Immigrants & Non-Immigrants Both Welcome At C-U Welcoming Week Activities

Jessical DeVries with the University YMCA's New American Welcome Center.

Jessica DeVries holds a "Welcome" sign from the University YMCA. The Y's New American Welcome Center is coordinating National Welcoming Week activities in Champaign-Urbana.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Champaign-Urbana is the site of dozens of events celebrating the contributions of immigrants, during National Welcoming Week, beginning Friday.

This is the third year that the New American Welcome Center at the University YMCA has coordinated local events for Welcoming Week, which is organized nationally by the group, Welcoming America, founded by immigrant rights advocate David Lubell.

“It is a week that’s meant to celebrate immigrants and the diversity that they bring to our community,” explained Jessica DeVries, an Americorps/VISTA worker helping to coordinate Welcoming Week at the New American Welcome Center. “But it’s also meant to be a week for community members, immigrants and non-immigrants just to come together and build relationships and get to know one another.”

DeVries says that over 2,500 community members from over 40 countries attended Welcoming Week events in Champaign-Urbana last year.

A listing of this year's Welcoming Week events is available here.

Locally, Welcoming Week gets its official kickoff on Friday, September 13, with an event held in the parking lot outside the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum in downtown Champaign, from 4 until 7 PM.

The kickoff offers food, live music, community art-making projects, “and an opportunity to welcome our newest neighbors in a safe, fun and welcoming atmosphere”, in the words of the University Y’s website.

Food, music, art and a chance for immigrants and U.S.-born residents to meet are featured in many Welcoming Week activities over the next few days. Other events are tailored for children, such as a Saturday afternoon “Soccer and Ice Cream Social” at Soccer Planet in Urbana. And still others focus on issues relevant to immigrants, such as a presentation on the upcoming 2020 Census, and a legal clinic for immigrants (appointment required).

Then there are events that predate Welcoming Week, such as the Channing-Murray Foundation’s Tagore Festival on September 14, dedicated to Rabindnath Tagore. The Indian writer, reformer and Nobel laureate visited and lectured in Champaign-Urbana in the early 20th century.

Another event predating the local Welcoming Week festivities is the 6th annual Immigrant Welcome Awards ceremony, set for Saturday, September 21 at 3 PM at the Urbana Free Library. The awards honor people and organizations “that have created a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in the Champaign-Urbana community.

DeVries, who worked on local Welcoming Week activities as an intern last year, said she’s seen growing enthusiasm for the event among participating groups.

“It’s been great to see how a lot of our partners who have been involved in the past have increase their involvement this year,” said DeVries, “or are more excited this year, or just have really concrete reasons for why they think it’s important to celebration immigrants and to participate in Welcoming Week.”

New American Welcome Center Director Gloria Yen said that Welcoming Week is part of a growing movement in support of immigrants and their contributions.

“Communities recognize that they are strong when everyone feels welcomed and can fully participate,” said Yen in a news release.

National Welcoming Week officially ends on Sept. 22. But two local activities will take place later: a September 28, 2 PM concert by classical guitarist Guido Sanchez-Portuguez at the University of Illinois Krannert Art Museum, and a “Make Ice Cream With New Friends” event at 1 PM on Monday, September 30 at the Museum of the Grand Prairie at Lake of the Woods Park just  outside Mahomet.

CORRECTION: This article has been revised to show the number given for attendance at last year's C-U Welcoming Week activities at around 2,500 people, not 25,000. -- Jim Meadows, 9/13/19.

Story source: WILL