New American Economy and Open Belly launch the Kansas City New American Festival

Media are invited to attend a screening and panel discussion on a new short documentary film, “Sone Ze Ya: Everyone Come Together,” on Wednesday, October 16 at the Crossroads Hotel in Kansas City, MO. This event is the keynote event at the Kansas City New American Festival, a first-of-its-kind celebration of immigrant contributions to American art, food, film, comedy, music, dance, and more. The Festival aims to transform the conversation around immigration by promoting cultural influencers’ work to convey the shared American experience. The New American Festival first launched in mid-September with a two-day event in New York City featuring film screenings, art, comedy, cooking demonstrations, musical performances, and more. Along with Kansas City, festivals are happening in Boston (October 1), Oakland (October 5), Houston (October 12), Nashville (October 17), and Detroit (October 20).

Produced by New American Economy, a national bipartisan immigration research and advocacy organization, the documentary chronicles the difficult journey immigrant chef Saw Dit and his family took from war-torn Myanmar to a refugee camp in Thailand to, finally, Kansas City, where he created popular Burmese restaurant Sone Ze Ya. Following a cocktail hour and screening of the documentary, there will be a panel discussion with Chef Saw Dit, film director Dave Brick, New American Economy Director of Content Strategy Katherine Steinberg, and the Open Belly podcast, whose successful first season featured the stories of immigrant and refugee chefs and restaurateurs in Kansas City. The evening will conclude with small dishes in the Crossroads Hotel Atrium.

Along with New American Economy and Open Belly, this event is hosted in partnership with ChowNow, an online ordering platform for small to mid-sized restaurant owners, and the Crossroads Hotel. Members of the press can contact Sona Rai at for a press pass. 


The panel will feature: The panel will feature: Katherine Steinberg, Director of Content Strategy for New American Economy, Danielle Lehman, Host and Creator of the Open Belly Podcast, Dave Brick, Director of “Sone Ze Ya: Everyone Come Together”, and Saw Dit, Refugee Chef and Founder of Sone Ze Ya.


Wednesday, October 16 from 6:30 PM to 9 PM


Crossroads Hotel, 2101 Central Street, Kansas City, MO


This event shines a spotlight on the many ways immigrants and refugees have transformed and revitalized food culture in Kansas City and throughout America. According to research by New American Economy, at just 6.6% of the population, immigrants make up 16.2% of all restaurant and food service workers in the Kansas City metro area and more than 27% of all cooks and chefs.  

“Crossroads Hotel is a celebration of Kansas City, so we’re honored and thrilled to be part of an event that spotlights such a significant aspect of our local community and culture,” said Jeremy Bennett, Director of Lifestyle at Crossroads Hotel. “Since opening last year, we’ve been committed to attracting thoughtful and interesting community-based programming to our property. This certainly fits that mold.” 

“Immigrants have revolutionized American cuisine through their visionary contributions,” said New American Economy’s Katherine Steinberg, who is curating the national New American Festival. “This event highlights the strength that cultural diversity brings to Kansas City’s food and arts scene.” 

“Our goal at Open Belly is to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of immigrants and refugees in our community, like the family at Sone Ze Ya. We’re proud to collaborate with other creatives in our city who are also passionate about this mission,” said Danielle Lehman, Host & Creator of the Open Belly Podcast. 

About Open Belly

Open Belly is a podcast exploring America’s vibrant and diverse food culture. Their mission is: 1) to break us all out of our comfort zones while exploring new food; 2) to share the stories of immigrant chefs in our community; 3) to encourage us all to get to know our neighbors; 3) to use food as a way to unite our community; and 5) to understand the world from a perspective other than our own.

About New American Economy

New American Economy (NAE) is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization founded to educate, empower and support policymakers, influencers, and citizens across the country that see the economic and social benefits of a smart approach to immigration reform. NAE has created a coalition of civic, business, and cultural leaders who span the political spectrum and represent all 50 states. NAE makes the case for smart immigration reform in four ways: 1) we use powerful research to demonstrate how immigration impacts our economy, 2) we organize champions at the grassroots and influencer levels to build support for immigration, 3) we partner with state and local leaders to advocate for policies that recognize the value immigrants add locally, and 4) we show immigrant contributions to American culture through film, food, art, sports, comedy, and more.

Media Contact: Sona Rai,, (646) 324-8284

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…