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News :: Globalization : Human Rights : International : Labor : Race
'Welcoming Massachusetts' Launches to Celebrate Diversity and Inclusion in MA
09 Jul 2008
Boston, MA - A diverse group of over 200 faith, labor, education, and immigrant community members and leaders gathered today at the Grand Staircase of the State House to officially launch the new Welcoming Massachusetts statewide initiative. Welcoming Massachusetts was founded on the belief that the people of MA remember, honor, and value its immigrant roots, and that the communities that make up the Commonwealth embrace the shared values that unite everyone.

Sign the Pledge!
Emceed by Edwin Arguenta from Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, the
participants gathered and stood to form a shape of a heart, as speakers
shared their stories and perspectives about what "welcoming" means in the
Commonwealth today.

Emily B. Szargowicz from the Jewish Community Relations Council stated, "As
the nation debates immigration it is more crucial than ever to remember the
strong contributions that immigrants have made to society and that
immigration is part of the American framework. America truly is a nation of
immigrants rich with diversity, traditions, and foundations laid by
generations before us."

Enid Epstein, representing 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, spoke
passionately about the economic and cultural contributions that immigrants
make, citing the healthcare industry as one example. "No matter which
hospital, healthcare facility, or nursing home you choose, you will find
that the faces of the doctors, nurses, nurses assistants, aides, cleaners,
and servers meet will me immigrant faces." Epstein continued, "If your
mother is in a nursing home, the person who helps her everyday, the person
who wipes your mother's brow, is probably a caring immigrant healthcare
worker. Immigrants who speak Haitian Creole, Tagalog, Russian, Portuguese,
Spanish, and many other languages from many other places, are working in
Massachusetts, taking care of us everyday."

Pastor Gregory Bishop of the Lion of Judah Congregation called on all to
reject words of hear and anger, and reminded all present that, "Scripture
teaches us that we must be kind and welcoming to the stranger, the
foreigner, for we were once a stranger, a foreigner."

Carline Desire, Executive Director of the Association of Haitian Women
(AFAB) spoke of her immigrant experience, and what the Welcoming MA
initiative means to her. "I've been in the United States for a long time
now, and I have seen and known the American people to be good, kind, and
generous. In the last couple of years, we have witnessed the immigrant
communities being targeted and blamed, and have seen the country divided,"
said Desire. "What I see here, with all these wonderful people gathered
today, I am filled with hope, that we can all come together, and live up to
the best of what our country represents." Desire continued, "Great
Americans, like Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence,
and Eleanor Roosevelt who wrote the Declaration of Human Rights, believed in
the American people and our shared belief that we can come together and
continue to strive to form a more perfect Union. I am delighted that
immigrant community will continue to enjoy the welcoming embrace of such
Americans with warm and open hearts."

Molly Brandt, a High School Student from Brookline expressed her concerns,
"I am worried for the future of our country because we're leaving so many
people out from becoming part of the American dream, which now includes a
higher education." Brandt offered her personal insight, "To me having lived
in immigrant communities my entire life, as the world becomes more global
and more flat, it is important to remember to include the rights of
immigrants in any piece of legislation that we pass."

Suzanne Lee, Principal of the Josiah Quincy School and Chairperson of the
Chinese Progressive Association talked about Welcoming Massachusetts from
her perspective, stating, "I am so proud of the Quincy School for not only
the high achievement of the students, but also for the great diversity, and
for the way each student is tolerant, understanding, and appreciative of the
different cultural backgrounds of his or her classmates. We can all learn a
lot from these children." She reminded the gathering of some of the current
challenges facing immigrant communities today, "For Massachusetts to be
truly welcoming, we must work together to ensure that Chinese-Americans and
Vietnamese-Americans are not disenfranchised from equal access to the vote,
right now." She concluded, "It takes all of us to recognize the importance
of one another to make this Commonwealth a Welcoming Massachusetts."

Maria Elena Letona, Executive Director of Centro Presente summarized the
need for all communities across the Commonwealth, not only to recognize the
immense contributions of its immigrant communities, but also to embrace some
of the founding concepts of America. "The Declaration of Independence,
signed over two hundred years ago this week, expresses one of the most
important tenets that this Nation is founded on...that we are all created
equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness." Letona continued, "This idea should not be remembered as just
rhetoric, but needs to be embraced as living, breathing words, that remind
us all of the humanity and dignity that connects us all as a people, and as
a true Commonwealth."


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