News & Events

Celebrating diversity: Somerville’s Nepal Festival 2017

Co-hosted by Greater Boston Nepali Community and the Somerville Arts Council, the Nepal Festival offered a great chance to experience vibrant Nepali culture.

Dancers perform Lok Dohori in traditional Nepali clothes at Union Square on June 9, 2017. Photo by Bishal Suwal Photography.

A man and a woman share the stage. The music gets a bit quieter for an exchange between the two: He sings what seems like a question, and she sings a quick response. After each round, performers in traditional Nepali clothes dance at the foot of the stage.

I don’t know Nepali, but I don’t need to understand the words to enjoy the singers’ sweet debate – or the laughs, applause, and cheers of the crowd. From the music to the performers’ voices, body language, facial expressions, and dances, it is a celebration of the community.

This is called Lok Dohori, and it’s a part of Nepali folk tradition. The singers are both well known: Min KC, Boston’s most popular folk singer, and Nisha Sunuwar, a popular singer in New York. For me, it was a highlight of Nepal Festival 2017, held in Somerville’s Union Square on June 9. 

Read more: Celebrating diversity: Somerville’s Nepal Festival 2017

At Irish Famine Memorial, a strong show of solidarity for immigrants

U.S. Sen. Markey joined a diverse group of advocates to decry the mass deportation agenda and anti-immigrant legislation and pledge continued resistance.

Eva Millona at Irish Famine Memorial July 2017MIRA Executive Director Eva A. Millona called for unity against the agenda of mass deportation and xenophobia.

BOSTON, July 6, 2017 – U.S. Senator Edward Markey today joined members of labor and nonprofit organizations by the Irish Famine Memorial in downtown Boston to show solidarity for immigrants and send a strong message to federal officials that immigrants have made America great for over 200 years.

“The Trump administration’s immigration policies are unfair, unconstitutional, and un-American,” Senator Markey said. “Instead of immoral and punitive proposals like the Muslim ban, border wall, and a deportation force, we should focus on what matters most to our immigrant communities – good jobs, quality education and safe neighborhoods. I will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform and to ensure that the American Dream is achievable for all.”

Senator Markey appeared with members of 32BJ SEIU, MIRA, Jobs with Justice and the Irish International Immigrant Center. Together, they condemned the mass deportation strategy of the Trump administration and anti-immigrant bills recently passed by Congress.

Read more: At Irish Famine Memorial, a strong show of solidarity for immigrants

A day to put ourselves in a refugee’s shoes

Alan KurdiA Turkish coast guard carries the body of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian migrant who drowned in the Aegean Sea. AP photo.

Welcoming the stranger is a universal value, MIRA intern Beyza Burcak writes. Yet years into a global refugee crisis, our actions still fall far short of the need.

“If there were guns pointed at your children, would you not flee also for your safety? Do we not owe people enough humanity to stand with them when they flee for their lives?”

As Westy Egmont, director of the Immigrant Integration Lab at Boston College, challenged his audience with those questions, a screen behind him showed the iconic photo of a Turkish coast guard carrying the body of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi. The boy had fled war-torn Syria with his family and drowned in the Aegean Sea during the dangerous journey to freedom and safety in 2015.

The photograph – and Alan’s story – put a human face on the global refugee crisis: more than 65 million people displaced by persecution, war or violence. And yet here we were two years later, still trying to find an answer to the same question: How can we make a meaningful impact on the lives of these refugees?

Read more: A day to put ourselves in a refugee’s shoes

Decision on travel ban spares family members, students and workers

Somali refugees in KenyaWith a population of 350,000, Dadaab is the world's largest refugee complex. Some Somalis have lived here since 1991 and still depend on humanitarian aid for their daily needs. EU ECHO photo/Flickr

BOSTON, June 26, 2017 – The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to examine whether President Trump’s travel ban was a legitimate exercise of executive power, and in the meantime, stayed two injunctions that had blocked the implementation of the travel ban.

In a careful attempt to balance competing interests, the Court only allowed the travel ban to be applied to foreign nationals who lack “any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

For individuals, the Court ruled, a “close familial relationship” is required. For entities, the relationship must be “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course,” such as a student’s admission to a U.S. university, an offer of employment, or an invitation to give a lecture.

All other citizens of the six designated countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen – may be barred from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The Court also upheld a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, and a reduction of the annual cap from 110,000, as former President Obama had planned, to 50,000. In fiscal 2016, the U.S. admitted 85,000 refugees.

Read more: Decision on travel ban spares family members, students and workers

‘You have to come close to other people to see them’

Amira at World Refugee Day 2017Amira Alamry, a Syrian mother and former schoolteacher now living in Massachusetts, speaks at a World Refugee Day event at Boston City Hall, with her portrait in the background.

A City Hall exhibit and World Refugee Day event offer a glimpse behind the numbers.

BOSTON – The portraits are displayed in pairs: one life-size, the other a close-up, with a questionnaire in the middle that includes the subject’s name, the year of departure from Syria, and tidbits of daily life: fondest memory, favorite TV book, favorite TV show, hopes for the future.

We learn that Raed, who left Syria in 2013, loves the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, but also the lyrics of the Arabic-language singer Majida Halim El Roumi. Ali, who fled Syria in 2014, loves The Simpsons – but in English, not the German dub, which isn’t funny. He’d love to meet Angela Merkel.

Talar, who left Syria in 2012, misses school life and her friends, many of whom are still in Syria. Rawa’a, who was resettled in Canada, wants to make Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proud of the Syrians his country has welcomed. Oh, and she loves the phrase “How’s it goin’?”

Read more: ‘You have to come close to other people to see them’