This Valentine’s Day, the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA) hosted their second-annual Georgia Loves Refugees press conference at the Clarkston Community Center. The event was the launch for the 2017 Annual Report – a collection of data from the 18 member agencies that details the many positive contributions of Georgia’s refugee and immigrant communities. The program also allowed CRSA, and nearly 100 community members, to profess our love for the refugee community.
Attendees enjoyed tasty treats from refugee-owned Sweet, Sweet Syria and Refuge Coffee. Paedia Mixon, CEO of New American Pathways, kicked off the event by introducing the Vice Mayor of the City of Clarkston, Awet Eyasu. Awet stated that the City of Clarkston welcomes and values refugees by recognizing that “our community is better and brighter” because of their entrepreneurship. The Vice Mayor declared that the City of Clarkston loves refugees and professed, “I am hopeful when I see new Americans succeed despite adversity.”
After Awet spoke, New American Pathways Civic Engagement Manager Stephanie Ali encouraged attendees to know the language when creating conversations about refugees and immigrants. Rather than using the derogatory expression “chain migration” we should embrace the more factual “family reunification” term. Her words helped set the stage for the stars of the show – the panel speakers.
As part of the event, an eclectic panel of five individuals directly involved in the refugee community shared their personal stories of success: CRSA Chair Emily Laney, new citizen Bahadur Subba, entrepreneur Doris Mukangu, high school student Niza Vang, and Mount Paran Church staff member, and former refugee, Ehsan Azarang.
Emily presented the positive implications of the CRSA’s 2017 Annual Report, mentioning that although the number of refugees that Georgia welcomed decreased in the past year, the self-sufficiency rate of those who did arrive is still above the national average. Former asylee and now naturalized American citizen, Bahadur Subba spoke on behalf of Catholic Charities of Atlanta. Bahadur articulated the difference between asylees and refugees, stating the adversities each go through to reach American and eventually succeed in society.
A highlight of the morning was the raw honesty of Niza Vang, who came to this country with no knowledge of the English language and struggled to relate to her peers and educators. Bringing laughter to all, Niza stated that she worked her “butt off” to do well in school and was just recently recognized as the student of the month at her high school.
After questions were opened up to the audience, the panel received applause and the event continued with pictures in the Georgia Loves Refugees photo booth and interviews by local media. This Valentine’s Day, the press conference highlighted the sweetness that runs throughout Georgia’s communities.
The Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies is a coalition of 18 local refugee and immigrant service organizations. Our mission is to engage a broad coalition to highlight the cultural, social and economic contributions of refugees and immigrants in Georgia. Learn more at
Know the Language
The language we use matters when discussing immigrants and refugees. As anti-immigrant opposition continues to grow, it is critical that we describe our community members in the most accurate way possible to help break down false information campaigns.
Refer to these terrific resources “Immigration Statuses Explained” and “Know the Language” from the CRSA. They explain some of the most common immigrant categories we serve on a daily basis, so you can better understand people’s origins and status.
In using language that is supportive of new American communities, we can help take dialogues around building welcoming communities further – and make all people feel more accepted in their new homes.
Pictured above: The CRSA’s “Georgia Loves Refugees” press conference included a panel of five: (left to right) Facilitator Paedia Mixon, Panelists Emily Laney, Doris Mukangu, Bahadur Subba, Ehsan Azarang, Niza Vang.