NY Kicks Off Annual Immigrant Heritage Week
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Fatima Shama today kicked off Immigrant Heritage Week, a citywide celebration honoring the experiences and contributions of the millions of immigrants who have shaped our City for generations. The weeklong celebration runs from April 15- 21 and will feature over 170 free multi-cultural events hosted by museums, community organizations, public libraries and educational institutions throughout the five boroughs, including many new partners such as Lincoln Center and El Museo del Barrio. The week was kicked off with a breakfast reception at Gracie Mansion, where the Mayor presented the newly established American Dreamer Award to five New Yorkers dedicated to improving the lives of immigrants. The Mayor was joined at Gracie Mansion by Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs Carol Robles- Román, The New York Times Executive Director of Community Affairs and Media Relations Diane McNulty, and civic, religious and business leaders from across the City’s immigrant communities.
“Immigrant Heritage Week is about honoring our city’s long history as the world’s second home,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our future depends on making sure New York also remains a place that welcomes new immigrants and we will continue helping more immigrants learn English and turn low-wage jobs into middle-class careers. At the same time, we’re cracking down on service providers who try to exploit immigrants, and continuing to fight for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington.”
“Since 2004, the City of New York marks Immigrant Heritage Week to celebrate the important contributions that immigrants make to our great city,” said Deputy Mayor Robles- Román. “Our schools, universities, businesses and museums all benefit from our dynamic immigrant communities. Jurisdictions throughout the country should follow our lead and celebrate Immigrant Heritage Week across the U.S.”
“While the contributions of immigrants to our City can be seen every day, Immigrant Heritage Week gives New Yorkers the opportunity to explore and celebrate the diversity in our backyards,” said Commissioner Shama. “My office has one mission, and that is to support our City’s greatest asset: the many generations of immigrants who have and continue to build and improve our City. No other city in the world is as welcoming to immigrants, and that is why New York remains the capital of the American Dream.”
The American Dreamer Awards, created to celebrate the significant accomplishments and contributions made by an individual or organization to better the lives of immigrants and immigrant communities in New York City, were debuted at this year’s reception. The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs received nominations from a number of community organizations, elected officials and individuals from across the five boroughs in March and five winners were selected from an outstanding group of candidates. The honorees are:
Ambassador Award - Liz OuYang, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans (NY Chapter), is being honored for her work as a spokesperson and role model throughout New York City. Liz has been a civil rights advocate, teacher, and spokesperson for the Chinese-American, Asian American, and immigrant communities for nearly a quarter-century. She has been a leader who has inspired generations of activists, and has made a tremendous impact as an ambassador for her communities.
Community Builder Award - Helena Arteaga, founder of Plaza del Sol Health Center, is being honored for her work as a community organizer who has developed innovative ways to support and assist in the integration of newcomers. A native of Corona, Helen has always been active in her communities of Queens and the Bronx. Her dream and quest was to open a health clinic in Corona that could provide low cost health services to immigrants/undocumented persons. At a conference in DC she met Paloma Hernandez, President of Urban Health Plan in the Bronx, who believed in Helen’s dream and together they found the funding to open Plaza del Sol Health Center in Corona, Queens. The clinic opened last year.
Business Leader Award - Roy Hastick, president and CEO of the Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce & Industry, is being honored for his significant contributions to the advancement and support of immigrant owned businesses. He has been a leader for the Caribbean community to establish two-way trade between the US and the Caribbean and was instrumental in crafting the language which was included in sixty recommendations on trade submitted to the US Congress.
Visionary Award - Caroline Stoessinger, founder and director of The Mozart Academy of New York, is being honored for her significant contributions to the cultural tapestry of New York City. She has been an outstanding teacher and advocate of immigrants for many years. Her organization provides high quality classical music instruction at no cost to immigrant children who have limited access to such opportunities and whose families could otherwise not afford such lessons.
New York’s Uniform Award - Sgt. Lizbeth Villafane, an officer in the NYPD’s New Immigrant Outreach Unit for 16 years, is being honored for providing cultural services throughout the City. She leads a team of six officers assigned to various communities throughout the five boroughs. She is a leader who is constantly engaging her team while developing innovative and creative solutions to enhance police and community relations with new immigrant communities.
The theme of Immigrant Heritage Week this year is “The Flavors of the World in Five Boroughs,” a nod to the culinary diversity that defines New York City and is owed to the many cuisines which have been brought here by people from 192 countries that now call New York their home. A new walking tour series was added to this year’s calendar of events to give New Yorkers and visitors the opportunity to explore the cuisines and hidden gems in diverse neighborhoods around the City.
Immigrant Heritage Week explores our City’s diversity through a rich collection of community events and cultural activities created to highlight the immigrant experience in New York. Established in 2004, Immigrant Heritage Week was made an annual celebration by Executive Order 128, signed by Mayor Bloomberg last year. This citywide event is celebrated around April 17th, the day in 1907 when more immigrants entered through Ellis Island than any other date in the City’s history. The weeklong celebration will feature over 170 free events hosted by a number of community organizations in 19 languages in all five boroughs. The events include family programs, film, theater, exhibitions, and multi-day workshops.
Among the events scheduled for this year’s Immigrant Heritage Week celebration are:
“Dendê & Hãhãhães,” a unique Afro-Brazilian group comprised of musicians of various backgrounds, the groups’ diversity permeates its music with rhythms ranging from Nigerian Afrobeat to Brazilian Samba to Cuban Pilón, will be performing at Lincoln Center.
“BronxWorks 2010 World Peoples’ Day,” a celebration of the many cultures prevalent in the Concourse section of the Bronx, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country, and the common threads that bind them together.
“Under the International Express,” a special walking tour from Woodside to Corona under the #7 train to highlight what it has done to and for the surrounding neighborhoods since it opened in 1914. The tour, lead by Dr. Jack Eichenbaum, explores several ethnic communities that make up the area along the #7 line.
“Celebrating Diversity Through Dance,” dance workshops featuring some of Brooklyn’s diverse immigrant communities including African, Chinese, Irish, Mexican, Russian, and Middle Eastern where participants will learn different cultural dances.
“MEXICANation,” an exhibit featuring twenty-four prints that are part of a long-term photo essay by Irma Bohórquez-Geisler and curated by Monica Valenzuela. The photographs chronicle the rapidly growing Mexican immigrant community as they establish themselves in New York City.
The New York Times Community Affairs Department sponsored the Immigrant Heritage Week celebration at Gracie Mansion. Immigrant Heritage Week partners include: on Edison, Health Plus, Western Union, and Goya. Media sponsors include: TONI on New York/WPIX, NYC-TV life, Daily News, New York Post, Univison 41, El Diario/la Prensa, El Especial/El Especialito, WNYC New York Public Radio, Manhattan Neighborhood Networks, Time Out New York, and Edible Queens. For more information on Immigrant Heritage Week and to download a calendar of events, please visit www.nyc.gov or call 311.
Contact: Stu Loeser/ Evelyn Erskine (212) 788-2958