.

Absorbed in designing the app, Becker was compulsively taking her eyes of her screen to see if anyone from her group had any questions. She was in her late 20’s, wearing black glasses matching her short hair. Her anxious demeanor made it clear that she had no time to waste.
After pitching the idea, she started working on the project, named “voluntarily” on Friday evening with programmers and engineers who joined her group.

Becker, Cushing and dozens of other participants, spent all Saturday sitting around red iron tables in an industrial looking room, glued to their screens, hacking, designing, writing and eating pizza.
There were experts, throughout the hackathon who helped them for any questions they had, from what application programming interface to choose—a set of programming instructions for programmers to use in designing softwares–to whether the project would be helpful to future users.

“Based on my experience of talking to all sorts of people that have been supporting and leading the recovery effort I was able to give them advice on whether something would work for the victims or the recovery folks,” said Jessica Lawrence, the managing director of New York Tech meetup.

The group is a non-profit organization with over 28,000 members supporting the New York technology community. She partnered with Karri Silverman, the CEO and co-founder of Hack’N’Jill, an organization whose goal is to change the conversation about women in tech.

“We wanted to give people an opportunity to think about their community in ways that technology can make it better. We had a coincidence with needing to help the hurricane cause it’s channeling everybody’s efforts,” Silverman said.

“Folks are taking the seriousness of helping people affected by the hurricane to heart and trying to give back to the New York community by building stuff they’ll use,” she added.

According to Silverman, tech companies are sexier now than they were before. People like Mark Zuckerberg who are hackers and developers at heart, are getting a lot of media attention. There are a lot of people who see hacking as a way to bring their own ideas to life and the more they see it happening in the media, the more they want to do it.

“We’re mostly interacting with other relief organizations because this is the first time that a tech meetup has played this role in disaster recovery,” Lawrence said.

“But as we go forward and start building out plans for how people can help their own cities get prepared for other disasters definitely connecting with other tech meetups will be important,” Lawrence said.

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[VIDEO] Mea Theodoratus: The Mexican-Greek Irish Harpist


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An Exhibit’s Thought

NEW YORK—Frank McCourt, The author of Angela’s Ashes, told the Irish Immigrant experience in words. The rock band U-2 tells it in music. And Collette Murphy tells it in paintings.

In a new show, “A Night Thought,” painter Collette Murphy reflects her feelings about being an Irish immigrant in America. Murphy portrays in acrylic the ships that brought her ancestor’s to the shores of North America in the 18th and 19th centuries. The show, which is at the Irish Arts Center is on until January 17th 2013.

“So I tend to go back into Irish history. And there’s a lot of injustice. We’re usually the underdog and a lot of that comes true in my painting,” Murphy said.

Colette Murphy presenting her exhibit.

“I feel an obligation to my country to not just create stereotypes of what Ireland is and to actually represent it as a person not as a gimmick or as a marketing device,” she added.

But Murphy also wanted to emphasize contemporary issues, especially Irish immigrants who are in jeopardy today of being deported from America.

“America’s shores may not be open to immigrants much longer,” she said.

Mrs. Murphy, 44 is based in Brooklyn, has already presented her paintings in New York and throughout Europe. She uses her poetic and analytical ideation to portray simple-looking objects that wound up depicting many layers of what it is like to be Irish.

Through the gallery’s heartfelt collection of half a dozen paintings, more than 40 visitors enjoyed contemplating boats and icebergs with a sympathetic eye toward the Irish man.

“Endurance” portrays an isolated old-looking ship at the center of a beige linen canvas without any sight of the sea or the sky. Murphy loves to paint boats not only because she identifies with them but also because it represents her Irish ancestors.

“The Monk,” a white iceberg with violet reflections, and a striking quantity of details, is a dominant piece of her works.

“In relation to immigration the icebergs have been cut of from the glaciers. In that they seem to me as isolated. They seem they’ve been dejected from their homeland,” she said.

Murphy identified with the iceberg, as she struggles to fit in one place, including Ireland.

“Because once you return you ‘re never accepted the way that you were when you live there,” she said.

In an intimate and modest speech at the gallery, where she was dressed elegantly, in a silky beige dress with colorful shapes and brown suede heels, Murphy spoke with a shivering voice about her exhibition. Throughout the talk, she gave some anecdotes of her childhood describing her first experience with painting and her move to America as a child.

In itself, the work can look similar to Murphy’s 2008 paintings. She painted destroyed and sinking boats in a chaotic and desperate setting.

In “A Night Thought,” , “Manhattan,” one of the ship, was taking the whole canvas, emphasizing its dominance and resilience. Similarly “Little Boy Lost” was an iceberg with a small surface but a deep base that reflected the idea of resilience.

But the difference arises today when despite the melting aspect of the icebergs, there is hope in the boats’ strength and resilience, and there is hope in the depth and the detail of the icebergs.

“For me the ships are to give us courage no matter what the climate,” Murphy said.

Murphy decided “A Night Thought” the title of a Wordsworth poem, as title for her exhibit because she loves poetry and loves painting simple-looking objects which convey deep meanings.

She concluded her speech by the poem.

“From Fancy following in thy wake,

Bright ship of heaven!

A counter impulse let me take

And be forgiven.”

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Ethnic America Goes to the Polls

Reporters from the New York Torch visited polling places in the New York City and Jersey City area to ask first-time voters from ethnic communities about their experiences, opinions and hopes for America.

Click on the pictures to know their stories.

Reporting by Mea Ashley, Yvonne Bang, Magdalene Castro, William Denselow, Shaukat Hamdani, Colleen McKown, Michael Orr, MaryAlice Parks, Nia Phillips, Griselda Ramirez, Rebecca Sanchez and Charlotte Stafford.
Edited by Jay Devineni, Lorelai Germain, Stephen Jiwanmall, Ntshepeng Motema and Christina Thorne.
Complied by Dhiya Kuriakose.

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Graduate Students React to Hurricane Sandy

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Journalism students talk about Hurricane Sandy

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Updates on Hurricane Sandy

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