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Queens Library Shows Its Support for the Immigrant Community

Posted by Yves Etheart

Ivy Van speaks to the audience; to her right are Queens Library President and CEO Dennis Walcott, NYCLU's Ruthie Epstein, and Nancy Almatare.

Over 200 people joined us at Central Library on February 3 for a special event to show solidarity and support for the immigrant communities of New York City and Queens.

Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott also wanted to raise the public’s awareness about the programs and services that help immigrants adapt to life in a new country and new city offered by the library’s New Americans Program, Adult Learner Program, Job & Business Academy, and Queens Memory program, as well as our many partner organizations.

"It is important that we stand up for ourselves, and for each other," said New York City Council Member Barry Grodenchik as he addressed the crowd. Both President Walcott and Council Member Grodenchik discussed how diverse Queens is and how such diversity draws communities together during tumultuous times.

They were joined by our other speakers—Kunchok Dolma, Program Director at the NYC Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs; Franck Joseph, Queens Director for the NYC Commission On Human Rights; and Ruthie Epstein, Deputy Advocate Director for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Five special guests also bravely shared their stories—to great applause—of Queens Library making a difference in their lives as new Americans: Nagat “Nancy” Almatare, Jagadeesh Shetty, Mashyat Tomory, Yessica Santos, and Ivy Van.

Nancy Almatare came to the United States as an immigrant from Yemen in 2010, and "seeking help, seeking advice," she came to Queens Library. Starting as an ESOL student, she quickly got her high school diploma, became a library volunteer, and is now a full-time staff member at Langston Hughes Community Library. "I feel empowered. I feel proud to represent the Yemeni women out there who suffer, who cannot receive an education," said Almatare. "My advice for all of you who really want your education: please come to the Queens Library."

For Ivy Van, an immigrant from China, Queens Library offered free ESOL classes for her and her mother instead of the expensive ones she found when she first arrived. Her dream is to own a coffee shop called Freedom, so she also attended the Ready 4 Business classes for immigrant entrepreneurs at Flushing Library. "Before, I thought it was just a dream, but now I have a plan,” said Van.

“This is why we’re here,” said President Walcott during the event. “It’s why we’re a library. We’re here to give service to all people. Everyone is welcome. Our doors are always open to those individuals who are looking for that next step in life.”

Our thanks goes out to the offices of NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi for their support, and to the partner organizations who were available to answer questions and provide resources at this event:

You can See More Pictures from our immigrant support event and Watch the Facebook Live Video.