Welcoming Week Starts With Friday Salsa Night, Many Events to Follow
MEXICAN BINGO: Councilwoman Leticia Fraga presides over “Loteria” Mexican Bingo as Mayor Liz Lempert looks on during last year’s Welcoming Week. More than a dozen events to promote inclusiveness, unity, and diversity are planned for this year’s Welcoming Week, which runs September 13-22 at various locations throughout Princeton. (Photo courtesy of Princeton Human Services)
By Donald Gilpin
Promoting inclusiveness, unity, and diversity, Princeton’s fourth annual Welcoming Week will kick off this Friday, September 13.
Sponsored by Princeton Human Services, Princeton Public Library (PPL), and a number of other local organizations, Welcoming Week will feature more than a dozen different events from September 13-22 and is “a time to celebrate and amplify the values that unite us as neighbors, parents, and colleagues, and that make our town more welcoming to newcomers and everyone who calls our community home,” according to the Welcoming Week flyer on the Human Services Department’s website at princetonnj.gov.
Last year there were more than 2,000 events in 400 communities across the globe during Welcoming Week, with more than 80,000 people participating.
A naturalization ceremony will take place at 2 p.m., September 18 in the PPL, where 23 Princeton immigrants will be taking the Oath of Allegiance to become United States citizens, in a ceremony presided over by the Department of Homeland Security United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Welcoming Week is a time to encourage neighbors to engage in acts of kindness, welcoming, and inclusion, and to bring neighbors together to start conversations and create a welcoming environment for all,” said Princeton Human Services Director Melissa Urias. “Our events during Welcoming Week are meant to bring together residents who may not have an opportunity to meet otherwise, and share their cultures and experiences in an inclusive setting to allow all individuals in our community to feel connected and welcomed.”
Emphasizing the importance of building “common ground in our community,” PPL Community Engagement Coordinator Kim Dorman pointed out, “Princeton is a town that thrives on all of the incredible people who live here permanently and those who come for short-term residencies. It is part of what makes us unique and successful. In order for people to thrive, they need to feel welcomed into the community.”
The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will launch Welcoming Week on Friday night with “Dance, Princeton, Dance!,” a Salsa night dance party at the ACP from 7:30 to 10 p.m.
On Saturday, September 14, the Princeton University Art Museum will hold the grand opening of its Art@Bainbridge building with a block party at the 158 Nassau Street historic site, starting at 11 a.m. At 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Art Museum on campus a tour, “Embracing Our Differences,” will take place, highlighting the museum’s pieces that reflect “the diversity of our community and embrace the core values that unite us.” Available all day Saturday will be a self-guided Museum tour titled “Celebrating Black Artists.”
Next week’s events will include the movie Rainbow Day Camp at the Princeton Garden Theatre with a panel discussion with film director Horacio Marquinez on Monday, September 16 at 6 p.m.; and Open Archive: Princeton School Days in the Discovery Center of the PPL on Tuesday, September 17, 6:30 to 8 p.m., with the Historical Society of Princeton’s curator of collections and research on hand to share information and answer questions.
At 7 p.m. on September 18, the PPL will screen a film called This is Home, which explores the challenges of refugees who come to this country. “It is one thing to allow people to enter,” said Dorman. “It is another entirely to make them welcome. Welcoming Week reminds us of this critical step towards building stronger and more vibrant and inclusive communities.”
Cultural Exchange Night on September 20 at 6 p.m., in a new location on the Palmer Square Green, is a perennial highlight of Welcoming Week, Urias claims. “For the past three years, the event has grown and attracted more individuals interested in sharing their cultures. We hope to have even more families join us this year in sharing their backgrounds through music, dance, and traditional attire,” she said.
The final weekend of Welcoming Week will feature “Loteria” Mexican Bingo at the YWCA on Saturday, September 21 at 3 p.m.; and at 3:30 p.m. is Princeton University Community and Staff Day, with local residents joining University faculty, staff, and students for a youth sports clinic, a community service project, a family fun fest, and the Princeton University football team’s season opener against Butler starting at 5 p.m. Free football game tickets are available through September 19 at GoPrincetonTigers.com/tickets.
Welcoming Week wraps up at the PPL on Sunday, September 22 with a choice of events, both taking place at 3 p.m.: a Korean Lotus Flower Lantern-Making Workshop led by members of the Korean Spirit and Culture Promotions Project (pre-registration required) and the “Power of Faces” art talk led by photographers Theresa Menders and Daniel Farber, whose work is on display on the second floor of the library. They will discuss the images that are part of “The Power of Faces,” a global photojournalism project featuring portraits of individuals and families in refugee camps around the world.
In a press briefing on Monday, Mayor Liz Lempert emphasized the value of Welcoming Week for the Princeton community. “We pride ourselves on being a welcoming community, and this is a chance to celebrate all that that means. It’s great to have all the community partners help put together the programming to celebrate the diverse place that Princeton has become.”
She continued, “I do feel there’s more anxiety and fear in the air, and one of the best ways to combat that is to come together and strengthen the community and make sure residents feel a strong sense of belonging and connection to one another.”