New York City is home to a great number of immigrant communities large and small with intertwined roots in Inner Asia, a vast geographic region that is too diverse to encapsulate in a few words. But they face common issues as religious, linguistic, or ethnic minorities in their home countries and as new Americans. In particular, the question of cultural survival in the face of economic, political, or ecological challenges here and in the homeland shapes efforts to sustain musical and dance traditions, alongside endangered languages, in the City of Immigrants.
The Inner Asian Sustaining Cultures Initiative works with community partners and master artists to explore and implement projects to address the question of cultural survival through fieldwork, educational programming, community or public programming, and organization building. These challenges center equally around the transmission of endangered languages to ensure that youth are able not only to perform music or dance forms, but also to communicate with older generations and inherit cultural knowledge.
Currently, the initiative centers around two such partnerships, one with the Buryaad Mongol United Association, unfolding with the Buryat community in Brooklyn, and one with the Himalayan Language and Culture Program (HLCP), unfolding with the Himalayan and Tibetan communities in Queens. Associated organizations also include the Endangered Language Alliance, whose previous initiative with HLCP, called Voices of the Himalayas, provides much groundwork for current Himalayan projects.
Resulting projects so far have included concerts to support community food programs and cultural networking, talent shows to encourage song learning among youth, educational video programs for the community, fiscal support for arts and language education for youth, and online concerts to expose the broader public to master artists.