Saturday, February 25, 2012

Minority businesses improve financial savvy at Regions workshop; scholarships and internships complement outreach

By Gabriela Lira

On Friday, February 3rd, as part of Black History Month, a group of small business owners gathered at the Regions Center on Deaderick Street to kick off the first in a series of workshops put on by Regions Bank and The Nashville PRIDE. These workshops are specifically designed to offer sound financial advice to help area minority-owned small businesses navigate today’s turbulent economic times.

One of the minority-owned businesses in attendance was A to Z Transportation Inc., which provides general freight services interstate and in Canada. Bruce Little (owner/CEO) and Derrick Vinson (head of sales) were there to network with other small businesses and learn more about banking services for their growing business. Mr. Little’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to recognize a need in today’s economy for freight services and, coming from a family of truck drivers, he was familiar enough with the industry to purchase and run a fleet of his own. When he started his business, he found it very difficult to obtain bank financing so he used savings and seed money from relatives. Today, his company goals are to stay strong through the recovering economy, raise more capital, and build credit. He is well on his way to meeting his goal as his company has experienced continued growth for the last year and a half. When asked what advice he would give to other minorities thinking of starting their own business he stated “create your own opportunities.” His head of sales added, “Follow your passion. Stay focused, disciplined, and diligent.” A to Z was a company built out of the recession and they want to serve as a testimony for other small businesses.

Jim Schmitz, Middle Tennessee Area President for Regions, explained that the percentage of small businesses that fail is too high because owners have a great idea but no experience or understanding of the financial side of business ownership. Regions Bank’s role in these workshops is to empower people so they are not afraid to start a business due to lack of financial education.

The small business seminar in Nashville was part of Regions' 2012 Black History Month campaign, Riding Forward, which celebrates "the contributions of African Americans past and present that move us forward today."

For information on other free small business seminars to be held in 2012, call 615-728-2030.

Editor's note: High school seniors could win a $5,000 college scholarship by entering Regions' Riding Forward Scholarship essay contest. The essay submission deadline is right around the corner - February 29 - but all you need to write is 500 words about an African-American who has inspired you. See complete rules hereAlso, high school seniors and college students should also consider applying for an internship with Regions or another local business through INROADS; the priority consideration deadline is March 31.  The internship application page is here; Regions' explanation of its role in INROADS is here. contibutor Gabriela Lira is a realtor at Village Real Estate. Lira was born and raised in Los Angeles and is a graduate of Yale University and Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business and Management. Read more of Lira's bio here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066

The predecessor to internment camps on American soil

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ballet Folklórico de Antioquia, Colombia at Nashville Symphony

by Cindy McCain
Nashville Symphony presents Ballet Folklórico de Antioquia, Colombia February 15, 2012 at the Schermerhorn.  On its first US tour, the pageant of lights, music, and dance celebrates Colombia’s rich cultural traditions.

The acclaimed company has lit up stages in Canada, Italy and China.  In 1998 the show won a Gold Medal in the World Olympics for Stylized Folklore in Dijon, France and in 2008 participated in the Olympic Games in Beijing.  Sweeping Central and South America, the global group was founded in 1991.

To buy tickets, go here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lisa Torres plays 12th & Porter next Monday, February 20

Nashville country singer/songwriter Lisa Torres will play 12th & Porter next Monday, February 20. She will start the show a little after 7pm, so don't be late. Entrance and parking are free.

Torres performance style is "interactive," she says:
I love being on stage and love to interact with the band and with the fans.  And, since dancing is another passion of mine, I've been known to jump down off the stage to line dance with the girls or do a quick twirl around the floor with one of the guys.  When you come to my live show, you are definitely going to feel something!  I hope you love my songs and of course it would be great if you bought a couple of them.  See you at the show!
Lisa Torres' performance of the song "Alive," co-written with Arlis Albritton, won her the SingerUniverse "Best Vocalist Of The Month" award a while back. The song was also a finalist in the 18th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, hosted by the MerleFest music festival.

Torres grew up in Castaic, California, about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. Torres' dad grew up in California, as well, and his family is from New Mexico, with roots going back to Mexico.

Torres' music career started with her attraction to the music of Garth Brooks, Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood. After performing herself for a few years based out of California, Torres moved to Nashville in 2005.

Torres' web site is

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The war on… whose religion?

Photos by WeNews and Andre Mouraux. Licensed via Creative Commons. Composite by
The war on… whose religion?
By Humberto Casanova

Employer health insurance plans must start covering contraception with no co-payment, according to a new rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. News of the rule quickly became a political football because of its intersection with religion - while insured employees of churches will still have to pay for their contraceptives, women who work at religious institutions such as hospitals and universities should be getting contraception coverage from now on.

The Curia of the Roman Church is up in arms, portraying the coverage requirement as a frontal attack on religious freedom. This is odd, given the opinions of the people who make up the body of the church. 58% of Catholics believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception. And 55% of all Americans who agree that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

Furthermore, 98% of women at some time in their lives use contraceptives, including Catholic women. A study of the Guttmacher Institute shows that “The overwhelming majority of sexually active women of all denominations who do not want to become pregnant are using a contraceptive method.” This means that “the overwhelming majority of sexually active women of all denominations” do not think that the government is attacking their faith with so-called “secular values” of contraception.

The opposition of the Curia to this coverage is not in line with American belief or behavior, whether inside or outside the Catholic church.

So why do church representatives like Bishop David A. Zubik paint the rule as a personal attack, saying, “the Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, ‘To Hell with you,’" and why does GOP candidate Rick Santorum use the rule to paint the President as "secular"?

When we talk about a so-called war on religion, we should ask: whose religion? It seems it is only the religion of the Roman Curia, and not the faith of the great majority of Catholics in the pew. In this battle, the Curia is not fighting for the church but against the church. The problem is the Roman Curia trying to control the life of women.

The war, if there is one, is only a war on women.

Each American person, not the leaders of the church or of the government, should have the power and freedom to decide whether we are prepared to bring a child into this world. Whatever the reason may be, it must be a personal decision. The federal mandate that every employer offer contraception coverage is much less government control than the control being exercised by the church over women when it lobbies against insuring female employees.

If someone insists that we should protect the religious freedom of the Roman Curia, and by that I mean the archaic-out-of-touch-with-reality-and-modern-times-minority gang of Bishops that rule the Catholic Church, then the Government could surely find other ways to give away the pill to women who work for religious institutions and who cannot afford contraception. However, one thing is clear: with this rule, the Government is not persecuting the majority of Catholics or Protestants or Americans or Women. The problem exposed by the rule is an out of touch with reality Curia who sets a doctrine most Catholics do not believe in.

So Religious Liberty Now Means the Freedom to Endanger Women's Health

War on Religion? President Obama, Catholics, and Everybody Else

Humberto Casanova lives in Nashville and likes to dig into the world of the Ancient Near East and the Bible. He’s also interested in promoting the separation of church & state, or a secular society. His passion for social justice takes the form of stopping religion when it tramples on the rights of others. His religious reflection comes from a historical and scientific perspective.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Where "American" means "Super Bowl"

A Joint Color Guard practices next to Kelly Clarkson while she sings the national anthem, Feb. 3rd. The Color Guard displayed America’s Colors during the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Ind. Photo by Sgt. Felicya L. Adams. Source:

American Football, by Rebecca Zanolini

I am not a football fan. Nevertheless, after days of Super Bowl hype from the media coupled with a promise of entertaining commercials and a chance to see Madonna at half time, I thought I’d give it a try. Thus, at 5:00 pm sharp this past Sunday, I sat down on my couch with snacks in hand and turned on my TV to bear witness to our country’s most important annual sporting event.

As I watched country music artists Miranda Lambert and husband Blake Shelton sing America the Beautiful, I found myself instantly moved. By the time the military march and national anthem had concluded, I was in tears. Perhaps never before had I recognized a link between football and patriotism.

As Americans, we are faced with a unique circumstance that our vernacular does not include a word other than "American" to identify our unified nationality in the United States. While other languages have gone to the extent of creating a label that specifies those from the U.S. (such as with the Spanish term, estadounidense) our native tongue provides us with a term that encompasses not just a nation, but also an entire continent.

As a result, this semantic difference leaves many Americans with a potential identity crisis. By recognizing our nationality as American, we are opening ourselves up to global criticism; yet, if we denied ourselves the right to self identify with this term, we would in part reject our national heritage and culture.

Watching our country’s favorite sport on its biggest Sunday night has inspired me to revisit my own internalization of national identity. While in comparison to greater matters of our nation, I fully recognize that a sporting event is far from grandiose, watching this game I couldn’t help but feel a sense of connection and unity with my fellow compatriots. Even despite the increasing difficulty in defining the term American, this event felt just that: American.

Although I still may not understand the rules of the game, nor have the patience to watch another event of this sort in its entirety, I have come to the conclusion that the Super Bowl may in fact be embedded somewhere in our nation’s identity and culture. Although a win from the Patriots might have underscored this commentary on national identity and led to a more poetic ending, perhaps there is a greater lesson to be learned. After all, both sports and the United States of America provide a unique venue in which anything can happen. February 5, 2012 is just one of many such examples.

Rebecca Zanolini teaches Spanish at Middle Tennessee State University. She holds 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. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Curriculum and Instruction at Tennessee State University.  Beyond her passion for teaching the Spanish language, she is 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, she has 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.” 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Nashville Ballet Presents Salsa Dreams

by Cindy McCain

Like many-a-little-girl growing up around Nashville, I wore a size 3T tutu for my dancing debut.  As a teen, I traded in the toe shoes for some Fryes and boot scootin’ boogie.  Then came salsa.

Some of my friends did the same dances… in reverse order.

Celebrating the diversity that is Music City, Nashville Ballet presents Salsa Dreams at TPAC’s Polk Theater February 10-12.  The performance includes three pieces-- Salsa Dreams, Billy the Kid and Cryin’ Out.

In Paul Vasterling’s Salsa Dreams, a ballerina attempts to jump genres when salseros free her to take- a- spin with some new moves.  Revving her with Latin rhythms is live music played by local legend, Lalo Davila.  His band promises to not only propel the company onstage but also to reprise the reeling offstage.   The 2005 performance had the audience mamboing in the aisles.

Likewise, in Cryin’ Out, choreographed by Gina Patterson, the company will dance as Nashville icon Gary Nicholson croons his country hits recorded by stars such as Vince Gill and the Dixie Chicks.  Also in the roundup that spans decades and blends genres is the American masterpiece, Billy the Kid, choreographed by Eugene Loring, in 1938.

In Salsa Dreams north- meets- south. Paul Vasterling, CEO and Artistic Director of Nashville Ballet, received a Fulbright Scholarship in 2004 to study Latin music and work with dance groups in Argentina.  The result was Nashville Ballet touring South America and his bringing home Latin dance for Salsa Dreams.  Last Friday I took a sneak peek at a rehearsal fueled by hard work and high energy.  Under Vasterling’s direction, the dancers embodied his continued commitment to the art of dance, storytelling, and community.

The production’s natural is Augusto Cezar.  A native of Campinas, Brazil, he moved to Sao Paulo to continue his study of ballet.  From there he came to the US to compete, which resulted in joining Nashville Ballet in September 2011.  He explained:  "I was offered a contract from Paul Vasterling during my participation in the international Ballet competition in Jackson, Mississippi.  That was a great achievement for me."

I asked if salsa translates into ballet.  He responded:  "I actually didn't know that was possible, but Paul had a good idea to join these two techniques. Salsa and ballet are so different but together make a beautiful couple, a movement incredible!"

When I asked his favorite dance number and if he grew up dancing salsa or tango, he answered:

Not exactly!  Tango and salsa are most popular in Argentina, especially the Tango. But as Brazil is a country of many rhythms, we have the influences of salsa. I never had salsa class, but I grew up seeing my family dance at parties so I was exposed to dance and rhythm at an early age. But ballet -- yes! I started my study of ballet at seven years of age, which is not common in Brazil because all the boys play football at that age. Football is very important in Brazil.

My favorite dance number in Salsa Dreams is called ''Loco de la Salsa.'' It’s about a guy who cannot dance, and the girls mock him. But he starts to dance without worrying about winning the girls. They end up liking him and dancing together. The music makes me very excited!

I asked what advice/instruction he has given company members on Latin dancing for Salsa Dreams:

This is a very good question. When they ask me how to move their hips, coordinate their arms or move their legs, I always say, 'Don't think about it too much. Think about feeling the music and let your body do whatever you want. That’s what I do!'

 Nashville, an American mecca of music, is a town touting not only line dances at the Wildhorse but also salsa circles spreading from east (Mad Donna’s) to west (Global Education Center).  From Hard Rock to Mai to the Schermerhorn, salseros who’ve long danced at South Nashville’s Ibiza also spin on floors in the heart of town. Nashville Ballet is hoping that Salsa Dreams’ cowboys and claves have ballet lovers clamoring for “one more last dance.”  A ballerina swept away by salsa dancers is as sweet as Claire’s fantasy escape in The Nutcracker. But with a dash of more spice, this production is a melting pot of home cookin’.

Salsa Dreams dates:
Friday, February 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 11 at 7:30 p. m.
Sunday, February 12 at 2 p. m.

For tickets, go here.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Book recommendation: The Heart of Christianity

by Humberto Casanova

For a nice modern way of looking at Christianity, you should definitively read this book by Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith.

At the beginning of the book, Borg supplies the following chart that gives an idea of the differences between the conservative-fundamentalist-right-wing Christianity (Earlier Paradigm) and the modern-liberal-left-wing Christianity (Emerging Paradigm):

Earlier Paradigm
Emerging Paradigm
The Bible’s origin
A divine product with divine authority

A human response  to God
Biblical interpretation
Historical and metaphorical

The Bible’s function
Revelation of doctrine and morals
Metaphorical and sacramental

Christian life emphasis
An afterlife and what to believe or do to be saved
Transformation in this life through relationship with God

These topics may look difficult in the chart but the book explains it all in very simple terms. It is not a book for scholars.

Borg is on the left side of the emerging church movement.

Humberto Casanova lives in Nashville and likes to dig into the world of the Ancient Near East and the Bible. He’s also interested in promoting the separation of church & state, or a secular society. His passion for social justice takes the form of stopping religion when it tramples on the rights of others. His religious reflection comes from a historical and scientific perspective.

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