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Swearing-In Takes On New Meaning At Freedom Fest – QNS.com

Swearing-In Takes On New Meaning At Freedom Fest

Nearly 30 countries were represented last Friday as 75 New Yorkers were sworn in as naturalized citizens at historic Flushing Town Hall on the nationally-recognized Citizenship Day.
The event was part of the first annual Freedom Fest, a month-long celebration aimed at reaffirming the 360-year Flushing tradition of religious freedom.
"Theres a long tradition in this community of respect for people of diverse backgrounds," said Harvey Seifter, executive and artistic director of Flushing Town Hall. "And Flushing Town Hall is the birthplace of governmental recognition of religious freedom in the western hemisphere. "
Eager to host a swearing-in ceremony in order to further glorify the rite of passage that is becoming an American citizen, Seifter, himself the son of immigrants, began talks with the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg six months ago.
"They were very enthusiastic from the beginning," said Seifter. "We were then put in touch with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the organization that oversees immigration and naturalization."
And on September 17, 75 people, ranging in age from 21 to 67, said the Pledge of Allegiance and took an oath to be true to the red, white and blue.
Venus Paul was among the proud group.
Originally from Guyana, Paul, who has been in the US 17 years, said, "This ceremony means a lot to me. I get to see Town Hall and be part of a very important procedure." Paul told The Queens Courier that she hopes to resume her education and further her career, and that the swearing in was the first step.
"I would like a better job and would like to go to school having my citizenship may help me with that and with getting involved here in the US, my home."
Luis Silva of Woodside also became a citizen.
"Im feeling happy, good, excited," the native Peruvian said. "I was waiting to become a citizen for seven years in order to vote  I want my voice heard and my vote counted."
Seifter hopes to make the ceremony as well as Freedom Fest an annual event.
"If you look at Flushing, with 142,000 people from every country speaking 180 languages, all are welcomed in order to build a new culture and society out of these voices," said Seifter. "For us to host Citizenship Day and represent all these voices was an honor."
E-mail this reporter at toni@queenscourier.com .

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