If you passed through City Hall this week, you may have noticed something is a little different.
Surrounding the Municipal Services Building – you know, the one with the Rizzo Statue? – is an installation of 26 posters. A diverse population of people spans the images, each one marked with a word and a letter. S, for example, is for Stereotype. It captions a photo of a young Asian woman holding a statistics book.
Stereotype Window Posting – An Immigrant Alphabet – [Re] Presenting & [Ex} Changing Our America – A public art installation featuring the work of artist Wendy Ewald in collaboration with Northeast High School students. Municipal Services Building & Thomas Paine Plaza, 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd. Philadelphia, PA 19102. #photography #philly #phillyphoto #phillyphotography #garygrissom #philadelphia #urbanphotography #centercityphilly #centercityphiladelphia #municipalservicesbuilding ##iAlphabet #exchangePhL #tabadulPHL
This is the Immigrant Alphabet.
It’s a three-month art installation that debuted last Friday to kick off Welcoming Week, a celebration that Miriam Enriquez, Director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, has summed up in four words: “Welcoming Immigrants, Connecting Communities.”
Enriquez developed this slogan last year, and has used it as the foundation for Welcoming Week events.
“Opening with an art installation was really great, to see all these people outside of MSB, walking around, looking, reading. It’s really heart-warming teaching people about immigration through art,” said Enriquez.
Art is just the beginning.
Enriquez’s brainchild is a collection of 51 ways to celebrate. Heritage Story Potluck brought an array of homemade food and stories to share. The Caribbean Open Mic Competition hosted wordsmiths performing poetry, rap, song, and the like. Free Arabic Classes began Wednesday outside Municipal Services Building. Puerto Rico and Nicaragua saw their flags raised at City Hall, a first for the Nicaraguan flag.
A number of events also promote resources for the immigrant community.
The Immigration Resources Fair this Saturday, for one, will offer information on free English courses and citizenship classes at the South Philadelphia Library.
The surge in citizen initiative has been another welcomed event.
“Today, I hosted a Twitter chat, “ said Enriquez. “And what we got a lot of was: How can we help our immigrant communities? And one of the answers is: volunteer.”
Enriquez also directed tweeters to The Immigration Action Guide. The guide recommends donating to refugee organizations that face defunding. It also urges readers to call their representatives and voice support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as well as concern over legislation that would defund Philadelphia and other sanctuary cities.
However, Enriquez is also urging citizens to think of Philadelphia not as a sanctuary city, but as a welcoming one.
“Sanctuary city policies vary for from city to city,” Enriquez explained. “There’s no legal definition of one. Philadelphians have access to services just like anywhere else. I like ‘Welcoming City,’ because it says that we need to treat everyone the same, to even the playing field.”
Welcoming Week is just just one of the approaches the OIA team is taking to achieve this.
Policy, like the free citizenship classes offered by the Bar Association and Take Action Philly as well as economic development in conjunction with community outreach are the office’s cornerstones for fostering inclusivity.
Enriquez puts it in simpler terms.
“We appreciate you being here, we appreciate your diversity. It’s what makes Philadelphia so great.”
Luckily, there’s an entire weekend (and Monday) of Welcoming Week left to do just that. Even if you only have time for one event this weekend, Enriquez hopes people will make the trip down south for the Philadelphia International Block Party.
“It’s going to be Saturday in South Philly, right before the Ireland vs. Mexico soccer match. There’s going to be music, food, and sports. What brings people together more than that?”
17 Ways to Celebrate this Weekend
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Ceremony
Friday, September 22 at 11:00 am
Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, Skyline Room
Immigrants take the oath of citizenship.
Friday, September 22 from 7 to 10 pm
North apron of City Hall
Launch of Michelle Angela Ortiz’s animated projections “Seguimos Caminando” (We Keep Walking). The piece honors mothers detained at Berks Detention Center for immigrant families. It will be projected on City Hall Wednesday and Friday evenings through Nov 19.
Salud! Fundraising Dinner Series for the Garces Foundation
Friday, September 22 during the evening
On Point Bistro, 1200 Point Breeze Ave.
Pay as you go
Donate to Garces Foundation, a Philadelphia service providing free, comprehensive healthcare to immigrants as well as English classes and skills for jobs in the culinary industry.
Saturday, September 23 from 10 am to 4 pm.
Reading Terminal Market, 51 N. 12th St.
Help create a multicultural mural at Reading Terminal Market. Bring pieces of fabric that represent your heritage. Event curated by Peace Day Philly.
Saturday, September 23 from 11 am to 2 pm
South Philadelphia Branch, 1700 South Broad St.
Providing information for immigrants, refugees, and asylees on citizenship classes, English classes, food resources, housing information, health care options, employment information, and more.
Saturday, September 23 from 11 am to 4 pm
Guerin Recreation Center, 2201 S. 16th St.
An event to showcase Venezuelan values and traditions, with a domino tournament, food, kids’ games, bolas criollas (bocce ball) tournament, and more.
Saturday, September 23 at noon
Chinatown, 10th & Arch
An expression of community pride and responsibility. Youth give a day of service, restaurants donate food, artists offer their talents, businesses and organizations chip in money to make the festival happen.
Saturday, September 23 from 1 to 4 pm
Norris Square, 2100 N. Howard St.
Spotlight on David Hartt, the artist working on the project combining green space and Afro-Latino community at Norris Square.
Saturday, September 23 from 2 to 10:30 pm.
Ramp Playground, 3300-40 Solly Ave.
Ukraine v. Panama (2 pm), Ghana v. Brazil (4 pm), and US v. Honduras (6 pm).
Saturday, September 23 from 4 to 8 pm
Marconi Plaza, 13th and Oregon
Feature event of Welcoming Week. Get ready for immigrant-owned food trucks, cultural dance performances, and craft vendors.
Saturday, September 23 from 8 to 10 pm
South Philadelphia Supersite, 11th and Bigler
Soccer game for the Philadelphia Unity Cup.
Sunday, September 24 from noon to 2:30 pm
Benjamin Parkway, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
More than 1,500 musicians, performers, local celebrities, and youth groups.
Sunday, September 24 from 3 to 7 pm
Fairhill Square Park, 4th and Lehigh
Post-parade concert with the Hispanic community.
Sunday, September 24 from 11 am to 10 pm
Workshop on the steps to becoming a US citizen, for permanent residents and others.
Naturalization and Citizenship Workshop
Monday, September 25 from 10 to 11 am
Consulate of Mexico, 111 S. Independence Mall E #320
Workshop on the steps and requirements to becoming a citizen.
St. Kitts Flag Raising
Monday, September 25 from noon to 1 pm
Northeast Apron, City Hall
Hosted by the Caribbean American Heritage Collaborative. An official welcome to our diverse communities from different countries.
Monday, September 25 from 2:45 to 6:30 pm
Calvary Center for Culture & Community, 841 South 48th Street
A discussion of successful models for delivering services to immigrants and refugees and promoting prom-immigrant policies throughout city government.