The Rwandan community living in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) enjoyed a boat ride on the East River to celebrate the 4th July Rwandan Liberation Day to honor the sacrifice made by the heroes who ended the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, rescued and restored people’s dignity.
The ceremony was marked by inspiring speeches made by Rwandan High Level Officials: H.E. Eugène-Richard Gasana, State Minister and Ambassador to the Rwandan Permanent Mission to the United Nations and Colonel Vincent Nyakarundi, Rwandan Military Advisor to the UN, who played a key role in the liberation struggle, reminded the community to uphold the unity and sustained gains achieved for the last 20 years.
Keeping the momentum of the July 4th celebration, the community gathered again on the 12th of July in Prospect Park in Brooklyn for the launch of the project on Rwandan cultural activities.
The project aims at creating a platform for promoting Rwandan culture with the overall objective of strengthening social cohesion and empowering the community of all ages to be creative and reconnect with the Rwandan culture.
Planned activities around this initiative will include learning Kinyarwanda, traditional dancing, Rwandan poetry and other positive traditional values, etc.
In every society, language, art, dance and traditional values are among the distinctive factors that define cultural identity.
However, globalisation and technology have transformed significantly our lives and continue to undermine the culture and traditional values that historically were transmitted from generation to generation.
In Rwanda, the tragic colonial history of divisionism which led to the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi has contributed to tear apart the cultural identity and many artists and elderly who were custodians of the culture were killed.
The Government of Rwanda is investing in restoring the cultural values and has established a cultural week to educate youth about Rwanda’s rich cultural heritage. There are also opportunities for the Diaspora to do more in particular in relation to the native language and other traditional values which are being threatened. It has been observed that children who are born and grow up in foreign countries have little exposure and lack the knowledge of the language and cultural heritage.
The launch of the project was celebrated by 26 Rwandans and friends of Rwanda who live in New York and New Jersey, friends of Rwanda and others visiting from Canada and Sweden. They all felt that the project will be beneficial to them at various levels.
New York is a city where culture diversity is celebrated and we need to promote the Rwandan culture and draw the young generation to learn and be empowered. We will also target other people who are interested to know more about Rwanda, in particular those who are aspiring to travel to the country as tourists or for exploring opportunities in private-public partnerships.
Diversity is our strength and we will use innovative tools to encourage Rwandans and other individuals with different cultural background to be part of this initiative. This will be an opportunity to showcase and develop various talents and connect with others.
Rwandan culture is rich and has deep values worth sharing that teach us to love and help one another. We need to continue to be attached to the strong elements that our culture offers,cherish them and teach them to others.
The group enjoyed a sunny summer Saturday dancing traditional songs of the most well-known Rwandan artists, namely Muyango,Kayirebwa and Jean Paul Samputu until 10:30 pm under the shade of a tree in the most celebrated park of New York in close proximity of the Bandshell. This is a platform for summer artistic performances, which attracts over 1 million New Yorkers and tourists for free concerts and other shows.
With this project, the dream is to see the Rwandan artists being featured in the Bandshell Celebrate Brooklyn performances or Central Park and other cultural festivals taking place in New York.
The community will be meeting over the rest of the summer in public parks to continue to brainstorm how to establish the Rwandan Cultural Club Initiative, which will be a space for empowerment and fostering social cohesion through cultural activities.The project is organised and led by AIGINET (AmahoroIwacu Grassroots Impact Network) in the context of promoting cross-cultural exchanges initiatives.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely from the author and do not necessary reflect the official policy or position of any international agency or any government.