Philadelphia is pleased to launch our sixth year of celebrating June as Immigrant Heritage Month (IHM)! Immigrant Heritage Month, which is now in its ninth year as a month-long national effort, begins June 1.
IHM is an opportunity for all residents to explore their own heritage and celebrate the shared diversity that forms the unique story of America. It is also an opportunity to highlight the important role of immigration in the U.S., and to recognize the many contributions immigrants have made to our country. In Philadelphia, we recognize our diversity is our strength and that immigrants and their children are making ongoing cultural, economic, and political contributions every day. This year we are emphasizing stories that encourage Looking Back to Move Forward.
What does Looking Back to Move Forward mean?
In West African traditions, this is called Sankofa and it is a word from the Akan tribe in Ghana. The literal translation of the word and the symbol is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” The word and symbol invite us all to draw strength from our past and use those lessons and knowledge to shape a better future. As we continue to emerge from over 2 years of a pandemic that has had health, economic and political implications that have significantly shifted our society, we take a moment to look back, reflect on what we’ve lost, gained, and learned and use those reflections to move forward and chart new paths.
As a public servant and social worker, I reflect often on how my experience as a daughter of Dominican immigrants shapes my worldview and perspectives. I am able to bring the lessons, values, and traditions of Spanish language, humility, food, culture, work ethic, resilience, generosity and so much more from my family and my upbringing. I carry these with me every day as a reminder to center humanity and justice in my personal and professional roles. I take those lessons from my family’s history and heritage and leverage them to tackle present day challenges I experience as an American. I also use my knowledge and experiences to bring fresh solutions to complex and challenging problems faced by our city’s residents. These are among the gifts of immigrant culture and heritage.
An open invitation for Philadelphia’s residents
This June, we invite all Philadelphia residents to take time to reflect upon your own immigrant heritage and history and lift up the stories, lessons, food, language diversity, arts, and culture that shape each of us. Let us celebrate all the fruits we each have to offer to the City’s cultural fruit salad. Let’s enjoy the texture this brings, the surprises that are uncovered, embrace the challenges that are presented, and commit to navigating together toward productive solutions.
Immigrants and their descendants are the very reason why we have such rich American culture that shifts and evolves. We are a dynamic society of cultural and linguistic blends that has given birth to phenomenal new musical genres, unique artistic styles, literary and technological innovations and so much more!
I encourage residents to follow our social media (@PhillyOIA) all month long to read the stories of other public servants of immigrant heritage and how they draw strength from their history to inform their current and future service. Join the Office of Immigrant Affairs and our partners this month at one or more events to celebrate the various cultural traditions and stories that make up Philadelphia!
Join Us to #CelebrateImmigrants
Visit the full calendar of events on the OIA spotlight page for Immigrant Heritage Month!
Follow @PhillyOIA on social media to read the stories of immigrant heritage in Philadelphia!
Share your own story of immigrant heritage with us!