Friday, December 19, 2008

Communities in Action Making a Difference

Thanks to all who helped make our 6th Annual Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee's Right's Coalition Membership Convention on November 15 in Nashville such a success! Over 150 participants from throughout Tennessee attended to learn, strategize, and share their experiences. Participants traveled from Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cookeville, Memphis and many other Tennessee cities and towns to take part in this important event. This year's participants represented over 40 member organizations and diverse countries of origin, including Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kurdistan, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Phillipines, as well as many others.

Skill-Building Workshops

The Convention provided a unique and valuable opportunity for immigrant and refugee leaders and their allies to develop their skills in workshops that included Community Organizing, Policy and Legislative Advocacy, and Youth-led Activism. These workshops gave participants the background and practical tools to strengthen their work in the community. Participants learned new ways to identify and prioritize issues, build relationships and committees, participate in the civic process, successfully influence policymakers, and realize solutions.

The youth-led workshop was particularly successful this year, attended by over 40 youth representing at least seven countries of origin. High school-aged students worked together identify common experiences and problems, as well as ways to act and seek change in their schools and communities.

Campaigns and Strategies

The Convention is a chance for members to strategize around the three campaigns identified by the membership as priorities for our 2009 agenda. Campaign planning groups included:

Immigration Working to pass just and humane immigration reform at the federal level with earned legalization, a reduction in family backlogs, and access to higher education for immigrant children
Civil Rights Preventing racial and ethnic profiling and other forms of discrimination, especially by local law enforcement
Integration Increasing access to government-issued or government-accepted IDs

These campaigns represent issues that affect all immigrant and refugee groups in our community one way or another, and as one volunteer said, "What TIRRC does in the community is pretty much unrivaled here in Nashville because they work with immigrants or all different ethnic groups and religions. There's no real one specialty group and in that sense they have a much better idea of what it takes to bring all different kinds of groups together." We look forward to working with these committees throughout 2009 and to continuing the the work started at the Convention. If you are interested in getting involved with any of the campaigns, we invite you to contact TIRRC's Policy Coordinator, Remziya Suleyman, to join a committee.

In addition to the above campaigns, TIRRC is currently mobilizing the immigrant and refugee community to defeat the upcoming English-Only Ballot Initiative on January 22. For more information, email Civic Engagement Coordinator Amelia Post or call 615-414-1030.

Board of Directors

Two new members were also elected to TIRRC's 2009 Board of Directors. This year we look forward to welcoming the following two individuals to our dedicated and hard-working Board.

Abdishakur Mohammed (Nashville)
Fran Ansley (Knoxville)

Cultural Celebration

The 2008 Cultural Celebration was bigger and better than ever! Over 14 performers shared their talents with an enthusiastic crowd of 250 guests. This year's performances included several traditional dances and music from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, Kurdistan, the United States and the African Diaspora. The festivities were catered by eight local restaurants with delicious food including Somali, Thai, Kurdish, Ethiopian, Mexican, Indian, and Vietnamese cuisines. After an intense day of training and strategizing, it was fun to share and celebrate our cultures through good music, dancing, and food. Special thanks to coordinator Danny Salazar for his tireless effort in making the Celebration a huge hit!

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