City recognizes welcoming week through Sept. 18
Published on September 09, 2022
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Mayor Rosalynn Bliss has issued a proclamation naming September 9 through 18 Welcoming Week in Grand Rapids. As part of the national Welcoming Week initiative, she invited members of the community to join together “to build stronger communities and relationships with all our neighbors, renew our commitment to our common values, and take action in the spirit of welcoming.”
“To fully leverage diversity as an asset, our community must create policies and a culture that ensure everyone belongs and thrives. This includes addressing disparities, countering hate, understanding history, and helping neighbors come together,” Bliss said.
“Welcoming Week is part of year-round work associated with the Kent County Welcome Plan. The City of Grand Rapids helped guide the process to create the Plan that centers the voice of immigrants and refugees, also referred to as New Americans, with the goal to create recommendations for systemic and programmatic change to guide individuals, organizations, and policies to be more inclusive and welcoming for immigrants, as well as long-time residents,” Stacy Stout, director of equity and engagement, said.
The Kent County Welcome Plan was built upon the New Americans in Kent County report released in September 2018, followed by over 800 survey responses and several dozen focus groups of local New Americans and strategic thought partnership of over 36 multi-sector individuals to help guide the process and promote the recommendations in the plan.
The City of Grand Rapids serves on the Welcome Plan Steering Committee, and over the past year launched the Welcoming GR series for staff to learn about and engage more with the local immigrant community, has worked to build stronger and more authentic relationships with the local immigrant and refugee communities through the formation of the African Immigrant and Refugee Advisory Taskforce, Know Your Rights training, ongoing engagement with the Congolese community, and an increase of sponsorship for immigrant led celebrations that foster belonging in Grand Rapids.
Educational posts throughout the Welcoming Week can be found on the Facebook pages of the Office of Equity and Engagement and the Kent County Welcome Plan.
“The City of Grand Rapids is dedicated to advancing equitable outcomes and opportunities by leading with racial equity to address root causes of disparities,” Mark Washington, city manager, said. “Equity is one of the City's six values in our strategic plan and is embedded into all our decisions, policies and practices. We know that as a municipality, we are uniquely positioned to reduce disparities and cultivate a welcoming culture where everyone feels a sense of belonging in our community,” he said.
Welcoming Week 2022’s theme, Where We Belong, is an existing national campaign supported by Welcoming America in partnership with the Ad Council and American Immigration Council’s Center for Inclusion and Belonging. By focusing on the places and spaces that foster belonging, "Where We Belong" aims to go deeper and spark individual reflection on how and why belonging occurs, and ways we can break barriers so that places can foster belonging for all, including immigrants and refugees.