By Okon Ekpenyong
Though thousands of miles from their homeland, the Albanian community in central Ohio has managed to preserve their rich heritage, traditions, and culture.
Despite the challenges of living abroad in countries like the USA or other parts of the world, the Albanian community has found ways to maintain a strong sense of identity and connection to their roots. Through their strong community bonds and dedication to preserving their cultural practices, the Albanian community in central Ohio serves as a shining example of staying true to their heritage while adapting to a new way of life.
On November 28th, members of the Albanian Heritage Foundation of Columbus gathered outside the Columbus City Hall to celebrate their 111th Independence Day anniversary. To further commemorate their independence, the Albanian Heritage Foundation hosted its first-ever Albanian Community Foundation Dinner on December 1st at Easton Hilton in Columbus, featuring traditional music and dance and a display of the Albanian nation flag.
The night was full of Albanian cultural dances and music at the gorgeous Easton Hilton in Columbus. It showed a combination of American and Albanian culture that created an uplifting environment for their second-generation children born in the United States. Witnessing community members celebrating their heritage and uniting together despite having different faith beliefs was a remarkable sight.
While at the event, I was impressed with how the Albanian community in Columbus has thrived! It’s fascinating to see the blending of cultures, especially the fusion of American and Albanian traditions. I was envious of this experience, as it reminded me of my upbringing and the cultural integration I am exposed to daily. It was indeed a beautiful experience!
“I was unsure what to expect when I went to the Albanian Heritage Foundation. We all have preconceived notions about people’s culture. We then do not have knowledge of their history. What I got to witness was a love of family, culture, and being proud of your heritage. The music and dancing was amazing. I was truly honored and changed by the experience.”, said Deidre of Columbus.
Albanian traditional dances vary from region to region.
The critical components for an outsider jumping in to participate in ethnic cultural dances include learning the steps, understanding the rhythms, and appreciating the culture. Also, it is essential to watch the footwork of the experienced dancers and to be able to move your hips and body in time with the music while paying respect to the cultural traditions of the dance.
Albanian traditional dancing usually forms a circle, starting with clapping, chanting, and complex footwork. It is a captivating sight to behold because it is a means for families to preserve their cultural identity and for individuals to reconnect with their legacy.
The members wear red and black colors that symbolize the Albanian flag, paying tribute to their nation. These colors represent bravery and courage, respectively, on the flag. Moreover, the double-headed eagle symbolizes Albania’s independence and freedom.
“Shortly, the foundation plans to build its first academic institution for the Albanian community,” said Besa Sharrah, the foundation’s president.
Apart from commemorating Independence Day, the Albanian community observes several critical religious holidays, such as Easter and Christmas. Additionally, they come together to celebrate other significant events annually, including Summer Day, Nevruz, Eid al-Fitr, Labour Day, Eid Al Adha, Saint Teresa Canonisation Day, Liberation Day, and Albanian National Youth Day. These celebrations allow the community to unite and uphold their cultural traditions and customs, fostering a sense of unity and belonging.
Local politicians like city attorney Zach Klein and State Senator Michelle Reynolds, business owners, and other community members were among those who came to show their support and recognize the contributions of Albanian Americans to the city of Columbus.
The Albanian community in Ohio is quite large, with over 5000 residents in Central Ohio and even more in the Cincinnati and Cleveland area. Academics and a strong sense of stability are essential driving forces for the growth of this community. Ohio State University has various cultural organizations, and the Albanian Student Chapter is one of them.
The chapter’s mission is to create a strong community through cultural events, language learning, and casual meetings, similar to the Albanian Heritage Foundation of Columbus.
Since the inception of the Albanian Heritage Foundation of Columbus, members have continued to honor and promote Albanian culture and to support the Albanian community in Columbus and beyond. As part of its mission, the organization has been hosting Independence Day celebrations, and this year’s anniversary gathering continues that tradition.
The inaugural Albanian Community Foundation dinner was a great success, both in terms of fundraising and in showcasing the lively culture of Columbus and the surrounding cities. Thanks to the generous support of participants, upcoming projects such as constructing schools, implementing scholarships, and providing assistance to community members in need will be possible.
As an outsider, I was deeply moved by the traditional dances and music. Witnessing the Albanian community’s unwavering dedication to honoring and preserving their rich cultural heritage was heartwarming. This event exemplified the strength of community and the immense impact that can be achieved when people unite for a common purpose.
Support the New Americans magazine to continue to serve our community with precise news that affect the new American, immigrant and refugee community. https://paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=8LHFS78NRNJJY&source=url