Refugee awareness and local food came together over lunch at the Westown Farmers Market in downtown Milwaukee on June 20.

The event marked eighteen years of globally recognizing World Refugee Day. The day of commemoration was established by the United Nations in 2000 and has been celebrated annually since in Milwaukee, a city full of well-established refugee communities.

“This event is a chance to celebrate former refugees contributing to the community as skilled laborers, entrepreneurs, artists, neighbors, and friends,” said Alexander Durtka. president of the International Institute of Wisconsin (IIW), one of the event planners. “Attendees had an abundance of lunch options at the Farmers Market, while listening to music from immigrant and refugee performers.”

The Westown Farmers Market boasts more than 50 vendors, offering a wide range of ready-to-eat lunch choices, locally grown produce, and crafts made by resident artisans. From a national perspective, Milwaukee has been a successful resettlement site for decades. It is also home to a vibrant community of advocates for strengthening local food systems and highlighting the exceptional small farms and food producers from around the region who make that a reality.

“This pairing of local food and refugees creates a unique opportunity to celebrate both the natural resources and the people that characterize the region,” added Durtka. “Bringing these interests together is a way to celebrate the many ways Milwaukee is growing into a strong and resilient community, characterized by the land as much as by the people.”

Milwaukee’s World Refugee Day entertainment included refugee performances by individuals from Iraq and Burma, the Dance Academy of Mexico, and local Brazilian performers Samba da Vida. In Wisconsin, there are more than 75,000 refugees living across the state.

The free public event was a collaboration between the Milwaukee Area Refugee Consortium agencies, the Westown Association, and the State of Wisconsin.

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Wisconsin Muslim Journal