Global Detroit: Let's celebrate National Welcoming Week

All this week, Welcoming Michigan will join other Welcoming America affiliates and partners across the country in celebrating the second annual National Welcoming Week. This nationwide event will promote meaningful connections and a spirit of unity between U.S. and foreign-born Americans by providing opportunities to work together to create stronger communities through local events focusing on volunteerism, civic participation, and creative expression.

Welcoming Michigan is one of 22 Welcoming America affiliates around the country organizing activities and using positive messaging campaigns to highlight the shared values and contributions of immigrants in local communities. Whether you emigrated from Mexico, your grandparents migrated north from the southern U.S., your great grandparents from Poland, or your Anishinaabe ancestors traveled here from Canada, we all have a migration or immigration story to tell.

Welcoming Michigan works with local communities to help U.S. and foreign-born residents get to know each other, listen to each other’s stories, and develop mutual respect and understanding. The statewide immigrant integration initiative grew out of the 2010 Global Detroit study and is now a project of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

Since officially launching in May 2012 on the Detroit riverfront, the program has posted five billboards and hosted over 60 events that have reached over 3,000 attendees. "Welcoming Committees" made up of community leaders help plan activities to bring long-time and new residents together to learn about each other’s values and cultures. Events include film screenings, cooking classes, multicultural celebrations, and dialogue to help build connections among members of the community.

Welcoming Committee members are making changes and setting a positive tone in their communities by connecting with other leaders and spreading the message, offering services in multiple languages, and displaying welcoming posters. Welcoming Michigan is currently working with committees in Van Buren County in southwest Michigan, and Sterling Heights, Hamtramck, and the Chadsey Condon neighborhood of Detroit.

National Welcoming Week is an opportunity for Michiganders to show their true Midwestern hospitality. Today, Sept. 17, folks from across the state will gather on the Capitol steps in Lansing to celebrate Welcoming Week and support the unveiling of a new welcoming billboard on I-96.

To mark the occasion Governor Rick Snyder has issued a Welcoming Week Proclamation and joins with Welcoming Michigan and its partners to encourage residents of the Great Lakes State to recognize the importance of working together to create and support strong communities. Governor Snyder is part of a growing cadre of leaders from Dayton to Chicago who see benefits for creating a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants and who want to make their cities and states friendlier to foreign-born residents.

Exciting things are happening in southeast Michigan as well. Macomb County and the City of Sterling Heights have both joined Welcoming America’s "Welcoming Cities and Counties" initiative. Both municipalities will issue proclamations declaring their localities to be welcoming and encouraging longtime residents to join their immigrant neighbors in a spirit of unity. In October members of the business community will come together for a "Breakfast of Nations" in recognition of the growing diversity in Macomb County.

On Sept. 8, the Welcoming Chadsey Condon Leadership Committee kicked off Welcoming Week early by joining partners and volunteers from ACCESS, WISDOM, U of M Dearborn, First Congregational Church of Royal Oak, Interfaith Leadership Council, National Network for Arab American Communities, and Chadsey Condon Community Organization for A-OK Detroit Service Day. A-OK Detroit started as a way to honor the memory of 9/11 as an opportunity for people to come together and work side-by-side to make their community a better place.

This year 70 volunteers worked at Alternatives For Girls in the Chadsey Condon neighborhood of southwest Detroit, an area where 34 percent of the population was born in another country, the highest percentage in the city of Detroit.

Volunteers from across metro Detroit (Dearborn, Royal Oak, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Troy), from different ethnic backgrounds (Yemeni, Polish, Chinese, African American, Sicilian), and with different religious beliefs (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) came together to clean up a nearby vacant lot. Inside the building volunteers helped clean & tidy the kitchens and childcare room, washed windows, organized the library and arts & crafts room, and packed hygiene kits. The service day offered a fun way for metro Detroiters to give back while getting to know their neighbors and a new corner of the city.

Not to be outdone, the Welcoming Hamtramck group is planning cooking classes in conjunction with Hamtramck Food Week Sept 23-29. Volunteer chefs will teach fellow community members how to make a dish of personal cultural significance and share their family’s migration or immigration story of how they came to the area. Cooking classes provide a fun way for residents to learn more about other cultures and connect over shared experiences. "Immigrants are and always have been key to what makes Hamtramck a wonderful community," says Hamtramck Chief of Police and member of the Welcoming Hamtramck Leadership Committee Maxwell Garbarino. "Welcoming Michigan's endeavors are excellent to help support that tradition and to help make them feel more welcome here, now and always."

During Welcoming Week, Michigan residents can show support for their new neighbors by attending one of the local Welcoming Week events, or by visiting for more ways to get involved.

"We encourage everyone to start by talking to their neighbor," says Christine Sauvé of Welcoming Michigan. "Then share your story with us and join the conversation on our facebook page."

Welcoming Michigan is a project of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center with support from the Ford Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  To learn more about Welcoming Michigan, please join us at here or find us on Facebook.
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