Racial Equity | Welcoming America

Category: Racial Equity

Strengthening our communities: How to build understanding and counter fear of refugees and Muslims

Welcoming America | November 7, 2016

Stand Together and Neighbors Together will help you build understanding in your community and counter fear of “others” by sharing promising practices of welcome for all. We hope that these toolkits strengthen your community as residents get to know their neighbors.

Demographic changes are happening across the United States, and many Americans don’t know who their new neighbors are or why they are here. Without genuine personal interactions, it’s too easy for assumptions and misunderstanding to take hold.

Americans as a whole are generally unfamiliar with Islam. This means that instead of having an authentic and shared experience of someone, their impressions are based on images and sentiments they see in the media. It’s also possible they know families who are Muslim, but don’t realize it because they have been taught to expect Muslims to look and act in certain ways that aren’t necessarily true.

This is especially important, because in many Americans’ minds right now, the words “refugee” and “Muslim” are deeply linked even though refugees come from every religion and background, and there have been many Muslim families in America for generations.

There is also a very good chance that even someone who is well meaning and generally welcomes new Americans, but lacks exposure and experience with Muslim Americans, may lean toward seeing them as “other” rather than valued community members. This is a chance to give people the opportunity to do better.

In America, our individual identities are complex and multilayered. The more we can model this through stories that build connections, the more that people can begin to develop a new and deeper relationship to people from which they may otherwise feel disconnected.

The more authentic we are and the more compassionate we are — even toward those who question welcoming efforts — the more likely we can help people who may be unsure to grow and become part of their new communities.

We hope that our new resources are a source of guidance for you and your community.

Stand Together: Messaging to Support Refugees in Challenging Times

Demographic changes are happening in communities across the United States, and many Americans are unsure about their new neighbors. Learn constructive ways to push back on negative stereotypes and reaffirm your community's shared values.

Download Stand Together

Neighbors Together: Promising Practices to Strengthen Relations with Refugees & Muslims

This companion toolkit lifts up promising practices happening across the country to counter negative rhetoric, bullying, and discrimination against Muslim Americans and refugees. These bright spots — communities actively welcoming through simple gestures, statements of alliance, and people stepping out of comfort zones to stand with their neighbors — offer hope for all.

Download Neighbors Together

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Welcoming means creating understanding and opportunity for all people

Welcoming America | September 28, 2016

At Welcoming America, central to our work is the idea that communities can only thrive when all are valued. And across the country, important work is happening to help both newcomers and long term residents to feel at home and be actively welcomed.

To feel safe, accepted, and able to connect with others are the basic things we all associate with feeling at home. Unfortunately, too many people today do not feel at home; instead they feel excluded and restricted from participating fully in the places they live.

Too many people are also the victims of deep violence – whether they are children who are being bullied because of their perceived religion or background; women being excluded from workplace opportunities because of their gender; young men being targeted, imprisoned, and killed because of the color of their skin, workers being left behind by an economy in turmoil; or loving couples afraid to care for one another because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And for many of us who hold multiple identities, we may experience not one but many of these painful experiences, either ourselves or among loved ones.

As Americans we believe in treating everybody with dignity regardless of their identity. But what we believe consciously and how we act in moments where our judgement is tested and influenced by fear can be two different things. The impact of our bias – coupled with years of practices and policies that reinforce them – hurts all of us.

Welcoming America does not have all of the answers for making communities the fair and prosperous places they should be, but we do have a network of communities where important conversations are taking place and where strides are being every day to create a safer and more equitable home for everyone. As facilitators of this incredible network, our role is to provide a forum for exchanging ideas and for helping more of us recognize the connections and common ground that can be shared across our multiple identities, while also having the difficult conversations that help us to listen and to make communities feel more like home for everyone.

It’s in that spirit that we offer a number of new tools, including thought pieces from the field and our new webinar series, Welcoming +, which explores new ways to deepen your welcoming efforts across intersections with race, economic development, schools, health equity, and community engagement. We are also very excited for our new Spark Fellows, who are addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion in their welcoming work.

Let us know what you think – you can join the conversation on Twitter by tagging @welcomingusa - and please share with us the examples from your work of ways that you are creating opportunities for healing across and between different communities.

By Jennifer Driver and Rachel Peric

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New fellowship to advance racial equity and immigrant inclusion in eight US communities

Alaina Pitt | August 31, 2016

Contact: Deborah Hakes, [email protected]

ATLANTA - Welcoming America announced today eight recipients of the 2016 SPARK Fellowships to advance racial equity. Selected from a pool of highly competitive applicants of Welcoming America member municipalities and nonprofits, the first class of fellows will participate in a two-year, intensive program on race in their communities to raise awareness of disparities and develop a strategy for change.

“Welcoming America believes that these fellows will make important contributions to closing the gap in racial equity in their communities while also advancing immigrant inclusion,” said David Lubell, Welcoming America founder and Executive Director. “Creating a welcoming place for all residents means helping all residents participate fully and belong. Pew research shows that a majority of Americans believe more needs to be done to achieve racial equity, and efforts such as the SPARK Fellowship will work toward that change.”  

Racial disparities exist across education, income, and housing, among other indicators. As an example, US Department of Education research found that black students as young as four years old face unequal treatment from school administrators.

The fellowship challenges recipients to delve deeper to learn about racial equity and access to justice in their communities and others as they learn linkages among the shared history of race, attitudes about immigration, and economic trends; and they will receive insights and concrete content to champion issues of racial justice in their daily work.

SPARK fellows will receive funding, resources, and guided toolkits to conduct city-to city visits that focus on exposure and analysis of communities through a critical consciousness of race lens. City visits will focus on learning from each community’s low-income housing, incentive programs, immigrant-dense corridors, lowest and/or highest performing schools, and other relevant local options that showcase the local story of access and inclusion over time.

The fellowship is made possible by a two-year grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and it is part of Welcoming America strategy for leadership development to build a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by making everyone who lives there know they belong. Welcoming America’s commitment to thriving communities and intersection includes focusing on five key areas: economic stability, education, social and community context, health and health care, neighborhood and built environment.

The 2016 recipients of the SPARK Fellowship for achieving racial equity include:

Melissa Bertolo, Welcome Dayton Program Coordinator, City of Dayton Human Relations Council

Amy Coffman, Special Assistant to Mayor Berkowitz, Municipality of Anchorage

Patricia Y. Hernández, Senior Attorney, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.  

Jazmin Long, Immigrant Integration Specialist, Global Cleveland

Elisa Neira, Executive Director, Princeton Municipality Department of Human Services

Trang Truong, Technical Advisor for Global Initiatives, YMCA of the USA

Ze Min Xiao, Community Innovation Manager and Refugee Liaison, Salt Lake County, Utah

Emily Yaffe, International Relations Specialist, City of Charlotte, Office of International Relations


Welcoming America believes that all people are valued contributors and vital to the success of both our communities and our shared future. Our approach helps strengthen communities as they move beyond divisiveness and fragmentation to a coordinated web of policies and programs that ensure that all residents - including new Americans - can thrive. We partner with more than 100 communities across the United States and are the nonprofit partner to the White House’s Building Welcoming Communities Campaign. Learn more about Welcoming America.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.

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