Queens Night Market to host first annual citywide celebration of immigrants in New York City

Queens Night Market This is NY
Photo courtesy of thisisny.nyc

Queens Night Market is spearheading its first annual cultural celebration of immigrant communities in New York City. 

The event, This is NY: Celebrating Our Immigrant Heritage and Communities, is a citywide series of partnerships and programming that celebrates the history, experience, communities and contributions of immigrants to New York City, and will run from June 11 through 21. 

This is NY coincides with Immigrant Heritage Month and includes World Refugee Day on June 20. The event is also part of the Festival of New York, an innovative, decentralized movement of 300-plus organizations, celebrating the communities of NYC. 

When he joined the launch committee for the Festival of New York, John Wang, founder of the Queens Night Market, said he was inspired to spearhead something that he hopes becomes a fixture in the NYC calendar for many years to come. 

“When I thought about what NYC means to me, what the Queens Night Market represents, and what value we could add to the Festival of NY, the idea of inviting dozens of cultural partners to help celebrate the immigrants and the immigrant history that make this city such a vibrant, rich wellspring of food, arts and ideas just made perfect sense,” Wang said. 

The slate of activities across the city includes an interactive theater debut at the Museum of Chinese in America and an expert panel, an exhibit opening and a short documentary film debut at Ellis Island. 

Jesse Brackenbury, president and CEO of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, said Ellis Island is at the heart of New York and the country’s immigration history. 

“The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation is excited to share that story with a panel discussion, launch of an interactive map of Ellis-related locations throughout the five boroughs and more,” Brackenbury said. “We hope this glimpse into the immigrant experience inspires visits to the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration and family heritage exploration at the American Family Immigration History Center.”

Nancy Yao, president of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), said they’re thrilled to contribute to This is NY and hopes that MOCA’s production of “Double Happiness” adds a little something to this special month of celebration in NYC. 

“New York City has always served at the forefront of celebrating traditional immigrant heritage while leaving space for the creative integration of cultural influences into a new tapestry of identities,” Yao said. 

The event will also feature a multi-exhibit activation at Queens Borough Hall highlighting immigrant stories coming out of Queens; an Inti Raymi (Sun Festival) ceremony at the Queens Museum; new performances at MoMA; Queens Memory Live, a showcase of live performances celebrating the rich and diverse experiences of Asian American communities; an Afro-Caribbean dance in the Bronx sponsored by NYC Parks; tours of the Tenement Museum pop-up exhibit; special tours of the Chinese Scholar’s Garden at Snug Harbor; community cooking and Kreyol storytime from Brooklyn Public Library; Korean shamanic folk-pop at Lincoln Center in collaboration with Korean Cultural Center NY; and much more.

This Is NY is encouraging all cultural organizations with ideas for activities and programming that celebrate immigrant New Yorkers to reach out and join the coalition. The inaugural edition of This is NY is meant to plant the seed and build momentum for future iterations, with more resources and a broader network of collaborators.

The event will also feature a collaboration between Queens Night Market and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to celebrate different culinary traditions and performing art forms on June 18 in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20.

World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe. It celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution and builds empathy and understanding for their plight and recognizes their resilience in rebuilding their lives.

“Since it launched in 2015, the Queens Night Market has represented over 90 countries through our vendors and their food, and many of those vendors’ families were refugees seeking asylum here in the U.S. So when the United Nations Refugee Agency asked if we’d be interested in collaborating, we couldn’t say yes fast enough,” Wang said. 

As part of the June 18 collaboration and fundraiser, the Queens Night Market will be taking voluntary, suggested donations of $5 from visitors at the gate. Visitor donations will be sent to the USA for UNHCR to support refugees.

Additionally, the Queens Night Market is pledging 50% of its net proceeds from the evening to the charity. And so far, over 20 Queens Night Market vendors have pledged a portion of their sales that night to the cause. On June 18, the Queens Night Market will highlight some of those vendors whose families were refugees, including Nansense, Blintz Box, Cambodianow and Nomad Dumplings.

The evening will also showcase performances from refugee artists, including Jei Fabiane, who sought asylum because of the dangers of being an LGBTQ activist in Colombia.

“Throughout my career at the UN Refugee Agency, I have witnessed firsthand how refugees preserve culinary traditions as a lifeline to home, as a hopeful expression of courage and perseverance, and as a channel toward self-reliance,” said Ruven Menikdiwela, UNHCR’s director in New York. “The richness of cuisines, art and live performances offered at the Queens Night Market embodies those passions and the diversity of New York itself. We couldn’t be happier about this collaboration.”

Last year, when the Queens Night Market ran similar fundraisers, the event raised and donated roughly $30,000 to provide relief for those impacted by COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida flooding.