Princeton to celebrate diversity in first Welcoming Week

Come Sept. 20, Princeton will be weaving its multicultural fabric through the open space of Hinds Plaza. Resident volunteers will represent the mix of countries, traditions and ethnic backgrounds living within the town, and all with a story to share are welcome.

This celebration of diversity is one of many events to distinguish Princeton as a “welcoming community.” From Sept. 16 to Sept. 25, Princeton will participate in Welcoming Week – the period set forth by Welcoming America to demonstrate communities in its network are open to everyone.

Welcoming America is a national organization leading a movement of the all-inclusive community – the kind that embraces immigrants and fosters opportunity. It encourages cities and counties throughout the U.S. to join its network and support its mission through action. Last year, there were 245 events in more than 80 communities. Princeton is now one of these.

“Welcoming Week is important because it gives us an opportunity as a town to reflect on how our community has been shaped by newcomers from the Great Migration to Irish, Italians, Latinos and other immigrants to refugees,” said Elisa Neira, executive director of the Princeton Department of Human Services and one of the forces behind the event.

To encourage such reflection, Neira and a team of local volunteers from teenagers to adults will be working on a series of stories about local immigrants. According to Neira, students from Stuart Day School have already begun interviewing nearly a dozen first-generation immigrants who own businesses in Princeton. They hope to use the examples of these individuals’ experiences living and working in Princeton to enlighten the greater community about the international presence that exists in its day to day.

Neira seeks to organize student-led tours of the businesses during Welcoming Week so local patrons can develop an in-depth understanding of where they can or are already shopping.

Another facet to Princeton’s Welcoming Week is history. Being one of the last Jim Crowe towns in the Northern states, Princeton has not always celebrated its wonderful diversity. The Albert E. Hinds Memorial Walking Tour, created and narrated by long-time local Shirley Satterfield, is one of the ways the community honors African American history and its intrinsic value to the development of Princeton as the prosperous and desirable town it is today.

Satterfield will be hosting tours throughout Welcoming Week and with the help of human services will be switching up the usual narration by making it bilingual.

“We are hoping to reach out to all people in the Witherspoon-Jackson community by giving tours in both English and Spanish,” Neira said.

Princeton Human Services is happy to accommodate anyone who would like to participate or be highlighted during Welcoming Week. The Sept. 20 celebration in Hinds Plaza will have plenty of booths representing many nationalities. Residents are encouraged to come “show and tell” their family histories. For more information, email ENeira@princetonnj.gov or call (609) 688-2055.

“Being part of Welcoming America has really re-energized our commitment to continue our efforts to build a welcoming and inclusive community and join in the efforts of many other cities and towns across the U.S.,” Neira said. “We hope Welcoming Week highlights the contributions of those who chose Princeton as their new home and the welcoming spirit of Princetonians.”

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida