National experts share lessons in community cohesion and immigrant integration

“There was a lot of helpful information and perspectives there that will inform our work going forward. There need to be more and more conversations like this one.”



Rhonda Ortiz (upper left) moderates a panel discussion with, clockwise from Rhonda, Vanessa Carter, Amaha Kassa, Denzil Mohammed and Christine Sauv.
Clockwise from top left, Rhonda Ortiz moderates a panel discussion with Vanessa Carter, Amaha Kassa, Denzil Mohammed and Christine Sauvé.


Tensions between immigrant and African American communities are often noted but not always discussed resulting in divided communities that fail to prosper. Seeking to bring to the table real solutions to address this problem, the Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. (ILC) hosted a free webinar, Building United Communities of Immigrants and African Americans, on October 8, 2015. Attendees from 36 states learned a variety of models and tools from six experts from across the nation.

The webinar examined theories, perspectives and on-the-ground methods applicable to the attendees’ work on immigrant integration, economic development and human relations. The ILC’s Denzil Mohammed opened with an overview of current data and research on immigrants in Changing Face of America: Portrait of the Foreign-born in the U.S. Then followed an engaging discussion on Replicable Models and Tools to Build Integrated Communities, where panelists gave practical approaches to forming relationships and building coalitions in the different communities they served. Rhonda Ortiz, Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, USC, moderated the panelists: Amaha Kassa, African Communities Together, Christine Sauvé, Welcoming Michigan, and Vanessa Carter, Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, USC. Julie Fisher-Rowe, The Opportunity Agenda, led the final module, Communication Strategies to Create Allies and Spread Your Message, presenting concrete messaging strategies that resonated with participants.


Focal points from the webinar:

  • The immigration narrative needs to change based on the data, which shows immigrants as contributors to a more thriving economy for all residents.
  • In communicating about immigrants facts alone can cause friction, but focusing on shared experiences and shared values between native- and foreign-born Americans can lead to productive conversations.
  • Identify the overlapping issues that affect both immigrants and African Americans rather than focusing on the differences.
  • Community leaders are invaluable resources, and establishing relationships with them is an integral way to bridge understanding and build coalitions.


Click here for recordings and resources from Building United Communities of Immigrants and African Americans.

The ILC Public Education Institute will continue to host free webinars on unique topics such as this. To be notified of the dates of the next free webinar, sign up here.

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