Omaha Community Leaders Know Diversity is Strength

This evening, more than 20 community organizations, numerous Omaha artists, and other welcoming Omahans will gather for You’re Welcome at House of Loom starting at 8:00pm for a night of art, music, and inclusion.

This evening’s kick-off event marks the beginning of You’re Welcome’s work to celebrate Omaha as a diverse and connected community through artistic expression, community engagement, and service. You’re Welcome is based on the simple notion that immigrants settling in a community have a far better chance of integrating if the others in that community are receptive to welcoming their new neighbors.

Many Omaha organizations and community members already welcome immigrant neighbors. The following are thoughts from just a few of them:

“When people come to our country for a better life, just as most Americans’ ancestors did, we should figure out the best way for them to be assimilated and integrated into our community so that they can begin to be active and vibrant contributors as quickly as possible,” said Rachel Jacobson, Director of Film Streams at the Ruth Sokolof Theater.

Film Streams is a nonprofit organization that promotes cultural celebration through the art of film in Omaha. Jacobson continued, saying, “The Welcome campaign is great because as individuals, we have an opportunity to set a different tone than our legislators and politicians.”

Calvin Smothers, the Community Center Director at inCOMMON Community Development, speaks to the importance of welcoming immigrants.

“Many immigrants play on an unfair playing field in terms of resources or education that have been available to them,” Smothers said.  “Welcoming helps in terms of integrating immigrants and grants better access to such resources.”

inCOMMON utilizes community-based initiatives to unite and strengthen vulnerable neighborhoods. While inCOMMON and other organizations and individuals work to integrate immigrants, Smothers warned that there is still work to be done. Though many Omahans are accepting and welcoming, others are more resistant.

The Greater Omaha Young Professionals use the values of inclusion, collaboration, and innovation to create a diverse professional community.

“The opportunity for our community to see the world from different eyes leads to unique ideas and solutions that benefit our city,” said Kyle Tautenhan of the Omaha YP.  Being challenged with these diverse ideas opens the door for Omaha workplaces and communities to compete with cities from across the globe.  Most importantly, it makes our community stronger and more committed to the steady march into Omaha’s positive future.”

Susan Mayberger is the Coordinator of English as a Second Language, Migrant and Refugee Education for Omaha Public Schools. Mayberger said her work includes support for not only OPS students, but also immigrant families as a whole. Mayberger identified integration and inclusion early in a student’s academic career as a contributor to future success.

“If we are a welcoming community…it’s good for everyone,” Mayberger said.  “If we did not have our immigrant and refugee families, it would have a negative effect on our economy and community.”

Share your own welcoming message at House of Loom in Omaha tonight.  The event will feature artists and musicians celebrating the cultural richness and other contributions new neighbors bring to our community. You’re Welcome will include live music and an unveiling of new screen poster prints and mixed-media art with welcoming themes by Omaha artists. It’s free and open to the public (21+), 8pm.

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