Mayor: ‘New residents are vital’; 2nd annual Welcoming Week begins on Friday

Published 8:54 am Thursday, September 14, 2017


Friday marks the beginning of the second annual Welcoming Week in Austin.

The event, which runs from Sept. 15-24, was proclaimed by the City Council during its regular meeting on Sept. 5.

“Our community’s success depends on making sure that all residents feel welcome here,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said in the proclamation. “Today, new residents are a vital part of our community, bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas, starting business, and contributing to the vibrant diversity that we all value.”

Email newsletter signup

Austin Human Rights Commission Director Jason Baskin described the week as one that “promotes inclusion and celebrates diversity.”

“Austin is part of Welcoming America, which puts on Welcoming Week,” Baskin said. “Welcoming Week is part of the overall work to build a diverse community and it allows us to celebrate what diversity brings to the community,” Baskin said.

The event kicks off on Saturday with the Mower Refreshed Harvest 5K run/walk at 9 a.m. at the Austin Municipal Pool. The run will be followed by Harvest Fest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Austin.

A world premiere movie screening of “Like We Don’t Exist,” a documentary about the Karenni community, will be shown at 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Historic Paramount Theatre. A discussion panel will follow the screening. The Karenni, who come from Myanmar (Burma), have a growing community in Austin. Baskin said Austin was one of just a few cities in the country chosen to premiere the movie.

Riverland Community College will host an equity and inclusion event at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday. According to Baskin, the event will include immigrant Riverland students sharing stories of their experiences. The AHRC will also further discuss its plan to make Austin a more welcoming community, which it revealed in July after conducting a six-month study on Austin’s strengths and weaknesses in welcoming immigrants.

Sumner Elementary will have a Flag Walk and storytelling event at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Baskin says the students will carry the flags of their native countries as they walk around the neighborhood. Following the walk, parents of immigrant students will share their stories.

The Austin YMCA will host a free family swim and gym night from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22. Baskin described it as a way to bring people together.

The timing of “Welcoming Week” comes at a chance moment as the Trump Administration recently opted to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Baskin said the AHRC has heard concerns from immigrants within the Austin community.

“There is definitely concern within the immigrant community about the changes in immigration enforcement over the last year,” he said. “We try to keep a non-partisan view and want to make sure everyone feels included and diversity is celebrated, but it is definitely more topical than it has been in the past.”

“The challenges are that it creates a lot of uncertainty,” he added. “We know being a diverse inclusive community makes for a stronger community. DACA was a great program to bring people out of the shadows, and now the uncertainty makes it harder.