Day of the Immigrant
It is not often that suburban Chicago leaders go out of their way to recognize the important contributions of immigrants in their communities. In fact, this does not necessarily happen naturally in urban areas either, but as luck and hard work would have it, Uniting America Fellow Karina Lopez made it happen in Bolingbrook. Saved on my calendar for over a month I was extremely excited to attend this very special day. Part of my excitement was due to the notion that something like this event should also be replicated in Aurora. The local congregations who have been taking action to support immigrants in the community are also interested in creating a fun event to raise awareness of the beauty and impact of immigrant cultures in our city.
By 10:15 I am in the parking lot; energy is already high as I walk towards the recreation space and see volunteers wearing Uniting America tee shirts, all working together to hang a ‘Day of the Immigrant’ banner. I am so proud to see such dedicated volunteers wearing our shirts! They come from a diverse set of backgrounds and form the backbone of the UA program. Volunteerism in action! As I walk out to the open ground I am thoroughly impressed by the lake, fountain, and yellow and white stripped tent under which yet more volunteers are busily working away. As soon as I pinpoint Karina she sets me to the task of organizing the Uniting America information table. With pens, fliers, pictures, balloons, table clothes and an official UA sign I am delighted with the presentation and prepared for the crowds!
While setting up, a local volunteer named Alex steps right in to help out. It takes two (or three or four) to hang the sign and even more to pin down the table cloth as we try to tape it down against the wind off of the lake. Connecting with locals becomes the highlight of the day and meeting Alex gave me a personal insight into what it is like to be an immigrant youth in Bolingbrook.
Soon we are called away to begin the program. As we sit along the grassy amphitheater, we are introduced to the Mayors of Bolingbrook and Romeoville. A local Wal-Mart sponsor gives a powerfully moving story of growing up in Colombia and the strength of his mother to come to this country and work hard for the future success of her children. Also present are State Senator McGuire and Congresswoman Biggert, both of whom I had met at previous functions. Their presence reassures us of their commitment to the immigrant community. Other local advocates are presented with awards and by the time the speakers are done, the grilling is in full swing and everyone is ready to eat, play games, and explore the services that have come together today.
What a great experience! Thank you to Uniting America Fellow Karina Lopez and Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project for putting together this wonderful event! Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible similar event in Aurora!