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Immigrant Heritage Month Story: Terwase Ngur

Posted 06/07/21 by Mely Arribas-Douglas

Immigrant Heritage Month gives people across the United States an opportunity to annually explore our country's heritage and celebrate the shared diversity that forms the unique story of America.

The letter below is a part of a series that brings to life stories from our immigrant, refugee, and diverse community members who call Toledo and Lucas County, home. We celebrate their contributions, especially this Immigrant Heritage Month; an annual celebration of our nation’s shared immigrant heritage and cultural diversity.

Immigrant Heritage Month stories are a project of Welcome Toledo-Lucas County, a local initiative housed in the Toledo Lucas County Public Library; in partnership with the Board of Lucas County Commissioners and LISC Toledo; to advance an inclusive and global community.

We are glad to share stories showing the way our diverse local communities enrich our daily lives.

It's time to #CelebrateImmigrants!

My name is Terwase Ngur (pronounced Ter-wah-see Grr), Librarian and Manager of the Richard G. LaValley Computers and Media department in Main Toledo Lucas County Public Library. I was born in Zaria, Nigeria. My parents, an agricultural economist and a research pharmacist, moved my four sisters and one brother here to Toledo, Ohio when my father was transferred to the former Medical College of Ohio (now UTMCO).

Leaving my friends and family to move to America was tough even at the tender age of ten. I can’t imagine the level of culture shock adults might experience. All of the information I’d gleaned about my new home came from how grownups in Africa referred to the US, “the land flowing with milk and honey.” My other information source of course was Sesame Street, so you can imagine the type of place I’d prepared myself for.

More of my life has been spent Stateside than not. I attended grade school at Harvard Elementary, and junior high at Byrndale, where my art teacher, Mr. Garcia enrolled me in a number of classes at The Toledo Museum of Art, an experience I always remember fondly. I attended high school at Northview, where I was later recruited to play D3 basketball for a university in southern Ohio. I finished my undergraduate studies at The University of Toledo, and after a bit of soul searching and decades of understated guidance from a librarian at Heatherdowns Library, I realized my life was intrinsically connected to my local library. I earned my Master’s in Information and Library Science and joined TLCPL. 

It goes on, I learned how to stand on my own feet here when I moved into my first apartment, and my friends and little sister introduced me to the girl in a restaurant in West Toledo who I’d later marry and raise two beautiful daughters with. I took the plunge from permanent resident to citizen not too long ago in a ceremony at The University of Toledo. Most of the cherished memories of my life so far have occurred right here in Lucas County. I’ve counted more victories here than losses.

What are my hopes for what a more welcoming Toledo-Lucas County community looks like?

Many people I interact with probably don't realize I immigrated here. I tend to avoid sharing my immigrant story with just anybody, and most of us can attest to feeling like it’s difficult enough feeling like we belong, but if this piece will speak to those with negative opinions of immigrants, immigration and the divisive concept of otherness, then I’ll gladly share. There are likely many people who, unbeknownst to them, have had positive, pleasant interactions with an immigrant; perhaps this can begin the work of changing minds and perceptions.

Additionally, I hope this empowers more immigrants to see stories of others overcoming barriers, particularly seeing some of us working in public roles so they may know they are just as capable of finding their place in Lucas County.

No, not everything is ideal, no evidence of “honey and milk” rivers, not even friendly singing muppets. There is a pressing need to be a part of the work of creating a just and equal society.

I love the work I get to do here, especially serving my staff and community.

See you soon.

Terwase’s story first appeared in Welcome TLC’s email newsletter. Stay up to date on the latest with Welcome TLC by subscribing today.


About the Immigrant Heritage Month Storyteller Series

This project was led by Betsy Rose Ujvagi, Welcome TLC steering committee member and our very first Immigrant Heritage Month story teller.

About Immigrant Heritage Month

Immigrant Heritage Month (IHM) is a nationwide celebration of immigration held each June. IHM is powered by FWD.us and is part of an ongoing effort to empower immigrants and allies to share stories and drive action that demonstrate how immigration is good for our communities, economy, and country. IHM also provides new avenues for individuals and organizations to support immigrants in their communities and workplaces during June and throughout the year. For more information, visit iamanimmigrant.com.

About Welcome Toledo-Lucas County

Welcome Toledo-Lucas County (TLC), launched in 2014, is a cross-sector network of community partners advancing an inclusive and global Toledo-Lucas County. Housed at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, and in partnership with the Lucas County Board of Commissioners and LISC Toledo, Welcome TLC is governed by a steering committee of government, community, and business leaders, including immigrants, refugees, and people of diverse cultures.

In April 2019, Lucas County, led by the leadership of Welcome TLC, achieved the national designation as a Certified Welcoming community, becoming the second county in the country and second community in the state to receive the designation.