Lowell’s history and status as a gateway for immigrants is well known. When you consider the canals dug by Irish laborers that powered the city’s founding, it can be said that Lowell was literally built by immigrants. So it was only fitting that Lowell chose to participate in the 2018 edition of Welcoming Week America with the first ever Welcoming Week Lowell.
New this year, Welcoming Week Lowell focuses on bringing together immigrants, refugees, and native-born residents in Lowell to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the ongoing contributions of immigrants and refugees to the City.
Members of the Refugee and Immigrant Support Coalition are responsible for introducing and planning the week’s events. The Coalition is a voluntary group of community and agency leaders in Lowell, formed last year to collaborate and advocate for increased and more accessible services for immigrants and refugees.
Welcoming Week happens nationwide in more than 700 communities around the country.
Welcoming Week’s kickoff ceremony was held on Friday evening September 14th at Lowell City Hall. Mayor William Samaras joined State Representative Rady Mom and others in raising the flag of the United Nations and celebrating the beginning of the week’s events which will run through September 23rd.
The event began with a flag parade–with a twist. Rather than a single procession, various ethnic groups gathered in different spots in and around downtown (Lucy Larcom Park, 75 Arcand Drive, the parking lot next to Friends) before converging at the City Hall steps.
The emcee for the evening was Molyka Tieng of Lowell Community Health Center. Molyka thanked the over two dozen community groups that participated in the planning and execution of the week’s festivities. Event planners included the City of Lowell, African Community Center of Lowell, the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association,, International Institute of New England, Jericho Road Project, Lowell Adult Education, Lowell Alliance, Lowell Community Health Center, Lowell Public Schools, Pollard Memorial Library, Middlesex Community College, Coalition for A Better Acre, the New American Center of Greater Lowell, and Solidarity Lowell.
Mayor Samaras began the speaking program by issuing a proclamation officially deeming September 14th-23rd as Welcoming Week in Lowell.
“Welcoming Week is a first of its kind celebration that will feature a wide array of events celebrating the very best of our city and I encourage all Lowellians, whether you are a newcomer yourself—or part of a fifth generation family—to take part in this week,” the mayor noted during his remarks.
Representative Mom, himself an immigrant, spoke both as a political figure and a small business owner.
Other speakers included Gordon Halm from the African Community Center and Emma Tobin from the International Institute of New England. The International Institute is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Other events this week include a Cultural Exchange Potluck, several Conversation Cafes, the opening reception of the Urban Landscape: Legacy of Immigration exhibit, a Community Conversation Town Hall event featuring city manager Eileen Donoghue, and a free movie screening of Coco hosted by the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association. Full schedule below:
Visit facebook.com/WelcomingWeekLowell for more updates on this exciting new annual event in the city!