Immigrant Heritage Week Celebrates City’s Diversity
The seventh annual Immigrant Heritage Week was celebrated from April 15 to April 21 across the five boroughs. Declared an official, annual celebration by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2004, Immigrant Heritage Week honors the vibrant immigrant cultures, heritages and communities found in every corner of New York City with a rich collection of family oriented events, film screenings, art exhibits and cultural walking tours that promote the diversity of New York City.
“This week is a wonderful opportunity to pay tribute to the generations of immigrants who contributed to the diversity that is our city’s greatest strength,” Bloomberg said.
Each year the Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs hosts Immigration Heritage Week and demonstrates the many contributions made by immigrants to the city. The office partners with more than 1,000 community organizations, public institutions and city agencies to present free, low-cost public events that celebrate the diversity of immigrant history, culture, languages and religion.
This year’s theme was “Flavors of the World”, with many events highlighting a variety of culinary delights. Other events featured theater, music and dance performances, and children’s workshops and discussion groups, many of which occurred in Queens.
On April 16, the Council of Chinese-American Associations, Inc. held a special photo exhibit at Queens Crossing, 38-21 Main St., in Flushing, which highlighted the role Asian-Americans have played in the development of Flushing since the early 1980s. The festivities continued the next day on April 17 at the Louis Armstrong House Museum. The Corona residence of the New Orleans-born jazz legend, 34-56 107th St., celebrated with performances by various Latin American musicians featuring Dominican vocalist Irka Mateo. The concert was held in the Japanese garden behind the home. The Central Library, 89-11 Merrick Blvd., featured a multicultural version of “Cinderella” presented on April 20 by the World Dance Theater Company. In recognition of Immigrant Heritage Week, each segment of the play was told through multicultural dance, music and storytelling, allowing the audience to view the play from a different culture’s perspective. On April 21, the last day of the weeklong festival, storyteller Robin Bady conducted a discussion workshop for parents and children at the Broadway branch of the Queens Borough Public Library, 40-20 Broadway in Long Island City. The program, entitled, “How We Came To Queens: An Intergenerational Storytelling Workshop”, gave young men and women the opportunity to share their experiences of how their families immigrated to Queens. Bady, of Jewish background, explained that her family came from Romania and Russia. “My family left Russia because of the Tsar, who was very mean to the Jewish people,” she said.
The youngsters who attended hailed from Bangladesh, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Colombia.
“My parents came from Bangladesh to Queens for a better life,” one young man said.
“My family comes from Ireland,” Mary Smith, children’s librarian, said. “If you live in America and especially Queens, you have to embrace the fact that we all come from somewhere else.”
Bady is a Brooklyn based storyteller whose career as a performer and teacher has spanned the United States and Europe. For the past 15 years Bady has been performing as a solo artist and in collaboration with other artists, creating programs for adults and family audiences in venues large and small. She founded Shirazad’s Children, a multicultural storytelling ensemble created in response to the events of 9/11. She collaborated with award winning cartoonist Richard Codor on the project “Aesop Sez: Fables For Our Times”. Bady is also the director of The Storytelling Center of New York City. For more information, visit RobinBady.com.
Immigrant Heritage Week was sponsored by the New York Times and also supported in part by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. The Mayor’s Fund is a not-for-profit organization established to strengthen public programs with private sector support from individuals, corporations and foundations.
“It is my belief that immigrants should be celebrated every day of the year,” Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Fatima Shama said.