Welcoming Week brought neighbors together to act our values

Over a thousand events in 40+ states offer a counterpoint to the national vitriol

We are wrapping up Welcoming Week in a time of extremes, both the harmful rhetoric that isolates us and hampers our potential as a thriving, inclusive society, and the immense enthusiasm and support for affirming our American values. This is especially true as the Department of Homeland Security considers a rule change that would penalize new Americans for accessing basic services, like food assistance through WIC, as they build their lives and care for their loved ones.

We know both the content and the timing of this rule change plunges immigration into the heart of a contentious election season, but there is clearly a different path forward – one exemplified by welcoming communities – in which our neighbors’ lives and well-being are valued, rather than politicized.

Over the course of Welcoming Week, Americans of all backgrounds from across the nation have come together in a show of faith, trust and appreciation for one another. The support that thousands of role model organizations and individuals showed to newcomers and longtime residents alike was inspiring and helps build an unshakeable bedrock of inclusive resilience all across the country.

All of us have values and interests that bind us to our neighbors. Whether it be a desire to become more active citizens or help our children succeed and belong in school, we can find common ground, and play a role in establishing more supportive communities and environments for all. Living out this ideal through the power of community action and positive role models is what makes Welcoming Week unique at a time of deep division. And we offer our deepest thanks to the many thousands of partners, members, and residents who lifted up this message and joined us last week to act in their communities and make their voices heard in local and national media.

This year was a contrast of small and big. Huge organizations like the YMCA came out in force to fully leverage all the opportunities inherent in a concept like Welcoming Week. Not only did hundreds of local Ys host intimate potluck dinners , but also large sports festivals meant to get community members having fun together and cheering for the same things.

Speaking of scope and breadth, we saw impressive Welcoming Week activities in far-flung international places like Slovenia and Australia. And deep in the American heartland, communities such as Kearney, NE and Fargo, ND were sure to participate and “get on the map” to welcome immigrants and all residents, making their local values plain and reminding us that no effort is too small to strengthen the fabric of community.

This year we also did something different and gave each day a different theme. During a moment of intense debate around our national refugee policy; family detention and separation; and the very nature of citizenship and belonging, we wanted to offer clear pathways for action and specific ideas for grassroots leaders, mayors, and community members to show how immigrants and refugees contribute, and how all residents can be more engaged.

Each year, the Welcoming Week event ideas get more creative and more adept at bringing out curiosity and the spirit of exchange and understanding. Potlucks, sports and arts events, and new commitments to local policy change are common, but this year we saw bright, new ideas like Philadelphia’s Bilingual Bird Walk, Penn State Law Center’s immigration and Equity Summit, and the Sioux City, Iowa Immigration Simulation to name a few.

Creating welcoming communities is a year-round effort of putting action behind the positive values which bind us as a community. The leaders who hosted events this week reflect the leading edge of a movement working 24/7 to send the message that all of us belong, and to build the practices and policies to support everyone’s full participation in communities. For those who are new to this work, we hope you’ll join that larger movement, and continue to celebrate  and act on the values that unite us.

Local news coverage

With over 1,000 events happening nationwide, news feeds were piling up with coverage of local welcoming events. In communities large and small, rural and urban, everyone had a story to tell.

Highlights from the week:

For a complete list of events and a map of Welcoming Week’s reach, click here:​

  • Building bridges
    • Welcoming Roanoke (Roanoke, VA) – The City of Roanoke and local partners hosted a series of events that brought together immigrants, refugees, and native-born residents to promote the benefits of welcoming everyone in their community.
    • Welcoming Greater Charlottesville (Charlottesville, VA) – Welcoming Greater held over 20 creative activities that allowed people to celebrate and learn about their community’s diverse cultures, including an event focused on Know Your Neighbor, which brought residents together to share their stories.
    • Not In Our Town” – Film Screening and Discussion (Dayton, OH) – Welcoming Week participants screened the documentary which was followed by a panel forum with representatives from ABLE (Advocates for Basic Legal Equality), Welcome Dayton, and local police departments for a discussion of U-Visas.
  • Encouraging Citizenship and Civic Activism:
    • Refugee Sunday: Community Lunch and Day of Action (Hearts & Homes for Refugees – Westchester, NY) – Time to Take Action! Participants wrote postcards to their lawmakers, signed a petition, made donations, and signed up for the Helping Hands program and more.
    • Anchorage Welcoming Week Civics Fair (Anchorage, AK) – The Anchorage Public Library, University of Alaska’s Center for Community Engagement & Learning, and Welcoming Anchorage hosted a Welcoming Week Civics Fair in recognition of Citizenship & Constitution Day in conjunction with UAA’s Democracy & Civic Action Week. More than 20 civic organizations hosted booths that highlighted how individuals can become civically engaged.
    • Welcoming Salt Lake (Salt Lake County, UT) – Welcoming Salt Lake raised awareness of the economic and cultural contributions immigrants bring to the Salt Lake community. The portrait exhibit showed prominent leaders alongside immigrants to demonstrate that Salt Lake County is a welcoming county.
  • Welcoming Campuses
    • Welcoming Week at Keck Graduate Institute (Claremont, CA) – KGI paired with Claremont Graduate University’s art department to display works of art from international students, immigrants, undocumented students, and/or refugees. All KGI community members were encouraged to put a fingerprint on a wall to signify that they came from immigrant families.
    • Welcoming Week Reception at Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA) – Participants came together to take pictures and show their support for immigrants, refugees, and international students.