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Gateways for Growth celebration recognizes contributions of immigrants to West Michigan

The Gateways for Growth celebration recognized the contributions of immigrants and refugees to West Michigan.
Rose Love, invitó al público a bailar al ritmo africano.

Rose Love, invitó al público a bailar al ritmo africano. /Reyna Garcia

Translated By: Deisy Madrigal

For more information

If you would like more information about this event or if you attended the celebration and want to leave a comment you can contact Tania Bermejo.

[email protected]
Ciudad De Grand Rapids

El Toro Bravo Restaurant participó con su exquisita comida.

El Toro Bravo Restaurant participó con su exquisita comida. /Reyna Garcia

Myra Maimoh Canta autora local deleito este evento con su música.

Myra Maimoh Canta autora local deleito este evento con su música. /Reyna Garcia

Read a Spanish version of the piece here written by Reyna Garcia.

The city of Grand Rapids held this event to highlight the economic impact of immigrants residing in Grand Rapids. The economic contribution of foreign-born residents was 3.3 billion dollars to the county's GDP in 2016. The City of Grand Rapids organized the event "Gateways for Growth Project Release: Community Celebration," on September 12.

The event took place in the parking lot of César Chávez Elementary School in the heart of Grandville Avenue that is where one of the most diverse neighborhoods is located. The City of Grand Rapids organized this celebration to highlight the economic impact of immigrants based in the economic contribution of immigrants is 3.3 million dollars annually. Read the full report here.

In an interview with Tania Bermejo, one of the organizers of this event, Bermejo was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan in search of better opportunities. Her own experience as a new immigrant in the United States is what motivates her great interest in development and community work. When she was studying at the University of Michigan, in the city of Ann Arbor, she participated with different student organizations focused on the local Hispanic/Latino community.

She also participated in research projects for the departments of Psychology and Sociology. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Michigan. Now she works for Spectrum Health.

Bermejo told us that she has been involved for two years with the City of Grand Rapids. One of the reasons in her experience working with the community; she realized that the political environment was not in favor of the community, specifically immigrants and minorities. She considered of great importance that the change had to come from the political system and the grassroots community is the combination of the two. Since then she considered it a social responsibility to get involved in how the local government worked so that from there, social changes could be created.

Currently Bermejo is part of the City of Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission,she is dedicated to work hand in hand with the community to listen their needs and to be able to support creating a relationship of trust between the community and the city of Grand Rapids.

Bermejo’s role of in the "Gateway for the launch of the growth project" celebration was to organize the gastronomic part that would give the inclusive and diverse cultural touch; she invited 11 representatives from the community to exhibit their culinary work. For Bermejo, the real representation of the community was important. In addition to showing statistics of the immigrant communities in Grand Rapids, the importance of knowing which groups of immigrants live in the Kent County: Mexico: 24.7%, Guatemala: 8.3%, Vietnam: 7.8%, Bosnia: 4.9%, Canada: 4.8%. Learn more here.

The event was qualified as the first time this economic impact was celebrated. It was the copy of the version of a national model like NYC, Chicago is a report that statistically proves the millions in contributions from immigrants in America, thus changing the narrative that immigrants are an economic burden for this country. Likewise, she would like to work more strategically in connecting the immigrant community so that the message gets to everyone since there was a lack of participation from this community at the celebration. The people who attended were satisfied to see the diversity of cultures and savor their exquisite cuisine, and to also hear first-hand the statistics of the economic contributions and to learn about this data to assess and highlight the presence of refugees and immigrants who are working people with a desire to get ahead through their effort and work.

One of the women who represented the Guatemalan community, Yolanda Pablo from Huehuetenango Todos Santos Cuchumatan Guatemala was invited to share the cuisine of Guatemala. In the interview Pablo said that she was very excited to be invited to participate. When Bermejo contacted her, she was surprised that it is very difficult for some women in the community to participate or be included in these events, she also mentioned that being a stay home mom is sometimes difficult to attend these opportunities.

Pablo is very grateful that this event will take place because was a new experience, which she enjoys.

She met new people from other cultures, where her family was also very pleased to have been included and the representation of Guatemala was made visible as she believes it missing from the community.

This is one of the voices of women in the community where one can clearly appreciate what an inclusive and diverse event can transform a person's life as well as changing the narrative and creating social changes.

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