Lexington’s new center, called Global Lex, will offer multilingual services, citizenship classes, driver’s education and public safety classes. It features art by foreign-born Lexingtonians and is likely to host business incubation programs. The expected outcome from this center is a community that is more welcoming to diverse residents. According to the Herald-Leader article about the grand opening for the center, demand for services at Global Lex is already exceeding expectations.
The opening of Global Lex is significant because it addresses a challenge formally highlighted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in a 2010 study, Soul of the Community. Knight’s research highlighted how much the beauty of the Bluegrass drives community attachment, but it also confirmed that Lexington is not as strong as it could be in its openness to some types of diversity. As Knight states:
Lexington residents give low marks to the community’s perceived openness to racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants, which could be hindering attachment among some groups and reducing the community’s appeal to new residents. Leaders should do more to increase knowledge of initiatives to create a diverse and tolerate community that is welcoming to all people.
Given this context, I am especially pleased to see Lexington putting resources behind an effort to increase our social openness.
On a more personal note, I grew up in an old New England mill town rich in ethnic diversity created by recent immigrants. My own father migrated as a child to the United States from Russian in 1923 with my grandparents, so I am familiar with the immigrant experience and understand the value that immigrants bring to our communities.
Many thanks to Mayor Gray, to Isabel Taylor, the city’s multicultural affairs coordinator, and to the many members of the immigrant community and so many others who worked to make the Center a reality and to make the opening event for the Center so successful.
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