JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tales of triumph from refugees and immigrants are featured in an exhibit at ArtSee & Shop.
Basma Alawee, the co-founder of WeaveTales and an Iraqi refugee, says this is how the community connects.
“They hear the story from us, not others tell the stories of us, and make that connection to build a safer and more welcoming community in Jacksonville,” Alawee said.
Their lives are on display days after President Joe Biden signed an executive order that aims to expand refugee resettlement and improve elements of the program.
“I do think it’s great. I support,” Fuada Belic said of the order. “I am an immigrant and I do think immigrants, when they come to The United States, they see a raw and fresh start. Therefore, they work hard, they contribute, contribute to this country.”
State Department data shows the United States admitted 1,500 refugees in the current fiscal year.
The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville says the city ranks among the top 100 cities in the U.S. for refugee resettlement.
According to the Cultural Council, in 2018 alone, more than 156,000 immigrants contributed nearly $4.2 billion to Jacksonville’s economy.
The president’s plan would resettle up to 125,000 refugees.
Alawee says sharing their stories couldn’t come at a better time than with this executive order.
“Because if we are expecting more refugees to come in the next two years, we want to be ready to welcome and the only way is to share,” Alawee said.
The order also states security vetting should be improved to be meaningful and fair by using sound methods of fraud detection to ensure integrity.
The resettlement would start in the fiscal year 2022, which begins in October.
Congress still must be brought in on the plan.
Jacksonville residents are invited to reconnect and learn about their refugee and immigrant neighbors through the Journey to Jacksonville exhibit.
There are three main events throughout the exhibit’s run:
- 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 6: Opening reception and meet-and-greet with featured storytellers and WeaveTales staff and supporters.
- 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 21: Coffee Culture in honor of Black History Month.
- 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 7: Tea Ceremony to celebrate International Women’s Day.