Combating hate and expanding opportunities in Northeast Philadelphia
A year ago I worked to bring our community together in the face of two distressing and shocking incidents. The first when someone cowardly and callously knocked over and desecrated hundreds of Jewish headstones at the historic Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Wissinoming. The second when our President attempted to bar refugees and immigrants from our country solely because of where they were born or the God they worshiped.
For my first major event as your State Representative, I convened the first of a series of legislative summits on immigration and refugees to have an organized dialogue – informed by experts and advocates in the field – around how we as a community can embrace our diversity, and how I as a legislator can push ideas in Harrisburg that can make our state one that fosters tolerance, equality and opportunity for all, no matter where you were born.
I promised you when you attended that event that I would update you on what I am doing thanks to your ideas and input that day. I am proud of the steps we have made together so far and hopeful for those we will take in the near future:
- Bipartisan, Statewide Condemnation of Cemetery Vandalism: I led a bipartisan effort to pass a unanimous resolution in both chambers of the Pennsylvania Legislature condemning the vandalism at Mt. Carmel (H.R. 161 and S.R. 44).
- Cultural Sensitivity Training in Schools: At my Legislative Summit and at town halls following the Mt. Carmel incident, residents stated clearly the need for increasing awareness and education in the classroom of different cultures. That way the next generation (and thereafter) will be more tolerant and welcoming of difference. That’s why I worked with Rep. Seth Grove (R) to introduce H.B. 1978, which would allow teachers to gain additional expertise in this area and get continuing education credits for doing so.
- A Multilingual Office: Since I took office, I wanted to make sure anyone – no matter their native tongue – could get the help they need at my office. Now, thanks to bilingual staff, volunteers, and interns, we are helping people who speak Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Albanian, Urdu and more.
- Supporting Immigrant Entrepreneurs: The many cultures and nationalities that made the Lower Northeast home have opened wonderful businesses and restaurants on our commercial corridors – Castor, Bustleton, Cottman and Rising Sun Avenues. To support them, we helped a local CDC – Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Corporation – get a $40,000 state grant. With this money, the OCCCDA has brought on a locally-based corridor manager, going door-to-door to these business owners, helping them apply for grants, surveying them on their needs and dreams for their businesses, and planning great events so they can grow and expand.
- Expanding ESL Classes: Many new immigrants arrive here with advanced degrees and incredible expertise from their home country, but lack the English fluency to transfer those skills to their new home. That is why I am working with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, the Office of Adult Education, Mural Arts, OCCCDA and other partners to expand ESL classes in our neighborhoods.
I promise you that much more will come from my office to support the amazing people who live and work in Northeast Philadelphia.
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