North-East Branch Hosts Annual World Refugee Day Celebration

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

On Saturday, June 17, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., stop by the parking lot of the Kansas City Public Library’s North-East Branch for activities, free food trucks, and speakers, including an appearance by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, intended to shine a light on the rights, needs, and dreams of refugees.   

The event is part of the community’s annual observance of World Refugee Day, which falls three days later. Julie Robinson, manager of the Kansas City Public Library’s Refugee & Immigrant Services and Empowerment (RISE) outreach, says the goal is “helping to mobilize political will and resources so refugees can not only survive but also thrive.”  

She says the event is to let established and new refugees know they’re welcome and wanted in the community, but it’s also for the community as a whole. 

“If you don't get to know the person that lives next door to you or around the corner from you, and there's no interaction, then you never get to find out about other cultures,” she says. 

In the case of Kansas City’s Historic Northeast neighborhood, that would be a big missed opportunity; Robinson says the school district counts students from at least 50 countries living in that part of town. World Refugee Day was first celebrated in 2001, with the United Nations General Assembly designating June 20 to annually commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland. The date coincided with the already established Africa Refugee Day. 

According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, more than 100 million people worldwide in 2022 had been forced to flee their homes and countries because of persecution, war, or violence – a record number of citizens turned refugees.   

This is the 17th year that Kansas City has taken part in this day of awareness and celebration of the contribution refugees make in their new communities, and the third year that the North-East Branch has hosted. 

This year’s event features free multicultural entertainment, speakers from various refugee communities and offices of elected officials, games by mobile services staff, a virtual reality experience from the U.N. via QR code, a Literacy KC storytime session, a scavenger hunt for kids, and free fare from three food trucks: Sugar Skulls Grill, Jerusalem Café, and Kansas City Ice Cream.  

Robinson says it’s important to celebrate the presence of immigrants in our community and the enriching influence they have on Kansas City’s culture.  

Refugees bring new outlooks to their communities, she says, “and new information. But they’re also entrepreneurs, people who are highly educated in their home country.” She says refugees expand the knowledge of an area, and she hopes this festival will serve to highlight that. 

The celebration is a collaboration among many organizations, including KC for Refugees, the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, Kansas City Public Schools, Literacy KC, the United Nations Kansas City, the Church of the Resurrection, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce including Welcoming KC, the Jewish Vocational Service, Della Lamb Community Services, and other local nonprofits.