NYU DC Dialogues and NEWorks Productions presented, "Realities of Today’s West Side Story: A Dialogue on Immigration and Socioeconomic Disparities," a discussion panel featuring Esther Olavarria, Vice President for Institutional Affairs and Chief of Staff at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Allen Orr, Esq. Treasurer, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Rachel Peric, Executive Director at Welcoming America, and Nolan Williams, Jr., CEO of NEWorks Productions, Festival Artistic Director of the Mann Center and Conceiver/Curator of the West Side/South Side Exhibition. The conversation was moderated by Cathleen Farrell, Director of Communications at the National Immigration Forum.
This panel discussion hopes to draw public attention to these prevailing issues and launches the national photo exhibition, "West Side/South Side: The Face of Immigration and Socioeconomic Disparities in America" which will be displayed in the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Lobby at NYU DC through the end of May.
Esther Olavarria is Vice President for Institutional Affairs and Chief of Staff at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Prior to joining the Kennedy Center, she served as a Senior Counselor to Secretary Jeh Johnson at the Department of Homeland Security from 2014 to 2016. During 2013, she worked for the White House Domestic Policy Council on immigration legislation and policy. She previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at DHS. From 1998 to 2007, she was Senator Edward Kennedy's chief immigration counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has also served as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a senior advisor for the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Esther began her career as an immigration attorney in Miami, Florida, working at several not for profit legal service organizations. Esther was born in Havana, Cuba and raised in Florida. She has a law degree from the University of Florida.
Allen Orr is the founder of Orr Immigration Law Firm PC, a minority-owned law firm based in Washington, DC and focusing on a US corporate compliance as well as global corporate representation and assistance on immigration issues.
Mr. Orr previously helped to build one of the leading global immigration practices at a large global law firm, where he developed a global network of immigration practitioners, government officials and business leaders. Mr. Orr managed an I-9 compliance audit for a Fortune 10 company which involved review and analysis of all immigration records relating to its 250,000 employees.
Mr. Orr is the recipient of the 2009 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyer Award for contributions made in the immigration law field and specifically for his work with the Young Lawyers Division, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). He is listed in The International Who’s Who of Corporate Immigration Lawyers and The International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers. He is the Immigration Section Chair for the National Bar Association and the National Treasurer for AILA.
Mr. Orr is a frequent speaker on US and global emerging business immigration issues. He is a Senior Editor of the Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook and an Associate Editor of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) Global Immigration Guide: A Country-by-Country Survey.
Mr. Orr received a BA in Philosophy from Morehouse College and a JD from Howard University’s School of Law.
Rachel Peric is the Executive Director of Welcoming America. Inspired by her family’s refugee story and by the worldwide movement of welcomers, Rachel works to create communities where all residents – including immigrants and refugees – can thrive and belong. Since joining the organization in 2011, she has served as the organization’s deputy director and in other senior leadership roles, helping grow Welcoming America from a nascent startup to an award-winning organization with a global footprint. The White House honored Welcoming America and ten of its leaders as White House Welcoming America Champions of Change for their innovations in immigrant integration. In 2014 the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and BMW Group distinguished Welcoming America as a recipient of their Intercultural Innovation Award, honoring its work in promoting intercultural understanding.
Prior to Welcoming America, she served as Executive Director of MCAEL, a community literacy coalition that strengthens and promotes adult literacy and English language learning in suburban Washington, DC, where she was recognized by Montgomery Women with the Rising Star Award. She also served as Regional Director with the United Way of the National Capital Area, where she led fundraising and community impact efforts in Montgomery County, Maryland. She began her career managing international development programs with a private consulting firm, Management Systems International (MSI).
Nolan Williams, Jr. is an American composer, producer, curator, and musicologist. His vast creative output includes: numerous songwriting commissions, including works performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra; editorial oversight of the bestselling African American Heritage Hymnal (over 650,000 books sold worldwide); curation of numerous cultural festivals in partnership with the Kennedy Center and Philadelphia's Mann Center; curation of art exhibitions mounted at Philadelphia's City Hall and The Franklin Institute and a touring cultural exhibition developed with Walls Communications for the U.S. Army, mounted at Howard University's Blackburn Center (Washington, D.C.), Fulton County Municipal Center (Atlanta), the Essence Music Festival (New Orleans), and the Image Awards (Los Angeles); lectures at numerous American universities, including a term as a visiting professor at Dartmouth College; songwriting credits on two Grammy®-nominated projects; a host of theatrical productions developed and presented in partnership with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, The Clarice, and (presently) Cleveland Play House; and, television music production credits with Time Life, BET, and TV One.
Cathleen Farrell, Director of Communications, National Immigration Forum
Cathleen Farrell brings more than 30 years of professional experience in journalism, advocacy communications and strategic communications to her role as the director of communications of the National Immigration Forum. At the Forum, Cathleen leads all content strategy across departments and initiatives. Before joining in 2014, she served as director of digital strategy and chief of communications at the Inter-American Development Bank. As a journalist, she has edited and written for leading publications in the United Kingdom, Canada, Latin America and the United States. A native of Canada, Cathleen is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal.
The West Side/South Side Exhibition is inspired by Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, a work that challenged America to wrestle with issues of immigration, community integration, and social disparities that often distinguish one neighborhood from another. 60 years after West Side Story premiered on Broadway, the still-prevailing issues of community integration and socioeconomic disparities are apparent throughout America.
The exhibition is sponsored by NEWorks Productions, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts (Philadelphia), and Fulton County Arts and Culture (Atlanta)— it features photography from students at five American universities in three major cities: American University, University of the District of Columbia, The Art Institute of Atlanta, Clark-Atlanta University, and University of the Arts (Philadelphia).