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New York Multilingual Newspaper Seeks to Bridge Diverse Cultures

  • June Soh

Queens, a borough of New York City, is known as one of the most diverse areas in the world. And it has a newspaper that tries to reach out to readers in the languages the communities speak and build bridges between their cultures. VOA June Soh has a story on this unique newspaper. It's narrated by Amy Katz.

Indian music flows from a music store and onto the street. On the other side of the street, a heated debate between a Muslim and a Hispanic young man on U.S. foreign policy brings pedestrian traffic to a halt.

It's Queens, New York City, a place of cultural diversity. Residents of different ethnic backgrounds run businesses side by side.

The signs in various languages on this building in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood in Queens, also reflect its reputation as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world.

And to read this newspaper, called DiverseCity, you would have to be literate in several languages including English, Spanish, Chinese, Bengali, and at times Tagalog, Korean and German.

In this basement people with various ethnic backgrounds gather once a week and discuss topics that interest a multi-ethnic community. They are volunteers who do all the work for the DiverseCity: writing, layout, photography and translation. Kean Teck Eng from Malaysia serves as a Chinese writer. He enjoys his work and his contribution to the community.

"For example, one of the issues of the newspaper, the headline was about immigration processing time here that cause delay. That article in Mandarin really brings very important information to the Chinese community," says Kean Teck Eng.

The monthly newspaper was first published five years ago by a non-profit organization called the Humanist Center of Cultures. Sushmita Mukherjee, a native of India, is a co-editor.

"The goal is really to reach as many people as possible in their language in their culture and also to give people a forum to express themselves. Because I think one of the things that often happens in the community like Jackson Heights, where you have people coming from 33 different countries speaking maybe 15 different languages, people often have this difficulty that they kind of feel that they are lost in the middle of the crowd and no one really cares for them," says Sushmita Mukherjee.

Raising public awareness on human rights abuse against immigrants is also one of the concerns of the newspaper.

"Every thing that caters to the human being or lives in the community, their difficulties as well as their aspirations, their hopes, their dreams, that's what we try to do with the newspaper. Try to provide a forum where all these can be talked about," says Sushmita Mukherjee.

The newspaper's circulation has grown to 7,000 copies and each month readers can see three to six different languages on its 12 pages.

Evan from Bangladesh says, "I like my language and it's right here. It says here sometimes like our legal rights. That's a main thing I like about. And it has different people's, different countries' information, too. That's what I like the most."

Everardo from Mexico says, "We can find some Spanish, that's my language. I don't know much about another language but I think it's fine because here we are neighbors from the Indian community, Korean community. So this is good."

At the end of each month, the volunteer writers become distributors. After their regular job in the evening, they deliver the DiverseCity, free of charge, to local stores, restaurants, banks and libraries.

The volunteers believe that their effort to bring communities together through the newspaper will help make immigrants' lives better.

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