Making the Durham Puzzle Complete: A Reflection on Welcoming Week 2022
The City of Durham celebrated Welcoming Week for the first time in September 2022. Welcoming Week is an annual campaign and celebration to showcase the movement of communities striving to be more welcoming places for all, including immigrants. Launched in 2012 by Welcoming America and its members, Welcoming Week provides individuals and communities the opportunity to proclaim welcoming values through events and local initiatives that foster mutual understanding between immigrants and non-immigrants, as well as deeper belonging for all.
Durham celebrated this week of welcoming by creating a “community puzzle” to demonstrate the interconnectedness of our diverse communities. Residents received blank puzzle pieces that served as a blank canvas to share something they love about their community; be it their neighborhood, their family, or the place or activity that makes them feel most at home. The prompt was simple: “What do you love most about your community?” and “What makes you feel at home?” 291 residents from the locations below responded and this puzzle is a demonstration of their responses:
- Durham City Hall
- Durham YMCA (Downtown and Lakewood)
- Merrick Moore Park
- Brogden Middle School
- Latino Community Credit Union
- Durham County Library
- World Relief Durham
- The Emily K Center
- Golden Belt
Looking at the Durham community from a puzzle perspective gives us a way to learn about our community in a tangible way. As you can see, not every piece fits into the puzzle perfectly. Some pieces had to be molded or twisted to fit in. Likewise, there are gaps in the puzzle as well. To me, this represents the fact that communities don’t all fit together naturally without struggle.
Likewise, while Durham is a perfect fit for many, some feel left out. I encourage you to think about who and/or what may be missing from this puzzle and how we can make our community more welcoming so that some don’t have to change themselves to fit in. It is frustrating when you are putting together a puzzle and find that you are missing a piece; likewise, the whole community loses when one person is absent from the puzzle.
I also encourage you to look at the themes that are celebrated. Some that stand out are: nature, schools, food, and specific places that hold meaning for residents. What makes people feel at home in Durham? I especially want to highlight the contributions of the immigrant and refugee communities to the puzzle. There are multiple flags, languages, and cultures represented in the puzzle—can you find them? Sometimes certain groups remain hidden in plain sight and it requires us to seek out those who are different from us to celebrate their contributions to our community.
The Community Engagement team, a division of the Neighborhood Improvement Services Department, strives to help the puzzle pieces of our communities to fit together, making the City of Durham more complete and more whole. We know that this work is not perfect, but our goal is to be flexible in working with some of the most challenging puzzle pieces. I am grateful to each of the residents who were willing to participate in this endeavor and to the many organizations in Durham (such as those that supported this project) who daily assemble puzzles together.