Belonging Begins With Us

A project by San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto as part of the San Mateo County Office of Community Affairs Immigrant Services’ Welcoming Week 2021 Program

Community poem contributors:

Terry Adams, CSW/LGBTQ Commission Executive Director Tanya Beat, Marilu Bedolla, Megan Brown, Aileen Cassinetto, Eva Chen, Hilary Cruz Mejia, Portola Valley Councilmember Maryann Moise Derwin, Commissioner Terri Echelbarger, Paul Fericano, Caroline Goodwin, Colma Councilmember John Goodwin, Monica Korde, Vivian Le, Tatiana Lyulkin, Kevin Madrigal Galindo, Jescent Marcelino, Sujatha Marsden, Diane Lee Moomey, Cordelia Naumann, City of San Mateo Deputy Mayor Diane Papan, GraceAnn Stewart, Jefferson High School District Board of Trustees President Rosie Tejada, Rosemary Ybarra-Garcia, Peninsula Family Service, & Filoli

Belonging Begins With Us

A San Mateo County Community Poem

As you walk outside on your first morning here
put out seed, and see what comes near.

A dove, a rose, a redwood tree.
Gaze upon a new light

another wonderful adventure
a new welcoming page.

Sing songs in your mother tongue
We will play music to it. There is a place for you,

a wide window with a view toward the western hills:
needlegrass, monkeyflower, coast live oak, red tailed hawk.

Like a shooting star in the nighttime sky,
go ahead, make a wish.

You may long for home, but you will soon find
that home can also be here. We embrace you

and everything that you bring: your customs,
your food and music, your smiles, your heart.

Think not of the veins of this outstretched hand
as dead ends but as living rivers.

Before you arrived we thought we knew
who we were, but now we know

we are more than we dreamed.
Let me feel what you remember

and I will go the way you came.
I wait, my extended hand a poem, replete

with petals of love, stems of growth, vines of hope.
Would you like to eat lunch with me?

Would you like to join my family
for Thanksgiving celebration?

Sharing a meal is how we nurture
relationships, celebrate achievements,

mend conflicts and feel gratitude for life.
To the abuelita on 5th Avenue, you are

the building block of my community and corazón.
To my fellow neighbors: share your kindness,

share your support, and extend belonging
to those who only just arrived. Be the first

to provide dignity, safety, and grace
in these times of migration, disruption

and hard choices. We all know how it feels
to be excluded. We all have the power

to help others belong in our communities.
From the first day a new resident moves here,

they are part of our family.
Here, we shelter the poor, remember the forgotten.

Every stranger becomes a prospect for friendship.
Our tiny planet is but a small, swirling speck

of cosmic dust with even tinier occupants
bumping into each other, seeking shelter, better weather.

Kapwa ko, I give you harbor, armor, anchor.
Here is where you can start over. Belonging begins with us.

¿Qué ondas? Ya comiste?
Vamos a comer a mi casa.

Welcome, welcome home. Herete means to rejoice!
Staray Ma Shay. We’re glad to have you.

Shalom, Salam, Pas, Amani, Vrede, paco, peace.
Thank you for being here.

Please ask for anything you need.
May each bright dawn bring you peace, bring

family and memory, hummingbird, hawk. May
the surf be a heartbeat, steady as home.

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