slice of life

Thrive at SU raises more than $1,500 to help refugees in Syracuse – with dance, music and Otto the Orange

Courtesy of Thrive at SU

Indian classical music was just one of the cultural performances to grace Manley Field House for the event.

The painted stripes on the grass at Manley Field House normally aren’t subject to loud and vibrant bhangra music, but the occasion — a celebration of diverse cultures in the Syracuse community – called for it.

Syracuse University’s Orange Bhangra was one among six energetic performances and five speeches on Saturday night at SU’s first Thrive Together Fair, a event that saw appearances from guests including Mayor Stephanie Miner and Otto the Orange.

Thrive at SU is the Syracuse chapter of Thrive Projects that works with the local community to increase community engagement with advocacy. The Thrive Together Fair welcomed over 200 people from the Syracuse community and nearby from Manlius and Utica.

Families of refugees, immigrants and students had gathered in the athletic center to watch a night of music and dances from a variety of cultural organizations like Midtown Utica Community Center, Indigenous Students at Syracuse and Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Among Youth.

Mayor Miner began the celebrations with a speech.

“This is a really powerful statement about the values that we hold and the fact that we’re a welcoming community,” she said in her speech. “By having events like this, it’s like lighting a candle in the darkness to say that we truly know what it means to be American and we know what our values are.”

Mayor Miner welcomed guests and talked with them even before she stepped up to the stage, because she believes that’s how new Americans deserve to be welcomed here in Syracuse.

“I think the more our community can show and illustrate how much we value having immigrants and refugees and new Americans here and how we want to celebrate them and bring them into our culture, our city and community, it’s a very good thing,” Miner said. “Almost everybody that I meet with wants to welcome people to Syracuse. This is a way to stand out and do that. Despite some of the harsh language going on, that’s not the way it is in Syracuse.”

Through its event, Thrive at SU raised over $1,500 in donations and ticket sales that will go to InterFaith Works of Central New York’s Center for New Americans. Thrive at SU pledged to aid their cause this year, but that may change, should the Thrive Together Fair be instituted as an annual event, Ryan Brinkerhoff, recent SU graduate and a co-founder of Thrive at SU said.

“Our hope is to turn it into an annual thing, where every year we identify another non-profit in the community and work with them over a year, to find ways to help them and volunteer with them and identify problems that need a funding boost,” he said. “And then host this every year in the Syracuse community.”

Thrive at SU found support in the university from the beginning; it was co-sponsored by Student Association, a partnership that SA presidential candidate James Franco said he was happy to have helped coordinate.

Franco worked behind the scenes to pitch the fair to SA, which approved it and “gave it a push,” after all the legwork had been done by Thrive.

“It’s really cool especially in the times we are now to see more collaboration and experiences from different backgrounds, cultures and groups come together and see what everyone is all about,” he said.

Franco’s running mate Angie Pati agreed with him: “It’s incredibly important to recognize how different and wonderful other people’s cultures are and we don’t get to do that enough on the SU campus. Being stuck on the bubble on the hill and even just a little bit of cultural immersion is important so you can recognize how wonderful other people are.”

As the night winded up, Brinkerhoff left the clapping crowd with Thrive at SU’s mission to come.

Said Brinkerhoff: “This is not the end of our work; this is just the beginning.”

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