PITTSBURGH, PA - With more than 100 community leaders in attendance, Mayor William Peduto today launched Welcoming Pittsburgh, an effort to improve quality of life and economic prosperity for immigrants and native born residents alike.
The initiative is part of Welcoming America, a national and grassroots-driven collaborative that promotes mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born Americans.
Through Welcoming Pittsburgh the city will support efforts such as resettling refugees eager to build new homes in the city; working with organizations including the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Global Pittsburgh, and Vibrant Pittsburgh to support efforts that keep international students in the city and their contributions to the city’s economy; reviving its Sister Cities program with the help of the World Affairs Council; and supporting job growth of all kinds, from small businesses to manufacturing to high-tech.
“Pittsburgh has long been home to generations of immigrants -- it drew my family here and so many others -- but there is much more we can do, especially in supporting business opportunities and innovation among all our residents, old and new. While we celebrate our immigrant past, we need to build on a welcoming future,” Mayor Peduto said.
Studies show Pittsburgh lags behind most peer cities in net immigration, yet the immigrants it does host are among the highest-educated in the nation.
As of early 2013, the had more than 1300 Bhutanese, nearly 500 Burmese, almost 200 Iraqi, and over 260 Somali who resettled in Pittsburgh. Also the landscape is changing for the region’s Latinos -- across the county, there are 24,000 Hispanics, most of which live in the city.
“It was our great honor to host Mayor Peduto’s kickoff of Welcoming Pittsburgh,” said CEED Executive Director Rufus Idris. “As an immigrant from Nigeria and someone who works directly with this population, I see firsthand every day the numerous contributions the immigrant community is making in Pittsburgh through innovative startups and new business ventures.”
Welcoming Pittsburgh will work to bring those communities out from the shadows and let them know that their stories matter. The city is currently taking applications for those seeking to join a Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council to contribute to the rollout the effort’s implementation plan and set key initiatives. Policies will also be shaped with the guidance of this core team. The Council will also be tapped to lead a listening tour to engage community members every step of the way.
Those interested in joining the Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council may apply at: http://pittsburghpa.gov/personnel/jobs/pittsburgh_advisory_council The application will remain open until June 20.
Additionally, the fall 2014 class of the city’s Civic Leadership Academy is set to include half new Americans/immigrant leaders, totaling roughly 10 to 15 people of the 25 to 30 enrolled in the class. Depending on the interest from the community, next year the city may launch a CLA class specifically for new Americans to further open the doors of local government to all of Pittsburgh
June is Immigrant Heritage Month, and speakers at the Welcoming Pittsburgh event talked about the Global Great Lakes conference coming to the city June 12, and a regional Puerto Rico outreach strategy that includes a concert by El Gran Combo on June 22. Both are free events and open to the public.
Wednesday’s ceremony included remarks from: CEED Program Officer Lavender Wachira; City of Pittsburgh Nonprofit and Faith-Based Manager Betty Cruz; philanthropist and community leader Cecile Springer; Latino Family Center Executive Director Rosamaria Ponciano; immigration attorney and former diplomat Kamana Mathur; Vibrant Pittsburgh CEO Melanie Harrington; and Allegheny Conference Executive Vice President, Corporate Relations, Bill Flanagan.
In addition to community leaders who spoke to their immigrant story, attendees enjoyed performances by the Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, led by Artistic Director Kadiatou Conte-Forte, and Bésame with Jorge Delgado on guitar, Paul Cindric on sax, Melissa Alliston on percussion, and Roger Day on tuba. The musicians set the tone for the day by adding a cultural feel spanned the globe. Light refreshments were provided by Kenyan-owned Lydia’s Coffeehouse.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
City of Pittsburgh
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