Friday, February 9, 2007

Irish Immigration Studies - NYC Bound!

Ah, yes, my daughter's combined 7th-8th grade class is preparing for their trip to New York City, to enhance their study of immigration.   Details are being relayed and other details being worked out more rapidly now.  I even know what color walls and bunks M will have, and what type of place, just not yet the name of the place where they will sleep.  I've known for a bit that they are being encouraged to have their cell phones with them, or borrow one to have.   Yes, great idea, really, having been there just a few times and knowing the crowds make it easy to get apart from others (trying to remember, apart briefly, do not think lost here i.e., start to worry).   I'm also glad, as it'll insure that M and I can stay in touch some while she's there.  

They'll take the train in from Washington, D.C., leaving school way super early to the point where it's been suggested that they stay overnight the night before.  I know most of the chaperones (it'll be about a 1-3/1-4 ratio of adults/youth), NONE are parents of any of the students going, which I think is a good idea at this point.  Officially, us parents have been told simply the dates and times so far.   They'll let us know more.  Much has been planned by teachers Mr. L, and Mo, and much is being planned out now by the students.   I can trust them. 

Last week is when the initial presentations on immigration were given.  The class had been broken into groups.  M's group, with her maybe crush J, and another long-term friend, studied the immigration of Soviet Jews.   Even if I know something about the history behind the story and movie, Anastasia, overall, I feel rather inadequate never having learned much about the history of that particular, entire continent.   M showed me their poster the other night, much work done at school, with their team, nicely.  

After hearing the detailed information from others, every student wrote down their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice of specific immigration areas to focus on while in New York City.   M had first choice of Irish, second of Italian, and I think 3rd choice, Soviet Jews.   Other groups include Africans, Germans, and, hmmm, a 6th group:)   M ended up getting "Irish," along with boy A, who she most dislikes in the class but will just have to get over that (he may even like her), and another boy,Cr, whose sister M used to be good friends with.  "A" knew almost nothing about anything Irish, other than that whatever stuff M does with her feet, kicking and tapping and such, in the classroom and kitchen is some sort of Irish dancing.   He had Irish for his initial grouping, focusing on the potato blight of 1845-1847, and apparently found it interesting, so, good for him. 

Everyone has to have a fair amount of new research and writing done by next week, so they visited the library twice last week (not that M remembered the first time soas to bring her library card, or return another book, but she DID bring her card the second visit).  

They are also planning out specific places and such to visit in New York City itself.   This part is fun for her.  The group as a whole will visit places like Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, The Tenement Museum, and, well, it's New York City, they have to, and will see a show on Broadway.  Hairspray is a Broadway show M's been wanting to see since she first heard of it.   That may be a good show for this age.

BTW, if you wish to look up someone who may have come through Ellis Island, a great site is  My late grandfather Daniel Joseph (last name) and some of his immediate family are listed, I could squint really super hard and read his signature (or just order the manifest I think it's called), information on his ship, and where he'd come from.   My grandfather emigrated from County Meath, Ireland, through Venezuela, then on to New York City.   (I found this site from another dance parents work for an upcoming show by our children!   Registering on the site is free.  Not that I remember what password I used.)   To think of being transported on a large ocean liner over such length of time.  I get out the list of names of his parents and siblings, so many.  I'd met a few of them, my favorite was his sister, Brigid.   She gave me a hand-sewn blue cat once, to keep my pajamas in (usually holding other treasures).   She lived in England her latter years, never immigrating here.  I always liked the name Brigid.

Each group in M's class is also supposed to fulfill various elements.  I don'tknow what they all are, but M isin charge of religion, andart, and the group is to interview someone.  They'll also visit Five Points, and an Irish restaurant (probably also a pub in the evenings).  I'd suggested perhaps Connolly's, as Black47 play at one of their spots, forgetting at the time the name of the one, Tir Na Nog, where I'd gone with a girlfriend of mine who lives in New York City.   Ah, they have one in mind:)

The easy way to "fulfill" the religion requirement is to visit St. Patrick's Cathedral.   Harder is learning WHY that particular site is so important to the Irish immigrants who were in New York City.   (I found some nice text on this, )We've been there previously, beautiful place, hauntingly beautiful bells.  M also wants to honor Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.   She's NOT been too happy to miss eating pancakes and sausages at our church on Shrove Tuesday this year, nor the talent show that she sometimes dances in.  She'll get over it:)   Besides, it's about time she attended an Ash Wednesday mass, if she does.  Although we're not Catholic, our ethnic and political heritage via Ireland is Catholic (like my grandfather and many other relatives).   Our Protestant church also has the ashes, et al, my favorite service of the year, other than Christmas eve midnight, actually.   M brought up the ashes subject to me recently, too, what does it mean.

M's thinking for art, that they may just have to visit Fay's shoes, makers of Irish dance shoes. which has their main US site in New York City.   "I could try some on, too, Mom, for size, and maybe get some."  LOL.   Actually, M NEEDS new hard shoes, but she's not willing to admit that yet.  Her feet have grown enough for the next size up, and her Irish step dance teacher wants the tips replaced.  There's a significant cost difference, BUT, I may seriously send M with instructions to contact me for credit card information should she visit there.    I'm thinking that she could check out a local New York City Irish dance school (or performance group, if any), music store, if any, that'd sell bodhrans and penny whistles, etc., or somethingto do with their writing and storytelling.   I have a few books at home of Irish fairy tales.   She'll figure this out:)

Ah, but who to interview?   This is the really exciting part!   Many liking Irish (or Celtic) music, may enjoy bands like U-2, an awesome band, Sinead O'Connor, etc.  Or, perhaps they like the mainstream traditional stuff such as The Chieftians, or The Irish Rovers.   Great stuff, nothing to complain about.   I also like some of the not as commercially known, but excellent Irish bands out there, such as Solas; M's favorite, Teada (; 7 Nations, and Black 47 (and a more local one, Bogwanderers).  All of whom I've had the great pleasure to see live at least once.  

Larry Kirwan is the lead singer and writer for the band, Black47 named after the potato famine of 1845-1847 (  He's also an Irish immigrant, and has a strong background in Irish history, and politics, even writing a play, Mister Parnell (a historical figure in Ireland), and is a fantastic writer, IMHO.   Okay, I got suckered into that band from a festival when M was a toddler, wow, great music.  I started getting their online newsletter and discovered more than I knew I hadn't known.......... visiting them also in some hole in the wall in Baltimore, and even traveled to Gaelic Park, Chicago once to see them and others (and a friend).    Black47 is based out of New York City.   M is surprised to know that I know their e-mail address.   "Do you know-know them?"  Um, they don't know or remember me, honey.   "But, you know their e-mail," eyes and mouth wide open.   Um, yeah.  I just got re-added to their e-mail newsletter, though.   "Do you think you could write them, does he [Larry] still wear green suede shoes, could we interview HIM??"

Gulp.  Ah, sure.   Gulp.  They are nice guys.  He likes to share info on Irish history and story.  (I was not believing the balls I had to write them/him and even ask this.)   I was correct.   Larry himself e-mailed me back, apologizing for how busy he is right now (NOT a surprise, I'd even said I'm sure that he is), and that he's likely to not even be in New York City when the class visits.   (True or not, it's a nice out that M has to understand.  He's famous in some circles, M, please understand that.)   Larry did, however, offer for M, A, and Cr, to interview him by e-mail.   Wow, that's still so very very cool!   Thanks, Larry!  :)   M's disappointed, even if understanding, and teacher Mo is impressed and happy for the connection.   I suggested to M that they come up with some intelligent questions before writing him back, and she asks me again for the Tenement Museum website address.

Get involved in anything Celtic, one eventually finds his or her way into music.  I'm told members of Celtic Thunder are playing outside B'more tonight, including Jessie Winch whom I know from the Bogwanderers, and whom ZandB (blog in my sidebar) told me I should contact for M to interview......   Irish music, Irish dancing.   Both seem to seep into our lives in many fashions, almost becoming our lives at this time of year, perhaps even helping to define the Irish immigrants years ago and now, also.   I'm glad, however, for the Irish community I've found in the great Washington, D.C. / Baltimore area.   I only know it so well, but I like what I know, I've learned a lot, found some friends.  

The most cheerful of the cleaning crew was my desk just now.  (I'm writing this after my time at work has been done, argh, did Grey's just come on, I'm missing the beginning AGAIN?.)   He knows that I know rudimentary Spanish, and he always talks to me, big smile on his face.  He's possibly an immigrant here, part of the current wave, or cycle, of ethnic communities of immigrants to our great country.   He returns to be sure I'm not here much longer, he'll be sure someone else stays in the building (I think?).

To quote Larry Kirwan (Black47 from his St. Patrick's Day message of 2002, yes, I saved it:), "....we still must honor the memory of those who paved the way for us.  Part of that responsibility is that Irish-Americans should never forget the new immigrants from other lands, legal and otherwise.  Many, like our forebears, are fleeing tyrrany, economic and political, and are striving to feed and educate their families.  It would be the ultimate irony if an Irish-American were to look down upon the least of them; for, in my mind, anyway, there is no place in the Irish soul for racism, sectarianism, homophobia, or even dumb old Archie Bunker-type xenophobia." 

Even if I'd known online of a few Irish-Americans in New York City who are outraged that any Catholic church in "their" city would even consider holding some masses in Spanish, and, well, I disjoined their group for all of their very harshly negative comments on blacks and hispanics, using slang I didn't even know.  

Few of us are natives here.   God created us all equal.   Oh, yes, I will celebrate my ethnic heritage and history.   How exciting for M's class to learn in detail of some of the peoples who have come here to our shores in the past, and their history, too:)


  1. Wow, sounds like an awesome trip! My 15 yr old went to NYC in 7th grade with the drama club, got to see both Hairspray AND Wicked.  The rest of your post is SO interesting, I always learn so much from your posts!!! :)

  2. LOL. You know the color of the walls, but not where she is staying.  :)  ~ Mike

  3. The trip sounds amazing...let us hope you get the name of the place soon!  LOL..hugs,TerryAnn

  4. I really enjoyed reading this entry!  The trip sounds like a wonderful learning adventure and a whole lot of fun for your daughter and her classmates.  I love your enthusiasm as you write about the trip and Irish immigration and Celtic music and everything!  I hope that you will follow up and let us know how your daughter enjoyed her trip.--Sheria