Portland’s first ‘Welcoming Week’ kicked off at Gateway Park

INCLUDES VIDEO VIGNETTE | See how all this entertainment – and lots of speeches – kicked off the week that celebrates immigrants and refugees …

From all over the area, people converged on the Hazelwood neighborhood in outer East Portland, at Gateway Discovery Park, for the kickoff of what’s been called “Welcoming Week”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Many people from many nations gathered on Friday evening, September 10, for the opening celebration of “Welcoming Week” – put on by the Immigrant and Refugee Program by the City of Portland – at Gateway Discovery Park.

According to a press release:

This year’s the theme is “Belonging Begins With US”. The message is intended to foster a more welcoming nation (and world!) where everyone – regardless of their background – can belong.

The in-person, live event included performances, many speeches by community members and by a Portland City Council member, vendor booths from immigrant-owned businesses, and an “Our Immigrant Story” – with booths spread out, socially-distanced, around the perimeter of the park.

The lively tunes of Grupo Latitudes, performing Andean and Latin folk music, provides a lively soundtrack for the celebration.

This is a time for all to feel welcomed in Portland, says IRCO’s Surya Joshi.

“To me, a ‘Welcoming Week’ is important – especially regarding the refugee and immigration situation across the world, and the controversy around it. This is a moment in which the City of Portland can come together and see its immigrant and refugee community members as being part of it,” remarked IRCO Workforce Development Coordinator, Surya Joshi. “And, at the same time, this is also a time for anyone who is, or has been, an immigrant or newcomer, to see themselves as part of our city!”

-4 She’s pleased with the kickoff of “Welcoming Week”, says its organizer, Mariya Klimenko.

The Beaverton Market has been involved in ‘Welcoming Week’ for the last seven years,” pointed out City of Portland Immigrant and Refugee Coordinator Mariya Klimenko, the event’s coordinator.

“When I started in this position six months ago, I wondered why we hadn’t done any of these events; and this [idea] began from there, and took on lot of momentum,” Klimenko told East Portland News.

Portland Commissioner JoAnn A. Hardesty addresses the gathering.

One of the immigrant vendors with Mount Soap, Anastasiya Zaslavskaya, holds up a bar of “Gold Milk Rose Soap” and pitches – “It’s only $7.99”, she exclaims.

“We thought it was time to do this, because Portland has been designated by its leaders as being a ‘Sanctuary City’ – welcoming to immigrants and refugees – and we wanted to celebrate that message,” Klimenko said.

At least 15 organizations were involved in organizing “Welcoming Week”, and were also represented at the celebration event that evening.

Together for a photo are New Portlanders Policy Commission members Dr. Baher Butti and Kolini Fusitu’a, at the “Our Immigrant Story” exhibit.

“The best thing about having this [celebration] is that it’s very timely, and a way for people to feel welcome – to feel proud of their heritage, and to come together as a community in solidarity,” opined Klimenko.

Other events associated with “Welcoming Week” that followed, included:

  • Samba, Semba, and Kizomba Dance and Music on September 11;
  • Immigrant and Refugee Awareness Walk on September 17; and,
  • Coffee Around the World” held at the Portland Mercado on September 18, from 11 a.m. until 5p.m

“This is our pilot project, our first year, and we hope that it will continue to grow; we’re hoping to make this an annual event,” Klimenko divulged.

> On our Front Page: These Folklórico dancers swirl on stage as part of the “Welcoming Week” celebration. Photo courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation, by Ken Rumbaugh

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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