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Red Cross Celebrates World Refugee Day in Chicago

Some 59.5 million people live as refugees from around the world and are forced to choose between the safety of their family and the comforts of home. Of those, 51 percent are children under the age of 18. The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois joins the global community to call attention to the needs of the immigrant community with a music and art event this week leading up to World Refugee Day recognized around the world on June 20. 

In collaboration with the local World Refugee Day Organizing Committee, the Red Cross is participating in a lunchtime concert and art show on Thursday, June 16 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Daley Plaza, located at 50 W. Washington St., Chicago, IL 60602


Event Emcee 

• Luis Narváez will serve as the program emcee. Luis was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico, where he lived until he arrived to the Chicagoland area for high school. After attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he worked in the corporate world for a while as well as the University level, truly enjoying both sides. Luis currently works as the Director of Strategic Projects for the CPS Office of Language and Cultural Education, ensuring that the district’s 70,000 English Language learners receive adequate instructional support at school. At home in Chicago’s East side, he lives with his wife and two boys, while also enrolled at Northeastern Illinois University’s Masters in Educational Leadership program with a concentration in Higher Education. 


• Lester Rey | Lester Rey is a Puerto Rican artist growing a new scene for old school funk, soul, and Latin sounds to create Boogaloo-Urbano. Urbano provides the hip-hop voice of the community he grew up in, while Boogaloo sets a stage for the dance and rhythms of Caribbean Diasporas. As a singer, songwriter, and producer, Lester Rey performs as a solo act across Chicago's underground music scene, fronts the band, Subele, and is an engineer at Olin Studios. 

• Azieb Abraha | Singer-songwriter and music producer 'Azieb Abraha' is the newest addition to the Midwest underground pop music scene. Azieb highlights her African cultural background with influences from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Europe through her performance name, Azieb Abraha. She is formally recognized as "Best Electronica Act of 2014" by the Chicago Independent Music Awards, recently appeared in the Chicago Tribune, and worked with Europe-toured artist Yonas Michael, from Los Angeles, California. 

• Abraham Mellish | At his core, Abraham is a storyteller in the folk tradition with lyrical breadth that fully encompasses a universal human experience steeped in Liberian roots. Abraham has seen a lot in his 24 years- civil war in Liberia, a new life across the world- but he remains a hopeful and jubilant spirit. Driving bass notes juxtaposed with intricate finger picking established an African tinged rhythm that serves as a vehicle for Abraham’s message of oneness, reflection and peace. 

Art Exhibits 

• ‘What We Carried’| Jim Lommasson, Iraqi Mutual Aid Society This exhibit shows stories of displacement, loss, and the preservation of identity by Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have fled to America because of our wars in the Middle East. What was carried?  What was left behind? ‘’What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization is a collaborative storytelling project with photographer Jim Lommasson and writings by Iraqi and Syrian refugees. What We Carried is an ongoing project. 

• ‘Photovoice’ | Sulzer Regional Library, Heartland Alliance’s Marjorie Kovler Center and Refugee and Immigrant Community Services In order to build a collection of photos and stories from people affected by forced migration, the Chicago Public Library loaned digital cameras to nine refugees, asylum seekers and others who have been forced to immigrate. This collection will become part of Sulzer Regional Library's Northside Neighborhood History Collection. 

• ‘Sanctuary + Sustanence’ | ART WORKS Projects Sanctuary & Sustenance: The Story of Many Journeys, a multimedia projection of photography, film, music, and words, launched on June 20, 2013 in honor of World Refugee Day in cities around the world. Through photographs, moving graphics, and music, viewers have an opportunity to trace the journey of a family during the catastrophic events of displacement, on a path to sanctuary, and through the long process of rebuilding life in a new community. 

RED CROSS RESTORING FAMILY LINKS PROGRAM Through the Restoring Family Links program, the Red Cross is able to search for family members and send messages to loved ones torn apart by war or conflict, disaster, migration and other humanitarian emergencies in counties including Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Myanmar, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Through this free and invaluable service, the Red Cross last year helped reconnect more than 4,250 families searching for missing family members. Hearing the words “I am alive” from a loved one on the other side of the word can be a huge relief for refugees living here in Chicago. A local story about two sisters from Syria who were reconnected can be viewed here: 

HOW TO HELP Other ways people can join the Red Cross this month in celebrating World Refugee Day and help make a difference is by volunteering as a caseworker and community ambassador for the Restoring Family Links program or host an event to support international services. For more information go to 

ABOUT WORLD REFUGEE DAY World Refugee Day is an international day of celebration and recognition for refugee and displaced person communities. The United Nations recognizes June 20 as World Refugee Day. In honor of refugees and internationally displaced people, the American Red Cross seeks to support local community events through the Restoring Family Links program. Restoring Family Links offers family reconnection services for those who have been separated internationally due to crisis, conflict or migration. This invaluable service is most often utilized by new arrivals, refugees and migrants using the Red Cross/Red Crescent network and in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

About the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois: 

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois serves 9.5 million people in 21 counties in Northern Illinois including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit us at or visit us on Twitter at @ChicagoRedCross.