Weston Award Winner #3 WALK with Refugees and Immigrants

Portland youth at the 2017 walk (photo credit: PBOT Sunday Parkways )

WALK with Refugees and Immigrants was started in 2017 as a program of Parks for New Portlanders in partnership with Portland Sunday Parkways, community non-profits, and refugee and immigrant organizations to inspire a more compassionate, generous, and welcoming Portland and to celebrate the diversity of our city. Parks for New Portlanders is a program initiated by Portland Parks & Recreation to design culturally relevant programs that make green spaces, particularly parks, more welcoming and accessible to new immigrants and refugees. Sunday Parkways is the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s extremely successful open streets program.

Welcoming all at the 2018 walk (photo credit: Multnomah County) 

This walk couldn’t be more timely. One in five Portlanders is foreign-born, and approximately 100 refugees are finding their new home in the city each month. Yet at the same time, Oregon is fighting a ballot measure aiming to remove our sanctuary state status while a rash of anti-immigrant and refugee stances are rolling out across the nation. It’s critical now more than ever to maintain a safe and welcoming environment for new Portlanders. “With the immigrant and refugee communities reaching out to both PBOT and Parks & Rec concerning a rash of anti-immigrant and refugee prejudice they were experiencing, we felt it was critical to work to make sure they felt welcome at both Sunday Parkways and in the City. The WALK offered a participatory way to bring people together to celebrate our diversity and to showcase Portland as a welcoming city,” said Alexis Gabriel, the Communications and Community Engagement manager for Sunday Parkways. 

Walking hand in hand at the 2018 walk (photo credit: Multnomah County) 

The WALK with Refugees and Immigrants was envisioned by Som Subedi, Program Manager for the Parks for New Portlanders program. As a refugee himself, Som was excited to look for ways to not only provide more visibility to the Immigrant and Refugee community but also to find opportunities for this community to share their culture and heritage with the rest of Portland. Som came to Portland a decade ago after spending nearly two decades living in a Nepal refugee camp. He was one of approximately 100,000 victims of The Kingdom of Bhutan’s “One Nation, One People” policy, which expelled his family from their homeland. Now, Som says his mission is “To help create a safe and welcoming city where immigrants and refugees can feel safe, thrive and build a new life.” With this, Som broached the idea of a walk – a celebration in motion – to showcase to Portland and beyond that we are a welcoming place for those who need sanctuary. Sunday Parkways was the perfect home for this new walk. 

Som Subedi Engagement Coordinator- Parks for New Portlanders 

Som led the work by creating connections with community groups and leaders, bringing them into the visioning process for the event. In partnership with the Sunday Parkways team, the community’s vision was brought to life. Alexis Gabriel worked closely with Som to create the International Celebration at Sunday Parkways, a precursor to the WALK, and build on that effort to include a wide variety of community partners. Rich Cassidy, Sunday Parkways Logistics Manager, helped ensure The WALK was incorporated seamlessly into the design of the Sunday Parkways event in Outer NE Portland through careful route planning and park activity design. In addition to Som, Alexis and Rich, the WALK brought together an impressive number of City of Portland staff including Matthew Silva and Kim Kosmas- Portland Fire and Rescue, Victor Salinas and Lore Wintergreen- East Portland Neighborhood Office, Linda Castillo-  Office of Community and Civic Life, Art Hendricks, Alexander Diaz, and Ken Rumbaugh- Portland Parks and Recreation, Ian Stude and Rich Cassidy- Portland Bureau of Transportation, and Sgt. Bret Barnum- Portland Police Bureau. In the face of attempts to divide our communities, Oregon Walks is thrilled to recognize these individuals' collective work and Portland's dedication to collaboration and unity. 

Walking at the 2018 walk (photo credit: Multnomah County

During the first year of The WALK, in addition to city staff, Som connected 40 partner organizations, including Catholic Charities of OregonAmerican Red Cross, IRCOEast Portland Action PlanPortland Meet PortlandAfrican Youth and Community OrganizationRefugee Disability Benefits of Oregon,Iraqi Society of OregonIslamic Social Services of Oregon State and many others, all eager to be a part of this healing and celebratory event, which attracted over 1,000 participants. In 2018 The WALK grew to include 74 community organizations and attracted more than 2,000 participants. Community members, local and state representatives, community organizations, places of worship from all backgrounds, and Portlanders from every corner of the city and beyond gathered together in East Portland to walk from the new Gateway Discovery Park to Knott City Park in a truly powerful demonstration of unity and support. “When Portlanders come together this way, walking together and sharing stories, it makes a big impact in the lives of new Portlanders and new Americans. It shows the entire world that we are a welcoming and compassionate city,” says Som. 

Participants at the 2018 walk (photo credit: Portland Parks and Recreation)

The WALK could not have been possible without all the community partners involved including: 

East Portland Action Plan, East Portland Community Office,Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization,Muslim Educational Trust, People-Places-Things,African Youth and Community Organization, American Red Cross (Oregon), (Islamic Social Services of Oregon State), Portland Meet Portland, Kirat Cultural Society of Oregon, Inc, Zomi Association of USA, Catholic Charities of Oregon,Pueblo Unido PDX, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, International Youth Leadership Conference (PPS), Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Human Solutions, National Organization for Women (NOW) (Oregon), Refugee Volunteer Organization, Portland Fire & Rescue, Portland Sunday Parkways, League of Minority Voters. Mt. Hood Community College, Portland Police Bureau, Portland Community Football Club, Hazelwood Neighborhood Association, La Aamistad Soccer Club, Leach Botanical Garden, Office of Community & Civic Life, Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights, New Portlanders Program, Human Rights Commission, Balloons on Broadway, MidEast House, Mental Health Providers Unite! PDX, Never Again Coalition, Americans for Rohingya, SOAR Immigration Legal Services, Parkrose Heights Association of Neighbors, HAKI Community Organization, Somali American Council of Oregon ( SACOO), The CSP Family Service Group of Yamhill County, Refugee & Immigrant Services and Empowerment(RISE), 12th Osprey BPSA, Unite Oregon, PDX Alliance for Self-Care - PDX ASC, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Sunshine Division, Lents United Against Hate, Lents Neighborhood Association, Food Fight! Grocery, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon - APANO, PACS (Portland Adventist Community Services), Kaiser Permanente Health Care, Africa House, Portland Refugee Support Group, Hike it Baby, The Coalition Against Hate Crimes, Sikh Center of Oregon, CAIR Oregon, SE Uplift, Christ Church Episcopal Parish, Creative Laureate of Portland, Portland United Against Hate, Access Covenant Church, Parkrose Community UCChurch, Refugee and Immigrant Hospitality Organization- RIHO, Oregon Bhutanese Community Organization, Korean American Coalition(KAC)- Oregon, Wilsonville United Methodist Church, Veterans For Peace, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral


Join us at the Weston Awards!

Join us on Friday, November 2nd to celebrate the innovation, leadership and activism of all our Weston Award winners -
while supporting Oregon Walks and our mission to create walkable communities for everyone.

This year's fundraiser will take place at The Hilton in downtown Portland,
and your ticket includes a full dinner and drinks for the evening. 

Tickets are available here make sure to get yours today!

The 2018 Weston Awards
Friday, November 2nd
The Hilton Portland: 921 SW 6th Ave.,
Portland, OR  97204