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Irish Heritage Month at RCC Toasts All Things Irish

Irish Heritage Month at RCC Toasts All Things Irish

Photo: Maire Liberace by Collette Fournier/RCC


February 28, 2014

CONTACT: Maralin Roffino


Irish Heritage Month at RCC Toasts All Things Irish

Song and dance, art and crafts, pivotal history to be accented

Ramapo – The distinctive achievements and contributions of the Irish in America will be feted throughout March during Irish Heritage Month activities at Rockland Community College. All events are free and open to the public.   “At RCC we respect diversity and in that sense we celebrate all cultures,” said Maire Liberace, co-chair of Irish Heritage Month and Professor of Speech and Philosophy at RCC. “One culture that has had a big role in the foundation of America is the Irish, and their influence continues right down to the present day, whether it is in literature, music, sports, TV, radio, movies or other areas. We want to recognize the contributions made by the Irish as we celebrate the diversity of the population and cultures in America.”   The celebration is anchored by a month-long display of creative Irish art and craft works in the Atrium of RCC’s Cultural Arts Center. Lilting Irish music and traditional dance from the Emerald Isle take center stage at a pair of events set for latter

March: the Irish Coffee House on March 18, featuring old-fashioned Irish sing-alongs, and the CrossRoads Ceili on March 26, which showcases a pair of talented local youth ensembles in an exuberant medley of music, song and dance.   Just as the arts inspire an uplifting Irish legacy, so too do sad chapters color its rich past. Prof. Liberace shines a light on the little-known story of Irish slavery during her March 20 presentation of “Forgotten Bondage: Irish Slavery in the New World,” which examines the 17th-century enslavement of Irish citizens in the New World by the British.   “This subject wasn’t taught in school in Ireland,” said Prof. Liberace, an Irish native. “It was only in recent years that documentation was discovered. It was a real eye-opener to me. The Irish felt their 700-year bondage under British rule was slavery enough. This took it a step further. Slavery is repugnant, no matter how you look at it.”   Here is a rundown of the upcoming events:   Throughout March Irish Culture Display Atrium, Cultural Arts Center Handcrafted knit and lace samples, artifacts of Irish dance and sports, and collectible books by noted Irish authors, both contemporary and historical, are among the representations of Irish culture to be exhibited.

March 18, noon – 1:30 pm Irish Coffee House Black Box Theater, Cultural Arts Center The coffee house features traditional Irish sing-alongs blending poetry, readings and music. Everyone can bring their favorite Irish music and sing, dance and play during this open-mic event. Light refreshments, including a wee bit of (non-alcoholic) Irish coffee will be served.

March 20, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Forgotten Bondage: Irish Slavery in the New World Presentation by Prof. Maire Liberace Technology Center, Room 8180 (Ellipse) Thousands of Irish citizens were brought to the New World in the 17th century by their British rulers and sold as slaves to settlers of the British colonial islands and other New World destinations. Irish documentation of their servitude was lost, however, in a fire during the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s. Prof. Liberace opens a window on this important chapter in Irish history and its relationship to the New World and the Americas.

March 26, 7 pm – 9:30 pm CrossRoads Ceili: Celebrating Irish Culture through Music, Song and Dance Cultural Arts Center Theater Girsa (Gaelic for “girls”), a popular traditional Irish band composed of young women from the Pearl River area, returns to RCC after a five-year hiatus. They will perform spirited traditional Irish songs accompanied by an array of authentic Irish instruments, including button accordion, fiddle, guitar, keyboard, tin whistle and drum.   The Cousins Trio youth ensemble – Maryanne Coleman on button accordion and brothers Daniel and Patrick Sammon on fiddle – will get the audience up and dancing as they perform the Haymaker’s Jig, also known in the U.S. as the Virginia Reel. In addition to the musical offerings, RCC Prof. Keith Walters will read an excerpt from Angela’s Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1996 memoir by famed Irish author Frank McCourt. Light refreshments, including homemade bread and jam, will be served in the Atrium prior to the performance.   Donations for the March 26 event will go to the RCC chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Each year RCC students spend a week in New Orleans building homes for families affected by Hurricane Katrina.

For more information on Irish Heritage Month events at RCC, please contact Maralin Roffino at 845-574-4244 or


Photo: Maire Liberace