Little Amal, a 12-foot puppet depicting a 10-year-old refugee from war-torn Syria, visited Times Square on Friday, where she was welcomed by 200 public school students and the Broadway community, who serenaded her with popular Broadway tunes.
Making her way from 45th Street up Broadway to Father Duffy Square, Little Amal was astonished and overwhelmed by the lights, sounds, and the crowds of people from every part of the world.
Once she arrived in Father Duffy Square, her friends from Broadway and New York City’s public schools comforted Little Amal with “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent” and “Can’t You Feel a Brandnew Day” from the musical “The Wiz” while she embraced and danced with public school students.
Crystal Garcia, a Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School senior, said it was very emotional to see Little Amal.
“Coming from like immigrant families and just seeing how she’s been walking this much, and how many people connect to her, so it was really, really nice getting to see Little Amal,” Garcia said.
Her fellow student Kathleen Conte-Marrero was excited to see her and welcome Little Amal to New York City.
“It’s really important to spread awareness for what’s going on,” Conte-Marrero said.
Little Amal, designed and created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, arrived in New York City on Sept. 14 at JFK airport, and her visit to the “Center of the World” was part of the 17-day ‘Little Amal Walks NYC’ tour covering 55 events in all five boroughs through Oct. 2.
So far, Little Amal’s journey, which began in July 2021, has taken her to over 85 cities in twelve countries, and she finished a 5,000-mile trek across Europe, highlighting the plight of migrants and refugees.
Described as one of the biggest public art projects in the city’s history, ‘Little Amal Walks NYC’ is a co-production of St. Ann’s Warehouse and The Walk Productions. The tour is a celebration of art, hope, and shared humanity and aims to unite communities and refocus attention on the pressing needs of migrants and refugees.
Peter Avery, director of theater for New York City’s public schools, followed Little Amal’s journey through Europe last year, hoping she would make her way across the pond because he was moved by the message of hope and love. He immediately signed up when Susan Feldman from St. Anne’s Warehouse reached out to him.
“Susan Feldman contacted me and said Little Amal is coming,” Avery said and explained that Susan Feldman wanted to involve New York City public school students and the community.
“This is a New York Story,” Avery said. “This is a city built on the backs of immigrants. Immigrants who came here willingly and those who were forced to, and it’s important to acknowledge that as well.”
Lindsey Roberts-Greene, director of programs of Arts Ignite and who also stars in the ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ explained that ‘Little Amal Walks NYC’ aligns with the work at Arts Ignite.
“We work with the International Rescue Committee, and we welcome young people who are newly resettled to New York City, including refugees, asylees, unaccompanied minors,” Roberts-Greene said.
Little Amal’s journey celebrates immigrants and cultural diversity and the contributions immigrants have made to their new homeland. A journey Tamar Greene, who plays George Washington in ‘Hamilton,’ knows all too well.
“My grandparents left Jamaica and went to England,” Greene explained. “My parents then left and came here to New York City. So they are exactly what Peter was talking about. They are that history, and I am an effect of that legacy.”
Nyliram Garcia, a senior at Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts, hoped that the message of unity would resonate with fellow New Yorkers.
“I think people should be more welcoming to immigrants,” Garcia said. “And I think she’s gonna make a difference because we’re singing to her, we are welcoming her, and everyone will see that, and they would like, you know, follow in our footsteps and do the same.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.