Monday, November 28, 2011

Mexican hands bring food to your table, says Tennessee farmer George Marks

Photo from home page of Burley Stabilization Corporation, where George Marks is President of the Board of Directors

"All your vegetables had a Mexican hand on it. All your fruit, and three quarters of your meat."
-Middle Tennessee farmer George Marks,
on the interaction between immigration politics and food
in Tennessean report by Chas Sisk

Photo of George Marks by
Southeast Farm Press
George Marks' Clarksville-area farm has been in the family since 1899, when it produced tobacco, corn and wheat. George's father Arthur started the dairy production, one of few dairies still operating in Montgomery County. George and other family members still own the farm, but George runs its current crops, which include corn, wheat, soybeans, tobacco, beef and dairy.

The Marks farm has been recognized as a Tennessee Century Farm, and Marks credits the sustainability of many of its products to 19 farmhands from the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, Mexico. Most of these providers (for their families and for Tennessee families) have been returning to work for Marks year after year, on seasonal visas, for over a decade. Three employees were identified in the Tennessean story: Pedro PeñaLupe Villegas, and Pedro Mateus.

In addition to his farming duties, Marks is active in leadership and service for the Farm Bureau, the Montgomery County Cooperative, the Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Planning Commission, and the Burley Stabilization Corporation.

According to Bread for the World, "[a]lmost three-fourths of all U.S. hired farm workers are immigrants, most of them unauthorized. The U.S. food system—particularly fruit and vegetable production—depends on immigrants more than any other sector of the U.S. economy."

Marks put it this way to the Tennessean: "All your vegetables had a Mexican hand on it. All your fruit, and three quarters of your meat."

Thank farmers and their teams for the food they provide your family - just fill out the form at the TN Farm Bureau web site  Here is what I submitted: Before each meal, my preschool son starts saying grace by putting his hands in the air and singing, "Open, shut them / Open, shut them / Give a little clap / Open, shut them / Open, shut them / Fold them in your lap," and then "God our Father, once again, we bow our heads to thank you, Amen." I thank God for abundance of the land, the animals, the farms and the farmers, and for all of their teams on those farms who put in the hard work that puts food on our family's table. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Remembering the Mariposas: International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women

By Rebecca Zanolini

Fifty-one years ago today in the Dominican Republic, sisters Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa Mirabal were brutally murdered by orders of their then-government leader, Rafael Trujillo, also known as el jefe

The sisters were known by their supporters and revolutionary colleagues as las mariposas ---the butterflies. These brave sisters helped initiate a road to justice and equality in their small island country that had been under the rule of a vicious dictator for nearly 30 years.

During his reign of terror, it is estimated that Trujillo had tens of thousands of people murdered for opposing his government and his desire to eradicate neighboring dark-skinned Haitians from the island.   Because of the valiant effort and tragic death of the Mirabal sisters, many countries in Latin America recognize today, November 25, as the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Thus, on this post-Thanksgiving Day, I encourage us all to take a moment of silence - in remembrance of the Mirabal sisters who lost their lives on November 25, 1960, and in remembrance of the thousands of lives who have been both directly and indirectly impacted by violence towards women. To honor these women and the women in your life, wear a butterfly today and share this story or your own story with others.

Long live the butterflies!

Rebecca Zanolini
About the author: My name is Rebecca Zanolini, and I am currently a full-time Spanish Instructor with Middle Tennessee State University. I hold a Master of Arts in Teaching and an Educational Specialist degree (Ed.S.) in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Culture, Cognition, and the Learning Process. Currently I am pursuing doctoral studies in Curriculum and Instruction at Tennessee State University.  Beyond my passion for teaching the Spanish language, I am passionate about achieving social and educational equality for Tennesseans of minority and immigrant backgrounds and improving the quality of life for all people in our community. Most recently, I have served on the Equity Task Force Committee with Franklin Special School District, volunteered with FUTURO of MTSU, and helped to lead and moderate an equality forum at MTSU known as, “We are Created E.Q.U.A.L.”  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Clergy breakfast next Wednesday to feature Alabama bishop Willimon, Baptist ethicist Parham, and immigration bureaucracy update

William Willimon
Robert Parham

Clergy for Tolerance is hosting a special breakfast in Nashville next Wednesday, November 30, 2011, featuring United Methodist Bishop William Willimon, head of the North Alabama Conference and leader in the faith community’s opposition and response to Alabama’s immigration law.

The breakfast is meant to update faith leaders on the constantly evolving immigration bureaucracy in the federal government and in states like Alabama, and to encourage them to continue serving as spokespersons of compassion and reason.

Bishop Willimon will specifically address the importance of clergy involvement in preventing similar legislation from passing in Tennessee and will provide examples of the challenges for faith communities in Alabama under this new law. Alabama's HB 56 went into effect on September 29, 2011 and is widely considered the toughest-in-the-nation legislation on the targeted workers.

Also speaking will be Robert Parham, Founder and Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. Reared in Nigeria as the child of missionaries, Parham has a doctorate from Baylor University, a master's of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a bachelor's in foreign service from Georgetown University. In addition to appearing on Fox News, CNN Talk Back Live, MSNBC News Chat, ABC World News Tonight and NPR’s Morning Edition, he interfaces with reporters across the country. Parham will introduce the topic of faith and immigration within a framework of morality.

Organizers say that 180 Tennessee clergymembers and faith leaders are scheduled to attend, but space is still available for registration.

Online registration for clergy is free - here, or to register manually, clergy may send their name, email address, and organization to

Kasar Abdulla, TIRRC
Rev. April Baker, Pastor, Glendale Baptist Church
Father Joseph Breen, St. Edward Catholic Church
Rev. Kristina Brown, Community Ministries and Communications, First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro
Bishop Ben Chamness, Interim Bishop, Tennessee Conference, United Methodist Church
A.R. Chao, Director of Education, Islamic Center of Tennessee
Rev. James Cole, Pastor, Hillcrest United Methodist Church
Rev. John Collett, Nashville District Superintendent, United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings, Senior Pastor, New Covenant Christian Church
Rev. Sonnye Dixon, Pastor, Hobson United Methodist Church
Dr. Donovan Drake, Senior Pastor, Westminster Presbyterian Church
Rev. Ken Edwards, Senior Pastor, Belmont United Methodist Church
Rev. Brian Fesler, Church of Scientology
Stephen Fotopulos, TIRRC
Rev. Kaki Friskics-Warren, TNJFON
Rev. Kaye Harvey, Pastor of Congregational Care, Brentwood United Methodist Church
Rev. Heidi Hudnut-Beumler, Pastor, Trinity Presbyterian Church
Nathan Kinser, Youth Director, Stones River Baptist Church and Director of World Relief Nashville
Rev Thomas Kleinert, Senior Pastor, Vine Street Christian Church
Dr. Todd Lake, VP for Spiritual Development, Belmont University and Interim Pastor at First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro
Dr. Frank Lewis, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Nashville
Rev. Ken Locke, Pastor, Downtown Presbyterian Church
Rev. James Milton McCarroll, Jr., First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro
Amelia Post, TIRRC
Avi Poster, CEI
Rev. Gail S. Seavey, Pastor, First Unitarian Universalist
Bill Sinclair, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Tennessee
Renata Soto, Conexión Américas
Chantho Sourinho, Wat Lao Buddharam (Lao Buddhist Temple)
Rev. Jay Vorhees, Pastor, Old Hickory United Methodist Church
Hedy Weinberg, ACLU

Sponsored By:
Baptist Center for Ethics
Belmont University Office of Spiritual Development
Catholic Charities
Coalition for Education about Immigration (CEI)
Conexión Américas
Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN)
Islamic Center of Tennessee
The Nashville Board of Rabbis
Nashville for All of Us
Tennessee for All of Us
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC)
Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors (TNJFON)
Wat Lao Buddharam (Lao Buddhist Temple)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Isis Abigail Martínez celebrates quinceañera

Honoree Isis Abigail Martínez and her escorts

On October 22, the Martínez Vargas family celebrated the fifteenth birthday of Isis Abigail with a thanksgiving mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, where the quinceañera was accompanied by her escorts Brayan Martínez, Óscar Vivas, Edmundo Díaz y Caín Honorato. Afterward, guests attended a reception emceed by Kaimanes Musical at Premier Indoor Sports. Advance photos were taken at the Opryland Hotel.

See more quinceañera announcements at

Original story credit: Vallejo y Alcántara/HolaTN. English summary by Used with permission.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Four free tickets to Kings of Salsa show Tuesday at Schermerhorn

The Kings of Salsa are playing at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center this Tuesday night, November 22, at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $29-$69; to purchase, click here or call 615-687-6400.

Cindy McCain, Nashville Latin Dancing Examiner at and guest writer at, has an interview with Kings of Salsa artist director and choreographer Roclan Gonzalez Chavez here. The non-interview, promo material version is here:
Choreographed by Roclan Gonzalez Chavez, this stunning new show pays homage to the great Cuban performers and the dance styles from this intoxicating island, with a cool contemporary modern twist showing young Cuba today. 
Regarded as one of the best young choreographers in Cuba, Gonzalez Chavez has created this show to feature the unique talents of some of the island’s best dancers, picked from the cream of Cuba’s top dance companies. The electrifying mix of performers and choreographic styles makes this a show not to be missed. 
Featuring the very best of Havana’s cool street salsa and hip hop scene, Kings of Salsa seamlessly mixes traditional Afro-Caribbean moves, world class contemporary dance and the Cuban classics: Mambo, Rumba, and Cha Cha Cha. Backed by the spectacular 9-piece band Cuba Ashire, who unleash Latin rhythms and stratospheric brass arrangements, Kings of Salsa showcases a slice of cool contemporary Cuba never seen before on stage. 
If you loved Buena Vista Social Club, you do not want to miss this evening!
Four free tickets are available to readers - to enter, just post a comment to this story below (or on Hispanic Nashville's Facebook page) and say how many tickets you need. Comments must be posted by 12:00 p.m. (noon) on Monday, November 21.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thank you for the food: a love letter to Nolensville Road and El Amigo

Photo by Michael W. Bunch © Nashville Scene. Used with permission.

Nolensville Road and taco shop El Amigo get a love letter for their food, in this week's pre-Thanksgiving edition of the Nashville Scene. The piece by Sean L. Maloney is part of a cover story made entirely of open letters to "the city we love, the people we admire from afar and some other stuff we generally find tolerable about life, all in an open forum."

The writers said they aren't expecting a reply, but that they "wouldn’t mind a retweet." So, with the Scene's permission (confirmed by e-mail), here's a snippet of a food lover's thank-you letter to Nolensville Road and El Amigo:
An Open Letter to Nolensville Road
By Sean L. Maloney 
First and foremost, I’d like to thank you for smelling like meat at almost all times. Specifically, meat cooked over low heat for hours on end. That could be my favorite scent in the whole olfactory spectrum, and nothing says “we’re home” to my wife and me after a long trip like the whiffs of barbacoa and al pastor that waft into the car once we get off the highway on the way back to nuestra casa.
[N]ow that we’ve traded in our 500-square-foot yuppie cage for five rooms on the South Side, we’re eating like champs for half the cost. And the options! Even if we’re being super-duper lazy and don’t want to go past the end of our street, we’ve still got a globe’s worth of options: Ghanian over at Musaake, the best chicharron de queso papusas in town at La Papuseria Salvodoreana, grocery stores featuring the fare of at least four continents! 
It’s like we’ve died and gone to foodie heaven! Except we’re not dead, and there’s still money left in our bank account. But the best thing about living right next to Nolensville Road, at least for this record critic, food lover and full-time nightclub denizen, is that El Amigo — the convenience store-cum-taqueria on the corner of Elysian Fields — is open after the bars close....
Read the entire letter over at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

El Protector turns 7; officers' embedded approach receives local and national honors

El Protector Hispanic Community Festival, Hickory Hollow Mall
By Cindy McCain

Nashville's nationally acclaimed El Protector Program turned seven this year, interacting in one way or another with the infants, youth, and adults across the Nashville community. Metro Nashville Police Department Commander Mike Alexander, who was recently awarded the “Building Neighborhoods Award” by the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, describes El Protector as "building trust and partnership between the police department and the Hispanic community."

In an interview with, Alexander gave an overview of El Protector's seven years (and counting) in Nashville:
The El Protector Program began in 2004 and originated within the South Precinct as a means to provide outreach and partnership between the police department and the Hispanic community. The program now has two sworn officers dedicated to this effort who are Gilbert Ramirez (South Precinct) and Rafael Fernandez (Hermitage Precinct). We have three events that we consider the most crucial during the year, which are the Hispanic Community FestivalHispanic Teen Academy and Soccer Tournament, and a Christmas event for disabled children in December.

El Protector Teen Academy

El Protector Soccer Tournament

The El Protector Program’s Board of Directors consists of approximately 15 members from various disciplines across the county who meet to discuss solutions and initiatives. Alexander stresses the importance of teamwork with other organizations in the community:
The El Protector Program is successful due to very committed partners and organizations within the community who are willing to work with us to make our city a safe and welcoming environment for all.  We have a great relationship with Cricket Communications as they provide approximately 40 cell phones to civilian translators who are on call to translate for the officers in the field.   We have recently added Hispanic clergy members to our Police Youth Response Team who are on call to assist with any serious events where Hispanic youth may be injured, in order to counsel family members.  Our officers are now on two radio stations each week and take calls from the community regarding a variety of issues in terms of laws, how the police department operates.
The radio program outreach offers free advice in Spanish on Tuesdays from 10:00-11:00 on Radio Luz 900 AM and from 11:00-12:00 on La Nueva Activa 1240 AM. Legal experts and representatives of agencies such as 211, Conexion Americas, and Nashville Conflict Resolution Center provide information and answers to callers' questions. Topics range from issues related to Driver Licenses, International Driver Licenses, traffic stops, fraud, mental health and safety concerns.  The El Protector Program hopes to add a third radio station with a younger audience by the end of the year, to discuss issues faced by younger Hispanic Nashvillians. Commander Mike Alexander says of the radio programs:
The sessions are open to callers who call in to dialogue and/or ask questions related to a variety of topics. [The radio] is a great opportunity for interaction with the El Protector Officers, to educate and learn more about the department and existing laws.
El Protector also provides car seat safety inspections, according to Alexander:
The South Precinct has been designated as the first Hispanic Car Seat Safety Inspection Site in the state of Tennessee, and our El Protector Officers (through a partnership with Meharry Medical College) conduct car seat safety inspections for families to insure that children are as safe as possible in vehicles.
Alexander is obviously proud of the national acclaim these efforts are attracting:
The program has been recognized by the Vera Institute in New York as one of the six best practices in the country as it relates to bridging the language divide. Vera began with the assessment of over 200 police departments across the country and then made on site visits to approximately 25 agencies (of which we were one) and then selected who they believed were the six best. We are currently in contention again for this recognition.
Alexander's opinion on bridging potential divides between the police and the Hispanic community is that it requires a proactive, networked approach:
We must be proactive in terms of reaching out to the community in order to build trust and partnership as we work together for a safe and peaceful Nashville.
El Protector's accolades, track record, and interactions with Music City have been documented over the years in To see those stories, click on the "El Protector" link in the Index on the right-hand side of this site.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rolando Rostro received Reagan amnesty in 1986; it's a story of English, education, integration, leadership, and productive life

Pastor Rolando Rostro of Iglesia Nueva Vida church, Memphis, Tennessee

Guest post by Ralph Noyes

I sit in the lobby waiting for Pastor Rolando Rostro to finish the last proclamation of the Quinceañera ceremony. “Felicidades a la princesa del dia…” The children too young to sit are playing in front of me, switching with ease between English and Spanish, running in circles around the rug. When Rolando finally emerges, he leads me down a long hallway to the heart of his Iglesia Nueva Vida, the pastor’s office.

Rostro, originally from Rio Verde, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, immigrated with his parents and 9 siblings to Brownsville at the insistence of his mother. He and his family grew up working as pickers in the fields of South Texas, dodging the authorities. “We always had a fear of being questioned and discovered. We were intimidated, mentally unsettled. That fear creates dangerous conditions. People are afraid of going to the police, checking into a hospital, or dealing with any kind of bureaucracy. These services are in place to help people, not scare them away.” As a result, domestic abuse was rampant and “most crime went un reported in the neighborhood” during his childhood.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act, commonly known as “amnesty" or “legalization”, was passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan on November 6, 1986. Rostro recounts an incident shortly after that, when his mother was pulled over with him and his siblings in the car. “The officer asked us for identification and my mother took out all 11 social security cards, handed them to him one by one. That was a big moment for us. It created confidence and a freedom to open up to the authorities.” Although the law changed his legal status, it did not change popular opinion. “Laws don’t change popular opinion, taking personal action by opening your mouth does,” says Rostro, whose mother forced him and his siblings to learn English early.

These verbal skills have served him well in the years since then. Rolando has become pastor of his own Memphis church, President of the Hispanic Pastor Network, and a leading provider of Spanish translators to the 911 emergency system. In 2001 he participated in La Coalición Memphis, a group of a dozen individuals who lobbied successfully for the passage of a Tennessee law that enabled undocumented aliens to obtain driver’s licenses. “These are good people, working people. Give them a way to be included, to participate and assimilate into the system, to generate revenue and pay their dues. You want to be able to ID them out in the open, not to have to search for them in hiding.” Rostro believes that including immigrants can benefit the economy in the form of taxes, administrative fees, and traffic fines. “Whatever they charge, they will pay,” he states flatly, citing the overnight appearance of long lines at driver’s license centers as soon as the licenses became available.

According to Rostro, the future for today’s Hispanic immigrants is unclear, but “there’s always a fear of immigrants and there will always be opposition.” This opposition is fighting a tide that grows stronger everyday, a growing community that he believes will throw considerable weight behind the next presidential candidate who favors pro immigrant legislation. “The first generation doesn’t speak English or vote, but their children and grand children do. The next candidate who proposes something similar will win the Hispanic vote. It will happen again. Not this term, maybe next, or the one after. Without that law, I wouldn’t be educated. I wouldn’t have been able to provide private education for my kids, or give them the confidence, opportunity, and peace of mind to do something productive”.

As our interview turns to casual conversation, my ears drift to the music still thumping inside the church sanctuary. I wonder what opportunities await tonight’s “princess,” whether the world outside Iglesia Nueva Vida will accept and embrace her burgeoning identity, or whether she will become what Rostro fears - another “bright mind being robbed of the country’s benefits.”

This is the fifth and last story in a series on the Reagan amnesty bill signed 25 years ago. The first piece in the series was by Cindy McCain, titled "'Manuel' remembers November 1986;" the second was last Friday's story/opinion piece "25 years of my own spiritual amnesty;" the third was a Thanskgiving-themed PSA called "Founder of the Feast," featuring a picker in the field, like Rostro and his family; the fourth was a guest post of mine called "Reagan’s Amnesty Bill Impacted Families for the Better" that was published on the web site; and this story by Ralph Noyes about Rolando Rostro is the fifth.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fame: Manuel gets star, eat on TV this Friday with Yayo's O.M.G., and casting call for Quiero Mi Baby

Manuel Cuevas ("Manuel" for short) was honored Sunday with a star in his name on the Music City Walk of Fame. Manuel is one of Nashville's music legends by way of fashioning many musicians' iconic outfits. See Manuel's official bio on the Walk of Fame site here, and photos of the ceremony and the actual star at the Tennessean or on Manuel's Facebook page.

At lunchtime on Friday, you can be on TV - and eat well in the process - at a taping of Food Network Canada's "Eat Street", which will be featuring Nashville mobile food truck Yayo's O.M.G. ("Original Mexican Gourmet"). Filming will take place from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. outside the offices of Conexion Americas, 800 18th Ave So.

If you want a little more camera time and are expecting your first child between now and February, MTV Tr3s is looking for Nashville couples for a new documentary “Quiero Mi Baby.” From the producers of “Quiero Mis Quinces” and “Quiero Mi Boda,” Quiero Mi Baby will feature cross-cultural couples (for example Puerto Rican & Italian or Cuban & Venezuelan) who are expecting for the first time. A trailer for the show is here, and the casting link is here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Founder of the Feast

Here's my PSA or "house ad" for Thanksgiving 2011. It's a play on the country/Southern phrase "Dance with the one that brung ya," which is about loyalty to the people who got you where you are today.

May we be thankful for and with, and loyal to, every person who brings us our food.

Update 11/28/11: Thank a farmer (and their farmhands) at the TN Farm Bureau web site

See the other ads I've created under "Ads" in the Index on the right-hand side of this site.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

25 years of my own spiritual amnesty, of the Reagan amnesty, and a missing sense of fear and trembling

Twenty-five years ago, I received amnesty.

It was June. I was thirteen. I was with my youth group in Greenville, South Carolina, on a university campus - North Greenville University, I think - not Furman, and definitely not Bob Jones.

The campus had been rented out by a Southern Baptist youth camp program called Centrifuge, and we were there for the week.

For the previous six years or so, I had been aware of the concept of a making a lifelong spiritual commitment to God - to Jesus. In the Baptist world and elsewhere, making that commitment is alternately described as committing your life to Christ, going down the aisle, getting saved, or getting born again.

The idea is that you recognize your general pattern of doing things wrong in life, and your separation from God, and that you ask for an unearned (by you) reconciliation to God.


I was thirteen, and I really was aware of my shortcomings. I don't look back now and think that such an attitude at that age was silly. It's actually sillier that 25 years later I am less aware of and repentant of my shortcomings.

But getting back to 1986, there I was, ready to make that spiritual commitment, and I called my youth pastor Harry Rowland aside. I told him, although not in so many words, that I wanted to receive amnesty.  He thought that I had already done this, and I explained that I hadn't, and that was that.  We spoke with my parents.  We must have spoken with pastor Bill Sherman.  And then, days later, at Woodmont Baptist Church, we all marked this significant spiritual reboot with my baptism.

The wrong thing to do would be to forget that it happened.

In Psalm 2:11, David said
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
In Philippians 2:12, Paul said,
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling
These instructions to fear and tremble were directed at people of God - insiders, not outsiders.

Sometimes it feels like Americans, many of whom self-identify as Christians, have a sense of entitlement (even those who would otherwise complain about "entitlements"). We are the ones in the right, we think, and someone else is in the wrong. Funny how it almost always turns out that way.

As a result, we are more inclined - individually, collectively, politically, spiritually - to inflict fear and cause trembling. And we sure do resent it when someone inflicts it on us. But to choose to fear, to choose to tremble, with no outside enemy the object of our fear?

How rare is that?

Since it's the 25th year of my own amnesty and the 25th year following the immigration amnesty of Ronald Reagan, I think of how we have very little national fear and trembling about how our law treats immigrants.

We have little fear and trembling about how we as American Christians readily accept spiritual forgiveness and even legal forgiveness, but we deny legal forgiveness to the foreigner, especially those in poverty who make up the bulk of the population without papers. We have little fear and trembling about spiritual instructions to us to take extra precaution to give justice to the poor and to the foreigner.

In 2011, my own denomination - the Southern Baptist Convention, whose church in Nashville shepherded me to salvation 25 years ago - issued a statement on immigration. It was an attempt to be less harsh on the issue, but at the same time it contained this one key phrase that is antithetical to the denomination's treasured tenet of forgiveness:
RESOLVED, That this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant
That antipathy toward amnesty in immigration is delivered with little fear and trembling, despite the you'll-be-forgiven-only-if-you-forgive-others message of Matthew 6:14:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
I mean, for crying out loud, that's the first thing out of Jesus' mouth after He sets out the model prayer to God.

To America's credit, Ronald Reagan signed one such forgiveness of trespasses. That was twenty-five years ago this Sunday - November 6, 1986.

But who is God going to hold accountable for America's national refusal to forgive immigrants since then? There are ways for America to grant measured, reasonable amnesty that make plenty of legal and Constitutional sense in the same way we provide amnesty to ourselves as Americans in other contexts. But the politicians don't want to do it.  And here we are, with millions in the lurch. When God calls America to the mat for denying justice to the foreigner, the politicians are going to be pointing fingers at us, and we're going to be pointing fingers at them.  You don't have to be a parent to know how badly that is going to end.

America needs amnesty, and not just for the so-called "them."

Some of the sins we could confess in the immigration context are below:

We have arrested pregnant mothers under claims of driving offenses that don't stick.
We have used vocabulary as a weapon.
We make our own conduct consequence-free. 
We slander. 
We are flirting with lynchings.
We are living in the modern version of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
We condone "amnesty" but we have no problem receiving it.
We overlook the lawbreaking of the powerful while we condemn the lawbreaking of the poor.
We receive without thanking.
We have "fresh starts" for ourselves but not for others.
We don't talk to people before we form opinions about them.
We ignore the voices echoing Martin Luther King's cry for moral, just laws.

As for me, I will try to remember my own missteps, acknowledge my new ones, and seek correction - all in fear and trembling, as I give thanks for and continue to ask for my own spiritual amnesty.

As we talk about, watch, and write (or withhold) laws on immigration, either in Congress or in statehouses and city halls across the country, may we remember our own missteps, acknowledge our new ones, and seek correction - all in fear and trembling, with our own need of forgiveness front and center in our hearts and on our minds.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Upcoming November events: immigration panel, YMCA Latino Achievers dinner, TIRRC convention, TLACC networking, Kings of Salsa

Panel Discussion: How Smarter Immigration Laws Would Boost the Economy and Create American Jobs
Panelists: Colin Reed, chairman and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment Farsheed Ferdowsi, president of Inova Payroll John Steele, SVP of human resources at HCA. National speaker - TBA Moderator: Ralph Schulz, president & CEO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.  Other speakers: Jeremy Robbins, policy advisor and special counsel, Office of the Chief Advisor to Mayor Bloomberg for policy and strategic planning
Sponsored by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and the Partnership for a New American Economy
Monday, Nov. 7
7:30-9:30 a.m.
Hilton Nashville Downtown
121 Fourth Avenue South
Schedule:  7:30 a.m. Registration and networking; continental breakfast 8-9:30 a.m.
Program Cost: There is no cost to attend, but advance registration is required.
Click here to indicate your attendance plans.

10th Annual Dinner Celebration for YMCA Latino Achievers
In the 2010-2011 school year, the YMCA Latino Achievers program served over 500 students. 93% of senior participants graduated, and we were able to grant 29 scholarships, with the help of generous community support. This school year marks the 10th anniversary of the program’s existence, and through these years we have inspired hope and fulfilled college dreams for numerous Hispanic students and families in Middle Tennessee.
Tuesday, November 8
5:30pm - 8:00pm
Lipscomb University's Allen Arena
Reserve tables for $500 or seats for $50
If paying by credit or debit card, please purchase your tickets online at:
If paying by check, please make check payable to: YMCA of Middle Tennessee - Latino Achievers   Contact YMCA Latino Achievers to reserve your space by emailing or 615.743.6206.

9th Annual TIRRC Membership Convention 2011
“Telling Our Story”
Join us for a diverse celebration to learn how to tell the story of your life and your community through art, poetry, media and more!  The convention is free and includes materials, participation in general sessions and choice of workshops, lunch, and entertainment throughout the day.   Childcare will be available for people that pre-register.  The convention will be in Antioch, TN. Once you have registered, you will receive details about the exact location via email in the upcoming weeks.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
9:30 AM - 7 PM

Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce Holiday Networking Event
With live music by "Kaciques" and delicious appetizers.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Registration & Networking:  5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Program begins at 6:30 p.m.
Sheraton Downtown Hilton
623 Union Street
Nashville, TN 37203
R.S.V.P. by November 12
This event is FREE to TLACC MEMBERS RSVP here:
$20 for Non members, RSVP here:

Kings of Salsa at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center
Tuesday November 22, 2011
7:00 p.m.
$ 29.00 - $ 69.00
This stunning stage extravaganza pays homage to Cuba’s greatest performers and dance styles, with a cool, contemporary modern twist. Some of the island’s finest dancers will perform an intoxicating mix of salsa, hip-hop, mambo, rumba and other classic Cuban moves. Featuring the spectacular nine-piece band Cuba Ashire, Kings of Salsa showcases a slice of Cuba never seen before onstage.,1,6,1&EventID=1112-S28

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Manuel" remembers November 1986: Reagan's Amnesty

 November 6, 1986: President Ronald Reagan signs the Immigration Reform and Control Act

Interview by Cindy McCain
I was at my job…a little restaurant where I worked while in school.  They’d been trying to pass the law for awhile.  They had a tv on and we heard President Reagan had signed the bill.  The Spanish people were very happy.  Some of them were crying.  It was very emotional.  Some were clapping.  Some were screaming very happy screams.
Manuel (name changed for privacy) recalls the reaction he witnessed on November 6, 1986 to the passing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).
It opened doors of opportunity.  You could buy a house, go back and see your family. It was the best news ever.  Back then I knew people who had been here (in the U.S.) twenty years that hadn’t been able to go home to visit family.  After ‘86 you could get a temporary green card to travel back and forth.  There was this guy who’d been here forever. When he heard the news, he applied to get his card and went to Mexico for a month.
IRCA gave amnesty/legalization to undocumented people in the U.S. who had entered the country before 1982 and had lived here continuously.  Manuel was here legally on a student visa, but when he graduated from college in 1989, he would be required to leave. He believes had it not been for the amnesty he would have returned to Mexico, something he didn’t want to do, and lived another life.  But that night -- almost 25 years ago -- gave him confidence to hire an attorney and seek permanent residency.

Manuel moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles to attend high school.  He explains:
Dad worked for Proctor and Gamble in Mexico City which sponsored a scholarship for me to study in the states based on good grades.  When I was 15 my father asked, 'Do you have the courage to leave home?' I said yes. I wanted to explore something different.
Manuel is grateful for his uncle who sponsored him.  He said moving here meant leaving eight brothers, a sister, and his parents behind.  That was hard.  So was the language.  He said though he missed his family, especially his mother, and the food from home, LA’s high Hispanic population made it easier: “Unlike Nashville, so many people spoke Spanish there.  But I decided I was going to do it, so I did.”

After high school he returned home, them came back to attend Ranalto Santiago College in Santa Ana, California.  From there he graduated with a degree in Culinary Arts.  He paid for college working in his uncle’s restaurant and for a time sold Oakley sunglasses.

When he had a family of his own he moved them to Nashville so his son’s mother could be near her family.  That was fourteen years ago.  Today Manuel is Assistant Food Manager in charge of catering for the President at a Middle Tennessee university. Monday-Friday he works 7-2:30, then heads to his second shift from 4:30 until closing where he’s on a sales marketing team for an award-winning restaurant in downtown Nashville. When asked about working until midnight, he smiles and says he feels thankful:  “They are a great company to work for.  I have two jobs, but some people don’t have that.”  He’d love to open his own catering business one day.

We traded stories about our families.  He started: “In Mexico everyone pitches in to take care of older relatives till they pass.” His aunts cared for his grandparents and his brothers currently give dialysis to his diabetic father.  Likewise,  my mom cared for my grandmother by moving in with her for six years before she died.  Manuel sighed:  “We just have to take it as it comes.  Every single day there are challenges.  We have to take it as it comes.”

We also discussed raising children in American culture and how we remind our teen-aged sons, both who have friends with affluent parents, that they are blessed to have their needs and even wants met.    Manuel said he tells his fourteen year old (who is just a year younger than Manuel was when he came to the US alone): "As you work for it, you appreciate it   You have a mom.  You have a dad.  You have a (family) car.  You have a tv, cell phone, and internet.  What do you need that you don’t already have?" We also discovered his fourteen-year-old and my eighteen-year-old would love nothing better than to design video games.  His son is also considering studying culinary arts. Manuel said:  “I try to teach him as much as I can.  I tell him that when he’s older and his wife comes home tired from working all day, he can make her dinner and make her happy.”

Of the possibility of a new amnesty, and the deportations in Alabama, Manuel said:
In my opinion, criminals and people who are trouble—send them back.  Let good people working already continue working. Alabama farmers are complaining that they don’t have enough people to work their fields which hurts the economy. A law that profiles people suspected of being illegal because of the color of their skin would be very sad.

I barely made it. I was pretty lucky. I came into the country in 1982, but because I did it legally, and because of the 1986 Act, it was easier for me to get permanent residency.  Since then, my hero has been President Reagan.  It’s [IRCA's] one of the remarkable things he did for Spanish people.

If I’d stayed in Mexico I’d probably be working for my brother’s business and have a whole bunch of kids. When I moved away I became so independent. It helped me a lot. I can make my own decisions. Opportunities are here.  I’m not under my parents’ wing. It makes me more mature and independent.   I love America. It’s my son’s country. Now I plan to apply for my American citizenship…so I can vote.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Liberty Bell, Jubilee, and a 35th Amendment

Photo by Orlando Rob. Licensed via Creative Commons.

Today is the 260th anniversary of the letter that sent the order for the Liberty Bell. The inscription on the Liberty Bell is from Leviticus 25:10, where Israel is instructed to forgive debts every 50 years, declaring jubilee - or Liberty.  (By the way, this Sunday is the 25th anniversary of Reagan's amnesty, so this is an interesting week for the theme of forgiveness.)

Because today is also the start of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, my post today will be a humble attempt at creative writing - inspired by the Liberty Bell, its historic inspiration, and its promise for America.

This fictional piece is about the ratification of a theoretical 35th Amendment to the Constitution granting citizenship to anyone and everyone who has lived in the U.S. for twenty-one years. It represents jubilee, and liberty. Perhaps it is in our future, or perhaps not.

You can peek into that world (and into my very rough skill set of creative expression) in the rest of the post, below.

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