2018 ‘Immigrants of the Year’ honored

Discovery why two individuals were selected this year, as their names go onto the plaque at the Portland Immigrant Statue in Parkrose …

Here, getting ready to add names to the Portland Immigrant Person of the Year plaque at the Portland Immigrant Statue in outer East Portland is a worker with Vancouver Granite.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Since the Portland Immigrant Statue was dedicated as part of the Parkrose Centenary Celebration in October of 2011, the list of honorees on a plaque below it has been growing yearly, as additional Portland Immigrant Person of the Year awardees have been named.

The statue and plaque, located at the “Parkrose Triangle” of NE Sandy Boulevard and Portland Highway, has significance – reminded Joe Rossi, who has spearheaded the project over the years.

“Sandy Boulevard was originally a Native American trail that connected historic Parkrose with Portland,” Rossi told East Portland News on Wednesday morning, October 10, just before the 2018 honorees were named.

Standing before the Portland Immigrant Statue in outer East Portland, Joe Rossi tells the history of the monument, and how it is connected with the Portland Immigrant Person of the Year organization.

“The immigrant portrayed by the statue is looking toward what were once fertile fields owned and worked by immigrant farmers, long ago,” Rossi recalled.

The criteria for the award are simple, and the individual is chosen by a nominating committee, informed Rossi. “They’re looking for an individual who fulfills our mission of being a person who very much appreciates the opportunities of America, shares their success with others who come to America after them, and continues to love their culture of origin,” he said.

This year, however, the committee was in a quandary – two candidates equally rose to the top, “because they are so noteworthy, and special,” in Rossi’s words.

Standing in front of the statue, Portland Immigrant Person of the Year Project Director Hai Ninh congratulated both of this year’s awardees, Hussein Kamel Al Baiaty, and Justin Hwang.


2018 Portland Immigrant Person of the Year
Hussein Kamel Al Baiaty

Portland Immigrant Person of the Year Marketing Director Amelia Salvador and Project Director Hai Ninh present Hussein Kamel Al Baiaty with the award, as Hannah Al Baiaty and Joe Rossi look on.

“I was once an immigrant from Iraq, and a refuge, and didn’t have much opportunity,” Al Baiaty reflected after receiving his award. “Then, when we came to America we found a plethora of opportunities; you just have to work hard at it.

“I’m sharing the message, especially to young people, that there is really nothing can stop you from reaching your goals in the future.

He’s honored by this award, says Hussein Kamel Al Baiaty.

“I get tired of listening to people who say there is no hope, and the world is degenerating; but, I’d rather listen to people like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and people who think ‘you have to be the change’ in your own life, and in the lives of others,” elaborated Al Baiaty. “I feel honored beyond measure and will continue to work hard serving my community, mostly through encouraging kids by spreading a good, positive message.”

You’ll find him working at his Hillsboro print shop, The Printory.


2018 Portland Immigrant Person of the Year
Justin Hwang

Jeannie Hwang looks on, as Justin Hwang is presented the Portland Immigrant Person of the Year by Hai Ninh, with Joe Rossi and Amelia Salvador.

After being presented his award, Justin Hwang talked with East Portland News about his experiences as an immigrant.

“In South Korea, the tradition is that you don’t come as a guest with ‘empty hands’, but my family came to the United States with ‘our hands empty’.”

“Having come here at a young age, I call myself a ‘1.5 immigrant’, [meaning that] I feel this award should go to my dad, who sacrificed himself by giving up his American Dream for me to pursue my American Dream,” Hwang explained.

Awardee Justin Hwang says he learned “giving back to his community” from his parents.

“I lost my mother when I was a teenager, and [for] all my father’s work, I would like to present this award back to him,” Hwang added.

Part of what he learned from his parents, Hwang said, is “to spend all of my life giving back to this community; I think this is the best way for me, as an immigrant, to pay back my new country that I love.”

Over the past 13 years, Hwang started “from scratch” as he says, and has become the owner of a chain of 22 Joy Teriyaki restaurants, and is also currently running for election to be the Oregon District 49 State Representative.

Congratulations to the both of the 2018 Portland Immigrant Person of the Year recipients.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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