By Kristin Rose
Special to The Review
The social fabric of Hamtramck is woven with threads of rich hues and colorful strands, braided together to create a vibrant heritage — more pronounced than in any other community in Michigan.
Last Saturday (June 15) local folks and visitors commemorated Hamtramck’s kaleidoscopic heritage. Some 18 colorful flags were raised along Jos. Campau, from Caniff to Carpenter.
Besides two American flags, the flags represented countries whose populations have adopted Hamtramck as their hometown. Two people from each nationality represented were on hand to do the honors of raising their flag.
Many representatives dressed in the traditional garments of their native country, making the flag raising ceremony even more colorful.
This event was made possible by the spirited efforts of the Hamtramck Human Relations Commission (HRC).
When Russ Gordon and Ismira Lokmic of the HRC noticed 18 bare flagpoles lining both sides of Jos. Campau, they saw a potential for opportunity to represent Hamtramck’s many nationalities, and the HRC was soon granted approval from the city council to form the Joseph Campau International Flagpole Project.
The project had a fundraising goal of $15,000 in order to purchase 18 flags representing Bosnia, Yemen, Bangladesh, Poland, Romania, Russia, Armenia, Mexico, Ukraine, Albania, Iraq, Croatia, Ethiopia, Turkey, Lebanon and Macedonia.
Two American flags were also purchased and flown, one on each end of the promenade of flags. Money was also needed to refurbish the flagpoles and make them functional after years of disuse.
Within three months, the HRC reached the majority of its fundraising goal. Over $14,000 was raised in an intense outreach effort, spearheaded by Gordon and Lokmic.
As Lokmic explained: “The HRC wanted a way to express the diversity of the community, and the proud display of each nation’s flag represented this diversity perfectly. By reaching out, diplomatically and democratically, to the leaders of the community, we were able to raise the funds within a relatively short period of time.”
Among those in attendance were representatives from the Welcoming Michigan group, which is part of the national, grass-roots driven collaborative, Welcoming America. Also in attendance were members of Global Detroit, part of Gov. Snyder’s Global Michigan initiative.
These groups view Hamtramck as a model of an immigrant-friendly community. According to the US Census, Hamtramck’s current foreign-born population stands at 41 percent (down from an all time high of 92 percent in 1920).
Welcoming America/Welcoming Michigan promotes the creed: “I reach out my hand to welcome immigrants. I believe that immigrants bring new energy, new ideas, and a new commitment to a better life that benefits us all.”
Among the donors for the flags and pole refurbishing were the Franklin Electric Corporation, the Bosnian American Community, the Bosnian America Islamic Center, the Polish Art Center, the Armenian Community, the Bangladeshi Community, FRD Pharmacy, HS Investment LLC, Maine Street Restaurant, Marek Dudzinski, Falcon Foundry, Mostek Paint and Glass, Family Health Center Rehab — as well as a very generous anonymous donor.
Each major donor will have a plaque mounted at the base of the flagpole in recognition for their generosity. The HRC is still accepting donations for future maintenance of the poles.
Those who wish to reach out their hand to welcome new immigrants should contact:
WelcomingAmerica.org, WelcomingMichigan.org, GlobalDetroit.com, or the Hamtramck Human Relations chairman Russ Gordon at email@example.com.