New York, NY. Across New York State – indeed, the U.S. – small towns continue to rally for Haiti – and now are doing what they can for Japan. From bake sales to walk-a-thons, flea markets to art auctions, local community events continue to be planned for both sets of earthquake victims on different ends of the earth – and economic strata. Literally, earthquakes are the great leveler – from one of the world’s poorest countries to one of its richest, earthquakes know no boundaries.
Two New York State communities I am connected to Nyack Village and Roosevelt Island – have events coming up that fit this trend: helping our neighbors around the world. In Nyack Village, Mayor Richard Kavesh is hosting the “Walk to the Hook for Haiti & Japan” on Saturday, May 7, with support from the “My Haiti Committee” of Rockland County and the Hudson Valley Group of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
One week earlier, Saturday, April 30, there are a host of events to benefit Japan on Roosevelt Island, between Manhattan and Queens. The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA), Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association (RIVAA), and Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. (RIOC) are preparing for the first annual cherry tree festival to raise money for Japan, following on the heels of their last event for Haiti. Previously, the Roosevelt Island community raised funds for victims of the Tsunami in Indonesia.
In an act of solidarity and support, the Roosevelt Island community will dedicated a grove of cherry trees to the Japanese people at the Roosevelt Island First Annual Cherry Blossom Festival on April 30 (1-3pm). The dedication will take place at the start of the cherry blossom festival above the West Promenade across from the Island’s only subway station.
As the Rockland County organizers have stated:
We are writing to ask for support in this benefit devoted to the reconstruction of Haiti and Japan through the support of children. The earthquake in Japan has serious world-wide implications and while our hearts reach out and mourn the loss of life, treasure and hope of the Japanese people, we encourage you to put your feet into motion and do some walking to raise important money.
The organizers had been planning “Hizzhonor’z Hike to the Hook for Haiti,” to replicate a similar event the mayor organized in January of 2010 immediately after Haiti was devastated by a quake. Then, just recently, came news of earthquake followed by tsunami followed by nuclear meltdowns and volcanic eruption in Japan.
Nyack’s mayor said:
Japan has been so generous in its response to the victims of other earthquakes that we should include Japan in our efforts. Let’s make this a hike to the Hook for Haiti and Japan.
The Japanese Association of Roosevelt Island is cooperating with the cherry tree festival. Events will include teaching visitors the art of origami, and in particular, the folding of a 1000 cranes (senbazru), a tradition in Japanese culture for special events. The cranes will be displayed in the local elementary school for all the island children to enjoy.
In Japan, the official arrival of spring is celebrated nationally by tracking the blooming of cherry trees in an event known as hanami (literally translated as flower-viewing). Families and friends gather in local parks to eat, drink and enjoy the blooming of the cherry blossoms. The community of Roosevelt Island with help from the Japanese Association of Roosevelt Island will honor these same traditions at the festival by hosting an afternoon filled with Japanese food, drink, live music and events.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony (ochanoyu) will be performed continually throughout the event. A grove of Cherry Blossom Trees, just across and north of the subway station (“F” line), will be dedicated, with a plaque offering our support to the Japanese people.
Roosevelt Island leader and RIRA delegate Lynne Shinozaki told me:
We have a number of Japanese residents on Roosevelt Island who felt the need to do something for their kinsmen in light of the horrible events unfolding in Japan due to the recent earthquake. It seems only fitting that we gather together as a community to help out in any way we can.
It’s terrible what’s happening over there, and not just over there, it affects us all. Being acutely concerned about the suffering of the Haitian people makes me feel all that much more for what the Japanese people are going through now.
I happen to know why the good doctor cares about Japan so much: her brother is Haiti’s former ambassador to that nation.
The My Haiti Committee has held three fundraising events for Haiti in the last year, an auction of Haitian art donated by Jonathan Demme in July, a Haitian Art Expo held at the Pomona Cultural Center, and a theater performance in Nyack of Gypsy. Proceeds from these events put a roof on the orphanage, paid the teachers who had not been paid for nine months, and built latrines. In addition, they built a special shed for a water filtration system so needed to prevent the spread of cholera.
Half of our proceeds raised in Nyack will go toward relief work in Japan and the other half will go to two designated recipients in Haiti: Ã‰cole Classique Bon Samaritain de Digue Matheux, an elementary school, and La Maison des Petits de Diquini, an orphanage. Proceeds for Japan raised in Nyack will be given after consultation with the Japan Society.
All proceeds from the Roosevelt Island festival, including the food and beverage sales, will be donated to the Japan Society’s Earthquake Relief Fund supporting the March 11th earthquake survivors in Japan.
Nyack Walk for Haiti & Japan: 5K/3.2 Miles
May 7 at 8:30am with registration at 7:30am; rain date May 8
Downtown Nyack Veterans’ Park (corner of Main Street & Cedar)
Music & Drumming 10am
Tjok Gde Arsa Artha on flute and drums and Paul Speziale on guitar
Roosevelt Island First Cherry Blossom Festival
Saturday, April 30
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Originally published in The Daily Kos, April 26, 2011.