Last Thursday morning I made a trip to Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side for a breakfast reception attended by immigrant advocacy groups from all over the city. The event was hosted by Mayor Bloomberg to celebrate the city’s 8th Annual Immigrant Heritage Week. It was a long way from Orchard Street, but the topics we discussed were very familiar.
It was great to hear from Mayor Bloomberg and Fatima Shama, the city’s Immigrant Affairs Commissioner. Immigrant Heritage Week was launched by the Mayor, who frequently talks about the importance of immigrants to New York City. Bloomberg spoke about efforts his office is making to work together with other cities around the U.S., and emphasized New York’s responsibility to lead the way for immigration reform—something I found especially important. He spoke about how the country cannot wait for Washington to pass legislation; rather, we should start the work together at the grass roots level. The Mayor also discussed the important roles that immigrants have always played in building our society, and the great economic benefits immigrants bring to major cities, which are particularly important in hard times.
The Mayor and the Commissioner honored several people working to help immigrants in the city. One of the honorees was the founder of Reportorio Espanol, a little theater in Manhattan that has been showcasing amazing plays from Spanish speaking writers and authors. Just last month I actually visited this theater and enjoyed a play about Dominicans who suffered during the regime of Trujillo in the 1940s.
Many organizations throughout the city are celebrating this week. For example, the Mayor’s office has been working with StoryCorps to record the stories of immigrant New Yorkers and their families. This project is open to the public, and the mayor encouraged all of us to participate.
Here at the Tenement Museum, we focus on immigrant histories, but we also discuss contemporary issues and make connections between the two. The Mayor seems very supportive of this, and very much aligned with our mission to promote tolerance and historical perspective. It was exciting to be among so many people that care for immigrants today and the many that have come before us.
--Pedro Garcia, Tenement Museum Education Associate