World Refugee Day, Portland, ME with Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco
World Refugee Day is a global celebration that is held annually to honor the courage and struggles of the more than 15 million people worldwide displaced by war and persecution. Each year, Maine welcomes refugees from war-‐torn countries and helps them to rebuild their lives in safety. Since 2000, Maine has resettled 2,283 refugees from 24 countries, including most recently Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan.
For the last 10 years the Cities of Portland and Lewiston have acknowledged World Refugee Day by hosting numerous events. This year, on Friday, June 20th, renowned inaugural poet and Maine resident Richard Blanco will deliver an address at a World Refugee Day event scheduled for 4pm at Congress Square Park in Portland. City of Portland Mayor Michael Brennan will also be in attendance, along with Eklas Ahmed, the state representative to the U.S. National Refugee Congress and both will give a warm welcome and speak to the experiences refugees face and their desire to assimilate to Portland.
Born into a Cuban family living in exile, Blanco is best known for weaving stories of immigration and community into his award-‐winning poetry. The accomplished writer read at Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. He is not only the youngest writer to be selected as a U.S. Inaugural poet, Blanco is also the first immigrant, Latino, and openly gay person.
Following the celebration, Salt Institute will host a special reception featuring their newest collection “In the Shadows: Urban Refugee Children in Africa” by National Geographic photographer and Salt alum Amy Toensing. Toensing will talk about her work while a refugee student from The Telling Room will share a short story. The reception will begin at 6pm. Both events are free and open to the public.
Hosted by: The World Refugee Day planning committee consist of, 211 Maine, Catholic Charities Maine, City of Portland, Coastal Enterprise Inc., Community Financial Literacy of Maine, community members, Maine Access Immigrant Network, RefugePoint, Salt Institute, Department of Health and Human Services Multicultural Affairs, The Telling Room, and the University of Southern Maine.