Original blog post by Symbol Lai, Office of Immigrant Affairs, posted on May 29, 2020
National Immigrant Heritage Month is back — and not a moment too soon. Faced with a global pandemic, unprecedented shutdowns, and uncertainties everywhere, 2020 is a difficult year. We are overdue for connection.
Started in 2014, Immigrant Heritage Month uses storytelling to center immigrant experiences. Where media, movies, and government depict immigrants as wholly good or bad, storytelling allows immigrants themselves to define their own migration stories. Why did they come to the U.S.? What was it like to leave their home countries? How did they make their new homes in cities like Philadelphia? Coming from immigrants themselves, sharing such stories can be acts of self-determination.
Storytelling is also a tool that breaks down barriers. Whether or not you immigrated, you probably have moved once. You made new friends, joined activities to form a new community, and learned the in’s-and-out’s of local politics to participate in public life. If you’ve ever traveled, you might have had to speak and read a different language–and you probably struggled. Large forces and institutions like law, the economy, and war shape immigrant experiences, but storytelling is a chance to delve deeper. Through personal stories, we find universal needs that cut across identities. These include the need for safety, nourishment, and belonging.
In 2020, storytelling is more important than ever. Federal safety net programs for COVID-19 exclude many immigrants. It is the latest move in a long line of xenophobic policy shifts. Yet just as before, immigrants provide invaluable contributions to the well-being of our communities. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, they work the "frontlines" as doctors, nurses, delivery people, and food workers. Like everyone else, they are also families, friends, and neighbors trying to stay healthy and connected.
Immigrant stories, therefore, create opportunities for connection and advocacy whether or not you are an immigrant. This comes at a time when citizenship status bars them from consideration at national policy tables and this is why the Office of Immigrant Affairs is excited to partner with the Free Library of Philadelphia for the fourth annual Immigrant Heritage Month. We have developed a digital storytelling campaign that elevates immigrant stories, and we need your help! Check out our storytelling toolkit and tell us why you support Philly immigrants. Don’t forget to tag @PhillyOIA!
You can also support Immigrant Heritage Month by joining virtual activities from:
The Free Library of Philadelphia
Philly Counts will host a Census 2.0 Virtual Summit with immigrant-serving leaders on June 5 from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Register now to participate.
The Philadelphia Latino Film Festival
The Philadelphia Latino Film Festival will screen local and international films online from June 4-7.
Caribbean Heritage Month
Caribbean Heritage Month, a national month featuring activities brought to you by The Caribbean Community of Philadelphia. More details to come.
World Refugee Day
Philadelphia World Refugee Day’s week-long digital celebration of refugees and immigrants from June 15-20.
The 45th Annual Odunde Festival celebrating the black diaspora in Philadelphia.
"How I Engage" with the Welcoming Center
The Welcoming Center of New Pennsylvanian’s "How I Engage" digital campaign.
For ways to advocate for immigrant causes, remember to get counted both by the U.S. Census and by your vote. Check out our voting guide for new U.S. citizens and support the Philly Counts census team to stay engaged.
See how you can share your story for Immigrant Heritage Month »