YMCA of Central Ohio

Celebrating National Welcoming Week at the New American Festival

By Malik Moore, Global Initiatives and Executive Director, North YMCA, Columbus, Ohio.

Every September for the last four years, the YMCA of Central Ohio has partnered with our neighbors at Ethiopian Tawahedo Social Services (ETSS) to celebrate Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year, and also welcome our neighbors from across the globe during National Welcoming Week. The festival has grown in number as well as cultural diversity, with over 1,000 attendees from African, Asian, Latin American, and resident communities. The languages, cultures, and traditions of these groups vary, but all have come together for a common cause: to become self-sufficient and establish roots in a new country.

In the spirit of this transition, the strength and cultures of each of Central Ohio’s new communities come together for the New American Festival in Columbus, Ohio, which takes place in conjunction with Enkutatash. Columbus is a community that celebrates many holidays and festivals - Asian Festival, PRIDE, the Puerto Rican Festival, and Greek Festival to name some. Sadly, many of our newest communities are not large enough to have their very own celebration. Thanks to Dr. Seleshi Asfaw, Executive Director of ETSS, and Laura Berger, Director of Development, the New American Festival is a celebration for all. People of all walks of life come together to celebrate - Ethiopian, Cambodian, Burmese, Somali, Nigerian - and so many more. The New American Festival is a great way to bring the Columbus community together and is now a regular part of National Welcoming Week. "When you come to the New American Festival, you see faces of all colors" said Dr. Asfaw.

"When you come to the New American Festival, you see faces of all colors"

The face of Central Ohio is rapidly changing, with over 110,000 New Americans living in Franklin County. Resettlement agencies represent and serve New Americans from over 40 different countries. In 2016, we anticipate the largest New American Festival crowd ever - more than 2,000 people – including newcomers from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and individuals from Central Ohio communities who have an interest in learning more about their new neighbors, co-workers and classmates. There will be street art, food vendors, World Cup-styled soccer tournaments, and stage performances from people representing a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. There will also be a fleet of community service agencies present to engage and connect with some of our communities’ newest and most amazing residents.

National Welcoming Week 2016 will take place September 16-25.