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Queens Night Market spearheads citywide celebration of immigrant heritage, communities

Jun. 5, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed

The Queens Night Market is spearheading the second annual ‘This Is NY: Celebrating Our Immigrant Heritage and Communities,‘ a citywide series of partnerships and programming that celebrates immigrants running through the month of June. 

The event coincides with Immigrant Heritage Month spotlighting immigrant history, communities and their contributions to the city.  

“This is our second year spearheading This Is NY, and in the long run, I hope it becomes a citywide resource that helps us all celebrate the immigrant history and immigrant New Yorkers that make this city such a vibrant, rich wellspring of food, arts, and ideas,” said John Wang, founder of the Queens Night Market. 

The slate of activations across the city includes walking tours of Elmhurst and Harlem; Bier & Shir: A Night of Jewish Music at Ashreynu; numerous concerts in parks and public plazas; a steelpan day in Prospect Park in Brooklyn; the opening of an exhibit highlighting the contribution of immigrants dancers to the canon of modern art at the Library for the Performing Arts; book talks, a film screening at the Museum of Chinese in America, oral history exhibits on the 34th Avenue Open Street, and much more.

Sharon Medina/Queens Night Market

‘This Is NY’ encourages all cultural organizations with ideas for activations and programming that celebrate immigrant stories and history to reach out.

“We are so excited to host Bier and Shir, a Jewish music performance in Astoria as part of This Is NY,” said Stephanie Luxenberg, co-director of Arts and Education at Ashreynu. “Most Jewish communities here are made up of first, second, and third generation immigrants to the US. Music keeps us together and celebrates the diversity of our Diaspora.”

An immigrant from Ireland, Linda Murray, of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division Curator at the New York Public Library, said she knows how important it is to uphold these experiences of the diverse communities in New York, and is thrilled to partner with This Is NY on the initiative. 

“The immigrant community has given us so much to be grateful for, and that’s something we have highlighted in our exhibition Border Crossings at the Library for the Performing Arts, which celebrates how immigrant dancers contributed to the history of modern dance,” Murray said. 

On June 17, the Queens Night Market will collaborate with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to celebrate different culinary traditions and performing art forms in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20. 

World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe. It celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution and builds empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives.

“Since it launched, the Queens Night Market has represented over 95 countries through our vendors and their food, and many of those vendors, or their families, were refugees seeking asylum here in the US,” Wang said. “So, when the United Nations Refugee Agency asked if we’d be interested in collaborating, we couldn’t say yes fast enough.” 

As part of the June 17th collaboration and fundraiser, the Queens Night Market will be taking voluntary, suggested donations of $5 from visitors at the gate. Proceeds from visitor donations will be donated to the USA for UNHCR to support refugees. 

The Queens Night Market is pledging 33% of its net proceeds from the evening to the charity. Numerous Queens Night Market vendors have also pledged a portion of their sales from the evening to the cause, and, last year, over 30 vendors donated to the charity. 

NansenseSharon Medina/Queens Night Market

The Queens Night Market will highlight some of those vendors whose families were refugees or forcibly displaced persons (including Nansense, Blintz Box, Cambodianow, and Nomad Dumplings). The evening will also showcase performances from forcibly displaced musicians, including The Brooklyn Nomads.

Sam Ilyayev from Taste of UkraineJohn Taggart/The World Eats Here

“While refugees and asylum-seekers are individuals in need of support and protection, they also bring their diverse talents and skills to the communities that welcome them – including their culinary traditions and culture,” said Ruven Menikdiwela, UNHCR’s director in New York. “We are thankful to the Queens Night Market, and This Is NY, for celebrating and honoring the positive contributions of people forced to flee their homes because of war, persecution or violence. This initiative truly demonstrates the role all of us can play to include refugees and stand in solidarity with forcibly displaced people around the world.”

On June 17, The Queens Night Market will also host the largest edition of Mayor Adams’ Breaking Bread, Building Bonds initiative, which aims to bring New Yorkers together to learn about common bonds, share cultures and traditions, and break down silos between communities. 

These efforts seek to unite New Yorkers regardless of their background, build understanding, and aid in ending bias, hate, and discrimination. Hassan Naveed, executive director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, said the agency believes in the transformative power of community-building. 

“Our city’s identity is deeply rooted in the immigrant story, as hundreds of global cultures and languages converge within the five boroughs. We are thrilled to bring this dynamic communal dining experience to the Queens Night Market and forge connections that facilitate cultural understanding,” Naveed said. 


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