The 2nd annual Milwaukee World Refugee Day Celebration (MKE WRD) was held on June 20th at Pere Marquette Park. The event raised awareness about refugees in Milwaukee and featured cultural performances and speakers. World Refugee Day is celebrated around the world every year on June 20. This day of international awareness was started by the United Nations in 2001 and is a day meant to bring awareness to the plight of refugees around the world as well as celebrate the rich cultural diversity they bring to our local neighborhoods.
The day started out with rain but the sun soon warmed up the park as performers were getting ready to make their way on stage. Drum beats filled the air as Tom Gill lead a group of kids in their first lesson using traditional African drums under the park pavilion. The Wisconsin State Refugee Coordinator, Mette Brogden, presented the 1st annual Milwaukee World Refugee Day (MKE WRD) Soccer Cup Championship Trophy to the winning team, SB United. Earlier in the month, on June 7th, 12 soccer teams competed for the MKE WRD Cup at Rainbow Park in West Allis. Coming in 2nd place in the tournament was the Karen Students and in 3rd place was the Milwaukee Burmese Muslim United Youth. SB United broke into song on stage as they accepted their trophy.
The MKE WRD Celebration event featured musical performances by Grammy Award winning jazz musician Billy Flynn, Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Elena Garcia, and Burmese musician Saw Wee. The final musical act was an Iraqi guitarist named Bassam who sang an original song he wrote during his last night in Iraq.
A few favorites from the 2013 program returned again for this year’s program. The Hmong Girl Dancers (Nkauj Hmoov Dancers) gracefully performed two songs. Chue Vang awed the audience with his qeej performance, a traditional Hmong flute instrument. Nya Taryor, a former refugee from Liberia, read an original and moving piece of poetry.
The program also featured special remarks from Milwaukee Area Refugee Consortium (MARC) agencies, Burmese Immersion Project (BIP) and a refugee story from Pastor Eh Mwee, a refugee from Burma. Around 150 people attended the event sponsored by the Milwaukee Area Refugee Consortium (MARC). MARC agencies include Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, Catholic Charities, International Institute of Wisconsin, Lutheran Social Services, Pan African Community Association, Neighborhood House of Milwaukee, Sebastian Family Psychology Practice, UMOS, MAXIMUS, Bantu American Friendship Association of Wisconsin, Social Development Commission, and UWM. Other sponsors of the event included Woodman’s Supermarkets and JMB Trucking.
Milwaukee World Refugee Day celebrates that Milwaukee is home for refugees from all over the world. The annual event is held each year on June 20th and aims to give voice to refugee stories, honor their lives and the diversity they bring to our neighborhoods, and to raise awareness to the millions of refugee in the world who have been forced to flee their homes.