Oswego Welcomes Refugees to present panel discussion on Oswego immigration history Sept. 10

Above from left, scheduled speakers for the Sept. 10 panel discussion: Yara Osman, Paul Lear, Kevin Hill, Paloma Sarkar.

OSWEGO — Oswego Welcomes Refugees (OWR) will present an online panel discussion at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 via Zoom that provides an overview of Oswego’s rich history and ties to immigration.

The presentation, entitled “Parallels between Past and Present Immigration Influxes: County of Oswego” will include a panel of historians, local experts, and New-Americans who will engage in conversation centered around oral history and story-telling. Participants will be invited to engage in conversation after the panel presentations.

The discussion is a collaboration between OWR, InterFaith Works and the New York State Office for New Americans.

“We are very excited about this first of many community engagement opportunities for Oswego Welcomes Refugees,” said OWR Steering Committee Chairman Jeff Wallace. “Our goal is to build a mutual understanding and solidarity with our refugee and immigrant communities, and this presentation will help start that conversation.”

To register for the Zoom conference, email your name and phone number to rwood@ifwcny.org. Upon receipt, participants will receive an email with a Zoom link to attend the online meeting.

Yara Osman, Office of New Americans, central New York community navigator at InterFaith Works, and first generation immigrant, will moderate the discussion of panelists that will include Paul A. Lear, Historic Site Manager at the Fort Ontario State Historic Site in Oswego; Kevin Hill, a third ward Oswego councilor and council vice president, as well as Safe Haven Museum and education center board member; and New-American Paloma Sarkar first vice president enterprise risk management and strategic planning at Pathfinder Bank.

“The Community Conversation on “Past & Present Immigration Influxes: County of Oswego” seeks to celebrate Oswego’s rich history and historical ties to immigration. Through this dialogue, we aim to draw parallels to experiences of New-Americans residing in Oswego today as a way to establish empathy and mutual understanding. These dialogues are intended to ease the social isolation felt by many immigrants and refugees. It is also an opportunity for individuals to dispel harmful stereotypes and work toward creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all,” said Osman.

According to Osman, Lear will be speaking on the history of refugees in Oswego and America; Hill will discuss the Holocaust refugees and Safe Haven Museum; and Sarkar will speak about being a New-American and her journey to Oswego.

Sakar, who came to the United States from India 10 years ago, and attended SUNY Oswego and now works at Pathfinder Bank, is enthusiastic about the opportunity to be a part of the panel discussion.

“Being a panelist for this OWR Community Conversation is a great opportunity to share my story, and I hope that my experience will encourage others,” Sakar said. “Thank you to Oswego for accepting me and making me feel welcome and giving me the opportunity to be successful.”

Ann Pagano, a member of the OWR Steering Committee, shared the following on Oswego’s strong roots to immigration in the past, and its importance presently.

“Because of the hundreds that found shelter here during World War II in Safe Haven, refugees and asylum seekers are a unique part of Oswego’s story.  After the war, the United States continued to take in those in need; in the past 40 years, more than three million people fleeing torture and persecution have found a home in this country,” Pagano said. “In the past few years, however, the number of refugees allowed in the United States has been cut drastically and pathways to applying for asylum have been blocked — at a time a record number of people worldwide need a safe haven. It’s all the more important now that our community recommits itself to standing with refugees and also that we let all those who come to Oswego from other countries know they too are welcome here.”

Oswego Welcomes Refugees will continue to address the challenges facing aspiring new Americans by offering open seminars, community conversations, and developing a network through InterFaith Works to assist new Americans who may already be among us while building bridges to welcome and bring new neighbors to Oswego.

Oswego Welcomes Refugees is looking for other interested people who would like to assist in engaging and building a coalition to bring attention to new Americans while building a support structure in our own area to foster opportunity and hope for displaced persons, who can call Oswego, home.

For more information about OWR or to be added to the contact list, visit woodweb.knack.com/ifw-portal#owr-public/

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