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Mayor Bloomberg Announces Winners Of The American Dreamer Awards At 8th Annual Immigrant Heritage Week Celebration

April 14, 2011

Mayor Presents American Dreamer Awards to New Yorkers Improving the Lives of Immigrants

9th Annual Poem In Your Pocket Day Celebrated with Multi-Lingual Poem

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Fatima Shama today announced the winners of the American Dreamer Awards at a reception honoring Immigrant Heritage Week at Gracie Mansion. Immigrant Heritage Week is a citywide celebration, from April 11- 17, honoring the experiences and contributions of the millions of immigrants who have shaped our City for generations.  The 2nd annual American Dreamer Awards were presented to five New Yorkers dedicated to improving the lives of immigrants. The Mayor also kicked-off the 2011 Poem in Your Pocket Day by reading a multi-lingual poem at the breakfast reception.  The Mayor and Commissioner Shama were joined at Gracie Mansion by Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs Carol Robles-Román, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, The New York Times Executive Director of Community Affairs and Media Relations Diane McNulty, and civic, religious and business leaders from across the City’s immigrant communities.

 “Our City’s history is rich with immigrant stories of triumph and courage and together we will continue to help immigrants succeed as entrepreneurs and leaders,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “There are countless men and women who work with our communities every day and help newcomers take advantage of all our city has to offer and today we celebrate these unsung heroes of our neighborhoods who help make New York City the world’s second home.”

“Immigrant Heritage Week highlights who we are as a city and where we come from,” said Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs Robles- Román.  “Our shared immigrant histories and our diversity are part of what make our City great and we will work to encourage our immigrant communities to create an even brighter future for New York City.”

 “Immigrant Heritage Week was created to remind all New Yorkers of our connection to one another and to our history as a City of immigrants,” said Fatima Shama, Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs. “This Immigrant Heritage Week we are delighted to focus our efforts on capturing the stories that connect immigrants to our rich history. As we work to celebrate our diversity, we also highlight the great contributions of our City’s greatest asset: the many generations of immigrants who have and continue to build and improve our City.” 

“The City’s cultural community embraces and thrives on the heritage of New Yorkers of all backgrounds,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Levin. “It’s a pleasure to support StoryCorps in working with Immigrant Heritage Week, and we hope New Yorkers from around the world will share their traditions by carrying a poem from their native language on Poem In Your Pocket day.”  

Established by Mayor Bloomberg in 2004, Immigrant Heritage Week is celebrated around April 17th, the day in 1907 when more immigrants entered through Ellis Island than any other date in the City’s history.  This year, Immigrant Heritage Week will take place from April 11 – 17th.  Immigrant Heritage Week was made an annual celebration by Executive Order 128, signed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2009. It is a citywide celebration honoring the experiences and contributions of the millions of immigrants who have shaped our City for generations. The Immigrant Heritage Week celebration at Gracie Mansion is generously sponsored by The New York Times Community Affairs Department.

American Dreamer Awards

The American Dreamer Awards were created to celebrate the significant accomplishments and contributions made by an individual or organization to better the lives of immigrants and immigrant communities in New York City. The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs received over 100 nominations from community organizations, elected officials and individuals from across the five boroughs in March and five winners were selected from an outstanding group of candidates. The honorees are:

Ambassador Award - SJ Jung, President of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, is being honored for over 20 years of service as an advocate, bridge-builder and leader, fighting to improve the quality of life for Flushing residents and all New Yorkers. As a member of the Board of Directors to the New York Immigration Coalition, he has advocated for immigration reform. His life’s work, assisting the diverse communities of New York, has led him to be part of an initiative seeking to promote ongoing dialogue between immigrants and the African-American community.

Community Builder Award - Dr. Purnima Naik, Director of Health Education at the Morris Heights Health Center in the Bronx, is being honored for her work with newly arrived immigrant women from Bangladesh. Although she does not speak Bengali and comes from a different cultural and religious background, she created the Bangladeshi Women’s Group in 2006. The Group discusses a variety of topics including the importance of calling 311 and 911 as well as basic education regarding diabetes and even eye diseases.

Business Leader Award - Quenia Abreu, President and CEO of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, is being honored for creating opportunities for immigrants to become economically empowered individuals through business ownership, microenterprise and self-employment. As an immigrant herself, she understands the verbal and cultural challenges immigrants face when starting businesses but also the lack of financial resources and support systems necessary to launch and grow a successful business. Through her efforts, the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce has provided business assistance to over 10,000 members, secured more than 15 million dollars in capital and 30 million dollars in procurement contracts as well as assisted in the development of more than 3,000 new businesses.

Visionary Award - Rene Buch, Founder of El Repertorio Español, is being honored for his driving passion to give audience members the opportunity to appreciate the excitement and magic of live theater, seeking to teach them about the riches of their cultural heritage and providing a space where the Latino experience can be presented.  Founded in 1968, El Repertorio Español has become the most active Latino performing arts organization in the nation and serves over 40,000 patrons each year in theatre, opera, visual and fine arts. Through his efforts, he has introduced a broad audience to great theater, master playwrights and has created a strong and respected organization with an outstanding ensemble of actors.

New York’s Uniform Award - Detective Roberto Diaz, Hispanic Liaison to the NYPD’s New Immigrant Outreach Unit, is being honored for his work in the Unit, where he builds and maintains relationships with leaders and organizations in newly arrived immigrant communities. As part of the New Immigrant Outreach Unit, his aim is to reduce the anxiety felt by the various Hispanic communities of the City by establishing open lines of communication and encouraging dialogue resulting in a higher crime solving rate.

What’s Your Story Partnership with Story Corps

The theme for this year’s Immigrant Heritage Week is “What’s Your Story,” focusing on the immigrant stories of New Yorkers. The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and The New York Community Trust are partnering with StoryCorps and the Queens, Brooklyn and New York Public Libraries to record stories for Immigrant Heritage Week as part of the One NYC One Nation initiative. StoryCorps interviews will provide a unique opportunity for New Yorkers to tell their stories of immigration, and reflect on their families’ journeys and dreams. StoryCorps will record 48 interviews during Immigrant Heritage Week at the Foley Square StoryBooth and at a library branch in each borough. These stories, which aim to help build cross-cultural bridges of communication, understanding, and respect among New Yorkers, will be captured in a Digital Tapestry online to display the diverse history of our City’s residents.  

Poem in Your Pocket Day

In addition to celebrating Immigrant Heritage Week, Mayor Bloomberg read a multi-lingual poem in honor of Poem in Your Pocket Day.  Launched in 2003, Poem In Your Pocket day was developed by the Office of the Mayor, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Education. It occurs in April, National Poetry Month. A partnership with the Poetry Society of America, Metro New York, the Academy of American Poets, Bryant Park Corporation, and additional partners across New York City, Poem In Your Pocket day promotes poetry and literacy at schools, libraries and cultural organizations throughout the five boroughs.

Cultural organizations across the City participate in the citywide celebration. This year Bryant Park Corporation’s Reading Room will host more than 100 school children from across the City for its 7th Annual Poetry Slam at noon at the park. Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin and Chancellor Designee Dennis Walcott will read poems to the student audience. The Brooklyn Museum will offer free admission to visitors with a poem in their pocket, Poets House will distribute poems to passersby at Port Authority transit hubs, and the Academy of American Poets will launch its newly-released anthology of poetry for younger readers, Poem in Your Pocket for Young Poets, at the New York Public Library, Mulberry Branch.

To encourage New Yorkers to write poems and share them with friends, family, co-workers and classmates, Mayor Bloomberg hosted the second annual Twitter “Poetweet” Contest. Followers of the @NYCMayorsOffice Twitter account were asked to send twitter-length poems of 140 characters or less using #poetweet. The contest garnered more than 240 poetweet submissions and the top five poetweets, selected by the Mayor, were published in Metro New York.  The Department of Cultural Affairs also promoted original poems by New Yorkers on its Poem In Your Pocket Day NYC Facebook fan page.

Winning poetweets sent to @NYCMayorsOffice:

@Guruoftheues Pizzafalafel/corndogwaffle/reubenroti/porkbaupierogi/Can’t make my mind up/what to have for lunch? #poetweet

@meeses Huddledmasses yearning 2Bfree/sound the depths beneath NYC/alonetogether togetheralone/only in motion R we @ home #poetweet 

@fairsister Rush hour commute. / Searching a hundred faces / for traces of yours. #poetweet

@ecafypah Red LED hand tells me no. Won't let lights control my life. 2 steps, no cars. 14 steps, relax near curb. Oops! Forgot bike lane. #poetweet

@pondpoet Brown water towers against grey clouds/Thatched hydrohuts spindle legged/toads perched atop tenements #poetweet

In honor of Poem In Your Pocket day, Mayor Bloomberg also wrote an original poem which was published in Metro New York, the day’s official media partner.

POWÈM IN YOUR BOLSILLO                                      

Many New Yorkers celebrate
“Poem in Your Pocket Day”
But based on where you came from
It’s pronounced a different way

Un poema en tu bolsillo
That’s en Español
And then there’s “Powèm nan pòch-ou
For those who speak Creole 
Some call it   -- يوم قصيدة في جيبك
Or  - and then…                 

You’ll hear a hundred others if you walk by the U.N.

In sum, “Poem in your Pocket Day”
Could not be any greater
And everyone can love it
With or without Google Translator!

The inspiration for Mayor Bloomberg’s poem, which he read at the Immigrant Heritage Week reception, was New York City’s diverse population. New Yorkers hail from more than 190 countries with over 170 languages.  The poem says “Poem In Your Pocket day” in Spanish, Creole, Arabic, and Chinese, some of the top languages spoken by foreign-born New Yorkers.

Stu Loeser/ Evelyn Erskine

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Danai Pointer (DCLA)

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