Culture in Central New York

We are (literally) the world. Savor the diverse cultures, traditions, flavors and flair of an area rich with people from all different backgrounds. 

"We shall call each other Brother, as we are equal. In one canoe is our way of life, laws, and people. In the other is your ship with your laws, religion, and people. Our vessels will travel side by side down the river of life. Each will respect the ways of each other and will not interfere with the other, forever. Forever will be as long as the grass is green, as long as the water runs downhill, and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west."

Haudenosaunee to the White Brothers Two Row wampum 1613


World class

Our strength is in our people. Walk around Central New York and you're bound to meet someone from halfway around the world. CNY is rich with people from different countries, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds. Experience them all in the area's diverse restaurant scene, its many festivals or just shopping at the grocery store.

Around 90 people join hands in a minute of silence during a Thanksgiving Circle of Peace and Hope held near the shore of Onondaga Lake at Willow Bay in Onondaga Lake Park Thursday morning.  The event was organized by Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation.  November 24, 2016.  Michael Greenlar | SYR
A Congolese family look at their photos, taken by Kate Holmes.  Refugee photo day at Northside CYO on N. Salina St. in Syracuse, presented by Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, January 6, 2017.  Michael Greenlar | SYR

Rich in diversity

New York state is among the most diverse state in the nation. According to the 2018 Most Diverse Places to Live ranking, Niche studied the overall diversity of an area while factoring in race, age, and income levels. The most diverse counties include:

#27 Utica, Oneida County. Racial diversity: 59 percent White, 14 percent African American, 11 percent Hispanic, 11 percent Asian, and 4 percent two or more races.

#23 Lansing, Tompkins County. Racial diversity: 56 percent White, 32 percent Asian, 7 percent Hispanic, 4 percent African American, and 1 percent two or more races.

#22 East Ithaca, Tompkins County. Racial diversity: 56 percent White, 29 percent Asian, 8 percent Hispanic, 6 percent African American, and 1 percent two or more races.

#22 East Ithaca, Tompkins County. Racial diversity: 56 percent White, 29 percent Asian, 8 percent Hispanic, 6 percent African American, and 1 percent two or more races.

#20 Calcium, Jefferson County. Racial diversity: 42 percent White, 26 percent African American, 22 percent Hispanic, 7  percent Asian, and 3 percent two or more races.

#17 Syracuse, Onondaga County. Racial diversity: 51 percent White, 28 percent African American, 9 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian, 4 percent two or more races, and 1 percent American Indian or Alaska native.

CNY Roots: Shaking things up

CNY Roots is a grass roots effort to attract and retain diverse, young professionals throughout Central New York by creating social and educational networking events to promote growth and opportunity for young professionals of color.

The group, co-founded by Juhanna Rogers and Victoria Coit in 2017, works with colleges, universities, corporations and community agencies to acculturate people of color to the Central New York area.

“It’s going to be a driving force behind the change that we need to see happen in our community,” Rogers says. “Roots is a vehicle to disrupt the status quo… in a way that hasn’t been seen before.”

The organization’s two main events, Roots Orange and Spring Soul Brunch each draw hundreds of people from around Central New York and as far as Rochester and Philadelphia. “People see us on social media and other outlets and it takes off from there,” she says.

Professionals come from a wide variety of industries, says Rogers, from medical professionals to educators to community advocates. Events typically feature brunch, live entertainment, networking and awards for those who are making a difference in the community.

“It kind of gives you the feel of this vibrant, urban environment,” she says. “People have a great time.”

Rogers says CNY Roots has become a way to bring young professionals together to help them build relationships.

“We are engaging people that are here, but that don’t necessarily get (a chance to network) by creating events and programs to learn and see what’s happening in the community.”


There's a festival or a celebration for just about every culture in CNY. You'll find events that celebrate every nationality throughout the year. Fall plays host to Festa Italiana and the Westcott Street Cultural Fair, winter features the annual Christmas tree and Menorah lightings, Spring brings us the St. Patrick's Parade and Summer packs in the fun with St. Sophia's Greek Cultural Festival, Polish Fest, Juneteenth Celebration, CNY Pride Parade & Festival, Middle Eastern Cultural Festival, Syracuse Bavarian Festival, St. George Macedonian Ethnic Festival, CNY Scottish Games & Celtic Festival and Oktoberfest.

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