Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians expands efforts to place immigrant professionals in chosen careers

Aug. 19, 2014, 9 a.m., Posted by Amanda Bergson-Shilcock

Amanda Bergson-Shilcock is director of outreach and program evaluation at the nonprofit Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians in Philadelphia, which Knight Foundation supports to help harness and retain immigrant talent. 

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock

I still remember Marcel (I’ve changed his name to protect his privacy). He came into our office one day, a young Haitian man eager to make his mark on the world. In his native country, he’d been a doctor.

In this one, he was washing cars—for $6.25 an hour.

Becoming an obstetrician would have been an extraordinary achievement in any country. It was even more so in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Marcel’s determination shone through as he talked with our employment specialist.

Marcel was far from the first immigrant jobseeker to walk through our doors. The staff at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians is skilled at helping immigrants find their first U.S. jobs, having placed more than 1,200 legally work-authorized individuals in employment over the last decade.

For many of the men and women we work with, these are so-called survival jobs – a significant step down from their earlier careers.  Such entry-level jobs are not a  long-term solution, but the government contracts that have funded our work don’t give us the time to do more than make an immediate job placement. And as our former director of employment, herself a refugee, used to say wryly, “You have to work if you want to eat.” 

A Host of People: Making Detroiters feel at home with experimental art

Aug. 19, 2014, 6 a.m., Posted by Sherrine Azab and Jake Hooker

 

This month, five Detroit arts groups are vying for the Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award, a $20,000 prize the winner can use for a project of their choice. The award is one of the ways Knight aims to bring attention to small arts organizations and their impact on the city. Here, KnightArts.org has a quick word with  Sherrine Azab and Jake Hooker  of nominee A Host of People, a theater group celebrating the DIY movement in food and the arts. Vote for the group by texting Detroit1 to 22333, and learn about the other nominees at knightarts.org/peopleschoice.

Q. What do you love most about your arts group?
A. We love the experimentation.  When we begin, we don’t know where we’re going to end.  We love collaboration.  Everybody in our process -- performers, designers, musicians and especially the audience -- are part of the generation of the work.  We’re all making it together.  And because of all of that creative combustion, what we make, is big, bold, visually arresting, thought provoking and fun.

Q. What would you do with the $20,000 People’s Choice award?
A. Part of the funds will go directly towards our upcoming production The Harrowing; part will go towards renovating our attic into a rehearsal space/chamber theater where we can develop this and future works; and part will go towards establishing a mobile bike cafe that we can take to events and other neighborhoods in order to get the word out about our own work as well as that of other artists in Detroit.

Q. Three words or phrases your fans would use to describe your work?
A. Welcoming, transportive, captivating

Signs highlight hidden history in Macon, Ga.

Aug. 18, 2014, 2:30 p.m., Posted by Molly McWilliams Wilkins

Signs from the League of Creative Interventionists at a cemetery in Macon. Credit: Molly McWilliams Wilkins.

History is around each corner in Macon, Ga., some of it well known, some of it hidden by the depths of time. But the Macon League of Creative Interventionists, a local affiliate of a global group that connects communities with art, sought to uncover some of that history last month.

In fact history was the international theme for the league in July, and members of the Macon chapter posted signs around the community to identify historic gems.

“Our goal with the history of intervention was to shed some light on places or events that hadn’t gotten a lot of attention, or were just really interesting pieces of local history that not everyone knew about Macon,” said Mark Vanderhoek, chapter leader.  “It was fun to learn about the different pieces league members knew about.”

Walking through some parts of Macon, you might find yourself faced with obvious historical sites, such as the Hay House or the Cannonball House. However, many times it is the undiscovered parts of history that are the most interesting.

“Macon is a town that talks about its history a lot since it’s pretty star-studded. But often because of that, some of the best stories get left out or overlooked. It was great to be able to bring some of Macon’s lesser-known stories to light. I hope we can continue to add more in the future,” said J.R. Olive, program coordinator for the College Hill Alliance and a member of the Creative Interventionists.