If you were one of over 300 people who made their way to the state capitol on February 14, we hope you left full of hope and inspiration.
The New Americans Celebration event, hosted by the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA), is the annual day of education and outreach for refugees, immigrants and Georgia community members who support them. Every year we welcome hundreds of volunteers to the Georgia State Capitol to engage with legislators and share why refugees and immigrants should continue to be welcome in Georgia.
Bringing together people from all walks of life, this event provides an opportunity for citizens and lawmakers to engage with Georgia’s new American community and gain insights into each other’s experiences and roles in society. Each year, over 60% of our volunteers are visiting the Capitol for the first time. We kick off the event with a training session so everyone learns just how easy it is to tell their legislators about their support for refugees and immigrants in Georgia.
This year, training took place early at the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the oldest church in north Georgia and Atlanta’s first Catholic Church. Frances McBrayer, the CRSA Chair, offered a welcome and then volunteers heard from Monsignor Henry Gracz, who has been the pastor of the Catholic Shrine for 19 years.
Three Buddhist faith leaders from Wat Lao Buddharam Khambouneheuang, a Buddhist temple, meditation and teaching center in Baldwin, Georgia, offered a peaceful blessing over the crowd. And, Representatives Brenda Lopez and Bee Nguyen offered their stories and remarks about the importance of the day.
Born in Mexico, Rep. Lopez emigrated to the United States at age 5. She made history in 2016 when she became the first Hispanic woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly. She currently represents House District 99 in Gwinnett County. She is one of two Latino representatives in the General Assembly.
Rep. Bee Nguyen is a second-generation immigrant whose parents emigrated from Vietnam. In 2015, before she took office, Rep. Nguyen worked with New AP and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry to resettle a Syrian family of nine. She was sworn in in December 2017 and represents Atlanta District 89 in DeKalb County. “My resourceful mother raised five independent daughters,” she said. “She took us to church every Sunday and made sure we always gave back to the community. My family inspired me to start my own nonprofit to educate and empower girls in under-resourced schools. I gave up the security of my job, including health insurance, because I believe advocating for youth is an investment for all Georgia families.”
After training, volunteers convened into pre-assigned groups based on the location of their residence. They headed to the Capitol to call legislators out of session to offer their support of new Americans in Georgia. New Americans like New AP staff member, Marie-Chantal, had a chance to talk about their personal journeys and connection to the cause. Inspired by his discussion with Marie-Chantal, Rep. Derrick Jackson encouraged her to go to the Capitol often and continue to share her refugee story.
As the shirts worn that day proclaim, “GA loves Refugees,” and we were so proud to offer this Valentine in support of refugees and immigrants.
Did you get your shirt? If not, they are for sale here. You can avoid shipping fees by picking up your order at the New AP office in Atlanta or at InTandem Promotions in Kennesaw.