The IRC in Baltimore Commemorates World Refugee Day
The Creative Alliance at the Patterson Park opened its gate to welcome more than 200 people to commemorate World Refugee Day on Friday, June 22nd.
People began the celebration by seeing a National Geographic photography camp exhibition, Disappearing Islands, with contributions from female students from Baltimore City Community College’s Refugee Youth Project and Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. The exhibit documented the negative impact on the habitat of Smith Island caused by the rising sea levels of the Chesapeake Bay. “The youth are very talented in using photography skills, and full of imagination in delivering the theme”, said a viewer who was visibly moved by the photography of the refugee youth.
Four Bhutanese refugees played traditional Nepali and Bhutanese drums, madal and tablas, in the lobby of the second floor, while others danced to the delightful folk music. People also tasted a wide variety of international food ranging from Burmese to Iraqi cuisine, and shopped at a global market selling craft work from around the world,
“It is really a great fun to be here! I got a chance to enjoy the music and food of my native country, and learned that people care about refugees,” said Dhanaa, a Bhutanese girl who was resettled in the U.S. two years ago.
The Honorable Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also joined the community for the celebration and delivered the welcome address. Mayor Rawlings-Blake recognized the importance of refugee resettlement and emphasized that Baltimore will continue to be an open place and permanent destination for refugees. The Mayor also expressed that she would like, Baltimore to welcome 10,000 new residents over the next 10 years and indicated that immigrants will contribute greatly to this goal. The International Rescue Committee in Baltimore and the Baltimore Resettlement Center also received individual Certificates of recognition from the City of Baltimore. Ruben Chandrasekar, the Executive Director of the IRC and Martin Ford, the Associate Director of the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees received the honors from the Mayor.
The culmination of the celebration was the talent showcase involving two documentary films, a youth panel, music, and dance. The first film The Paradise That Wasn’t was co-produced by Evodie, a Congolese refugee youth, and Justin Burns, a native Baltimore student. They interviewed several refugee youth and talked about the challenges and opportunities they encounter integrating into the community as well as their expectations for the future. The second documentary which was co-produced by Soccer without Borders, tells the story of how a group of refugee youth in Baltimore are mentored while being trained to play the game of soccer. After the short films, a youth panel including Evodie, Lydia, Muluberhan and Birendra discussed why they were resettled and what difficulties they experienced in the process. Evodie and Justin also talked about how they came up with the idea of making a film about refugee youth.
After the the youth panel discussion, Kurdish refugees Ghazi Ahmed and Ali Omar played beautiful music with the traditional instruments, the oud and saz. IRC employee Sina Navazi also played an authentic Iranian kamancheh (a stringed instrument) while Mitra Mahboubi read a touching poem entitled We Refugees written by Benjamin Zephaniah.
The event finished with a very energetic traditional African performance by Anansegromma, a group composed of two Native Ghanaians - Kofi Dennis and Kwame Ansah-Brew. The perfect combination of African call-and-response music, drum performance, dance and storytelling concluded the World Refugee Day commemoration and left the audience in high spirits.