Undocumented students come out during committee meeting

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This is edited footage of undocumented youth coming out and interrupting a North Carolina legislature meeting on immigration on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

From the NC Dream Team (the organization behind the action):

Uriel Alberto, Estephania Mijangos and Cynthia Martinez have been arrested after challenging the Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy. They publicly declared themselves undocumented in the overwhelmingly anti-immigrant leaning committee hearing.

We are NC, a North Carolina coalition of immigrant-affirming groups (of which the Latin American Coalition is a member), issued this statement about the action:

We are NC supports the efforts of community members to be heard during this committee process. Today’s action is indicative of the frustration that many feel at being shut out of the process of determining a right path for the future of North Carolina. Immigrant communities and allies have been asked to remain silent while members of the committee and presenters have obfuscated the issue of immigration and branded immigrants as criminals. We reject an approach to a complex issue such as this that does not allow testimony from those whose very lives will be impacted by the decisions made inside the chamber. We hope the committee will consider public opinion in their future deliberations.

Follow the story as it develops on the NC Dream Team website.

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Numbers Matter

By Armando Bellmas

 

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U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez from Illinois recently criticized Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation on the House floor. In the process, Gutiérrez highlighted some facts about Latinos in the United States that are quite amazing and worth sharing.

[Latinos are] growing everywhere.

One-quarter of the children in America are Latino.

500,000 Latinos turn 18 and become eligible to vote every year.

More than 50 million Latinos live in America. Most of us are citizens.

Gutiérrez goes on to talk about the repercussions of Arizona’s, and subsequently Alabama’s, anti-immigration legislation — the kind of “policy to avoid on immigration.” But the main takeaways for me from this speech are the numbers above. They’re staggering and they’re powerful.

For instance, in the 2008 presidential election Barack Obama beat John McCain in North Carolina by 13,692 votes. 2,123,390 to 2,109,698. 13,692 made a difference.

So if we’re going to stop this wave of anti-immigrant legislation in the U.S. — and I truly believe that we can and will — we have to make our voices heard, with our actions, with our dollars, and with our votes.

Numbers matter and we have them

Café con La Coalición: Como ayudar a su hijo con la intimidación

By Maritza Solano

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Primero enfóquese en su hijo. De apoyo y busque información acerca de la intimidación. Nunca le diga a su hijo que ignore la intimidación. Lo que puede escuchar es que usted va a ignorarlo. Si hubiera podido ignorarlo, nunca se lo hubiera contado. Frecuentemente, tratar de ignorar la intimidación lo que hace es convertirla en algo mas serio. Recuerde que si su hijo viene a confesarse a usted, es un problema grave para el o ella y necesita su apoyo. Hay que ser compasivo en esta situación para la autoestima de su hijo y la salud de su familia.

No culpe a su hijo por ser intimidado. No asuma que su hijo hizo algo para provocarlo. Nunca le diga “¿Qué hicistes para que esa persona te este intimidando?” Muchas veces los jóvenes son intimidado por razones tontas de los adolecentes. Escuche cuidadosamente lo que su hijo tenga que decirle acerca de la intimidación. Pregunte quien estuvo envuelto en la situación y como y donde cada episodio de la intimidación tuvo lugar. Aprenda tanto como pueda acerca de las tácticas usadas y cuando y donde sucedió la intimidación.

Sea un apoyo para su hijo. Dígale que la intimidación está mal, que no es su culpa, y que usted esta feliz que el/ella tuvo el coraje de contarlo. Pregúntele que cree que pueda hacerse para ayudarle. Si no esta de acuerdo con las soluciones que el da, no lo critique. Asegúrele que también va a pensar que se debe hacer, y que cuando ya lo haya pensado compartirá con el que va a hacer.

No apoye una venganza física (como “pégale” o “empújalo tu también”) como solución. Pegar o empujar a otro estudiante no es el fin del problema. Puede hacer que su hijo sea suspendido o expulsado y puede volver la situación aún peor. En vez, autoevalúe sus emociones. Los padres tenemos instintos de protección bastante fuertes. Aunque es difícil, es sabio que un padre se distancie y considere que pasos va a seguir cuidadosamente.

Café con La Coalicion es una columna publicada cada semana en Hola Noticias.

A Night in Rio

By Brianna Duggan

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Behind the Neighborhood Theatre’s stage is a backdoor looking out over a gravel parking lot. At 8 o’clock this Saturday the door swung open and all of the night’s performers –samba dancers dressed in their feather headdresses and high heeled boots, capoeira dancers in all white, drums and berimbau in hand, and musicians with their guitars and pandeiro—they all passed through  that door and into the cool night. About forty of them in all climbed down the metal stairs, wound around the perimeter and stopped at the front of the venue. The long line of people waiting to enter cheered the sight of such tropical presence in the middle of February.

Several initial drum beats and the parade erupted in a flurry of music and dance.   Curious passers by stopped and watched as the performers entered through the front doors and slowly weaved their way through the crowd, inviting the audience to participate.

Standing beside the stage, I watched the audience as all this unfolded.

The Neighborhood Theatre is divided into two areas. In front of the stage is a dance floor lined with chairs and then there is a raised area that overlooks it. I saw the first spark of curiosity at the sudden music and I watched it as it spread through the audience. People looked at their friends, then looked around, trying to understand where the noise was coming from.

The parade first wound through the raised area, alongside the artisanal vendors, the Brazilian Bakery and Amor de Brasil Steakhouse. People smiled on, or tried out their newly learned samba moves (Thanks Movimentos de Samaba!), while they drank capirinhas and ate picanha.

Those who were seated in front of the stage near me smiled, but with a tinge of jealousy.

“I want them to come close to us!”

And they did. The crowd stood up and cheered as the parade wound, singing and dancing, down the aisles and to the dance floor where they formed a circle. The circle heaved for about five minutes, samba girls dancing through the middle, swapping places with their friends who would then take their place in the center. Capoieristas danced with musicians, Carolina Latin Dance moved beside Movimentos de Samba, Reinhaldo Brahn sang alongside Just Brazil.

The circle finally caved in and all forty artists blended into one mass that eventually slid past me and into the backstage. As the last of them passed through the curtain, Jonathan and Jucelia stepped on stage and announced,

“Welcome to a Night in Rio 2012!”

“Boa Vinda a Uma Noite Carioca”

And so the night began, our third sold out A Night in Rio event, an appropriately vibrant beginning for an equally exciting night.

Café con La Coalición: Puntos importantes para padres sobre la intimidación

By Maritza Solano

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Pepita vino a La Coalición bastante preocupada porque sospecha que su hijo esta siendo intimidado (bullying) en su escuela. Honestamente, nos dijo que por el poco tiempo que ella comparte con su hijo no tiene una comunicación abierta con el. (Ella sale muy temprano de su casa y llega en la noche a cumplir con su deber de madre y ama de casa.) Pero Pepita sabe que algo le esta pasando y que el no quiere decirle algo y preocuparla. Nosotros tuvimos una charla con ella y dentro de la charla hablamos sobre los siguientes puntos importantes para tener en cuenta, para ella y algún otro padre que esté atravesando por la misma situación.

1. Usualmente los adultos no saben de la intimidación. Los jóvenes/niños frecuentemente no les dicen a sus padres que están siendo intimidados porque se sienten apenados, avergonzados, asustados de los niños que los están intimidando, o miedosos de ser vistos que dan quejas. Si su hijo le dice que está siendo intimidado, esto le ha tomado bastante valor para hacerlo, y por lo tanto su hijo necesita de su ayuda para parar esta intimidación.

2. Los jóvenes/niños que están siendo intimidados necesitan mensajes claros de apoyo por parte de los adultos. Aunque queremos que los jóvenes/niños sean fuertes y tomen buenas decisiones de tal forma que ellos puedan confrontar a los que los intimidad, los adultos deben comprender que algunos de ellos no están listo para hacerlo.

3. Los jóvenes/niños usualmente sienten que la intervención de los adultos no ayuda y frecuentemente piensan que la intervención de los adultos traerá como consecuencia más problemas de hostigamiento por parte de quienes los intimidan.

4. La percepción de los jóvenes/niños es que los adultos hacen poco o nada para ayudar en los incidentes de intimidación.

5. Los adultos juegan un rol importante en ayudar a los jóvenes/niños que están siendo intimidados, deben ayudar a crear un clima seguro y saludable en la escuela y la comunidad.

Si siente que su hijo o hija esta siendo victima de intimidación acuda a La Coalición para compartir su historia.

Café con La Coalicion es una columna publicada cada semana en Hola Noticias.

Lost Tribes and a Dancing Guise: The Dramatic Beginnings of Capoeira

By Brianna Duggan

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Something about it really captures the human imagination. Part Old Testament, part Jungle Book, the idea of a lost tribe feels just as make-believe to me as, say, a singing monkey (“I wanna be like you-ou-ou”).

But lost tribes are a thing of fantasy, of bedtime stories. No lost tribe could ever exist in an era of Asian fusion and twitter.

But prepare yourselves: They do exist!

Just last week the BBC released the first detailed photos of an uncontacted indigenous tribe living in Brazil near the Peruvian border. This news excites me (Yeah! Stick that to our over-connected society!) and scares me at the same time (Ah! The world is so big!).

In 2007 the Fundação Nacional do Índio, a Brazilian governmental organization that protects indigenous interests, confirmed the presence of 67 uncontacted tribes within the country. The number of such tribes has actually grown in recent years and Brazil has now surpassed Papua New Guinea as the region with the highest concentration of such people.

How could this be?

Well first of all Brazil is huge. To this day any measurement of its land area is still a “best guess” and that guess is 3,286,488 square miles. And because these numbers never really mean much to me either, this means that Europe could fit into Brazil with room to spare. And don’t forget: this would be a Europe cloaked in one of the densest and most dangerous rainforests known to man.

So when Portugal first began colonizing the area in the 16th century they really…what is the phrase? Oh, yes. “Bit off more than they could chew.”

I can imagine it now. Faced with this massive territory teeming with resources and strange animals, the tiny Portuguese state had to come up with some way to populate it. So they brought in African slaves for labor. The majority of slaves were destined for sugarcane farms—an industry that continues to be a central driver of the Brazilian economy even today.

Mmm, not so sweet.

You don’t need me to tell you that the conditions on these farms, called engenhos, were bad. Tropical heat, impossible workloads, and dirty and crowded conditions amounted to infamously high mortality rates. So they fled.

Danger loomed from all sides. Disease! Ferocious animals! And worst of all: Bandierantes!

Gasp! Brazilian slave hunters.

The runaway slaves hid in the vast Brazilian expanse. Groups of runaway slaves bound together and formed lost tribe-style settlements known as quilombos. These were a form of active resistance in the times of slavery where freed and runaway slaves often lived alongside indigenous and even white settlers. The largest and best known community, Quilombo Palmares, at its peak had a population of 30,000 and existed for almost a century until 1694. And can I stress this again – this was while slavery was still legal.

How were they able to do this? They must have been doing something right.

Many believe that a particular art form they developed here allowed for their longevity: capoeira. Disjointed from their homeland and threatened from all sides, renegade slaves developed the martial art as a way to defend themselves against attack. Later capoeira became an offensive technique and capoeiristas raided engenhos with the purpose of freeing all the slaves. The best part was that it could be disguised as a dance and practiced in public without worry, even in front of slave owners. But it could also be deadly; dancers were said to place razors between their toes when in a fight.

With someone they especially didn’t like, I assume.

So capoeira came to symbolize freedom against oppression for its practitioners and the wider Brazilian public. It was a way for slaves to practice and assert their independence in an unequal society. Capoeira was seen as a dangerous and revolutionary art form and was banned in Brazil for hundreds of years until the 1940s.

Lucky for us, no longer! We will be seeing plenty of this impressive and revolutionary art form on Saturday night at our A NIGHT IN RIO celebration. No razors this time, thank goodness.

A NIGHT IN RIO happens Saturday, February 18th, 2012 at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte. Tickets are $15 at the door and the show begins at 7:00 pm

Café con la Coalición: La educación es un derecho, haga uso de él

By Cristina Sanchez

 

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“Soy indocumentado.”

“Nunca pensé que podía ir a la universidad.”

“No tengo el SAT o ACT.” (Los exámenes necesario para poder ir a la universidad.)

“Si hubiera sabido que hay universidades que te dan dinero por tener buenos grados habría estudiado mas.”

“Mi GPA es 3.8 pero no tengo dinero para pagar el costo del colegio.”

“Estoy en el colegio comunitario. Quiero transferirme pero no tengo documentos ni dinero.”

“Tengo un GED. ¿Puedo ir a la universidad?”

Estas son algunas de las cosas que los estudiantes a los que ayudo a ir a la universidad me preguntan la primera vez que nos visitan durante College Access Para Todos cada miércoles. Mi respuesta: Todo el mundo puede ir a la universidad. El estado migratorio o los recursos económicos no son un obstáculo para poder seguir estudiando.

Como voluntaria en La Coalición y maestra apasionada de su profesión y sus estudiantes, es lamentable que esta falta de información este haciendo perder el tiempo a muchísimos estudiantes brillantes. No permitan que esto siga pasando. Infórmense. Hagan uso de los recursos que hay en las escuelas y en la comunidad. Implíquense en la educación de sus hijos. Asegúrense que sus hijos tienen todo lo necesario para conseguir buenos grados, hagan el test del SAT a partir del 11 grado, hagan servicios comunitarios y estén aplicando a universidades públicas, privadas y por becas. La falta de información es lo único que está impidiendo que sus hijos vayan a la universidad. Las universidades les pueden dar becas de merito que cubren gran parte o todos los gastos de asistir. También hay muchísimas becas externas que de manera privada quieren reconocer el gran esfuerzo que sus hijos han hecho durante estos años secundarios. Apliquen. Infórmense. No pierdan el tiempo.

Todos los miércoles estudiantes, padres, voluntarios, y consejeros nos reunimos en La Coalición para compartir información. Los estudiantes se reunen en College Access Para Todos de 4:00-7:30 pm (talleres de 4:00-5:30 y preparación del test SAT de 5:30-7:30). Los padres se reunenen en Padres en la Onda a partir de las 6:30. Por favor, no falten y recuerden que la educación es un derecho del que tenemos que hacer uso.

Café con La Coalicion es una columna publicada cada semana en Hola Noticias.

An Ode to Heloísa

By Brianna Duggan

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Yeah, I think they were right. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “The Girl from Ipanema.”

You know the song I’m talking about, don’t you? It goes something like, dun dun dun dun dun dun dun-duh-dun?

That doesn’t help? Watch this:

Now do you remember?

Well it turns out that The Girl From Ipanema actually existed!

Her name is Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto and throughout the 1960s lived in the stylish Ipanema district of Rio de Janiero. Each day she would walk past the popular Veloso bar-café, not just “to the sea,” but on her daily commute, sometimes stopping inside to buy cigarettes for her mother.

One such day she walked past the songwriter, Vinicius de Moraes, and inspired him to write the hit song. The album won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965.

What struck the songwriter about this girl over all others? Moraes once wrote that she was “the paradigm of the young Carioca (a person from Rio de Janiero): a golden teenage girl, a mixture of flower and mermaid, full of light and grace, the sight of whom is also sad, in that she carries with her, on her route to the sea, the feeling of youth that fades, of the beauty that is not ours alone—it is a gift of life in its beautiful and melancholic constant ebb and flow [translated].”

How poetic! No wonder he was a songwriter.

Join us for a celebration of this girl, and a country full of such girls (and men!) at our 3rd annual A NIGHT IN RIO: The Brazilian Carnival Experience, taking place on February 18 at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte. Along with The Girl from Ipanema we will feature more Bossa Nova with music by Reinaldo Brahn as well as other styles including samba and a live batucada.

And who knows, maybe you will be driven to write a song of your own. The girl from North Davidson, perhaps?

You’ll just have to come and find your own inspiration.

Volunteer of the Month for February 2012

By Bonnie Carter

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Jeb discovered La Coalición while searching for a summer internship at UNCC. He was working on his undergraduate degree in International Business and decided he would like to learn more about the non-profit world. Within the first month of being in the Resource Center, Jeb’s interest in non-profits turned into a new career aspiration.

During his time in the Resource Center he connected many of our clients to valuable resources in the community, like food. He learned that when working face to face with our neighbors, “The first step isn’t to say ‘oh, you’ve got to fix this problem.’ The first step is to care for people, to understand their needs, and really work towards that. I think that was one thing I didn’t understand about social work before I started here.” Jeb has since transitioned into the Job Bank where he helps clients with their resumes, in hopes of finding gainful employment.

At the end of the day, we all want to find purpose in what we do. Jeb says he continues to dedicate time to La Coalición “because I feel like all the work I do here is very meaningful.”

Jeb, thank you for the many hours of support and commitment. Our work is only possible with support from volunteers like you. Congrats on being the Volunteer of the Month!

Our Volunteer Program is funded by Hispanics in Philanthropy Funders’ Collaborative for Strong Latino Communities.

A white Charlottean contemplates her role in Black History Month

By Lacey Williams

 

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I grew up in a household that did not celebrate Black History Month. Though I knew about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, Black History Month did not mean much to me because it was for black people and I am white.

It wasn’t until college that I began to realize the amazing gift our country was given through the civil rights movement. We were given the opportunity to reconcile our constitutional values of equality with our actions, once and for all. People in power were forced to admit the absurdity of “separate but equal.” It was black people who pushed white people forward.

I think it is telling that people like my younger self have a hard time seeing themselves in the history of the movement for civil rights, or of racism in general. Despite our reluctance to see these as “white issues,” the truth is that we were always there. It may just be that it’s hard to admit our place honestly.

In the Jim Crow South, we were the ones benefiting from American Apartheid. States used money allotted for the educational welfare of all children to ensure that white students had access to superior facilities and resources, while giving the scraps to black schools. Whites had access to better jobs because black people were actively denied. We had better housing because red lines were drawn. While we had access to safety, black folks were terrorized through violence and lynching.

Racism is not just a system of denying; it is also one of conferring. White people were conferred supremacy while black folks were denied dignity.

When the history of the civil rights movement is told like a story, it is easy to discern the heroes and villains. You have your Dr. Kings, your Rosa Parks, your Dorothy Counts, all taking up the mantle of progress and doing what they thought had to be done. You also have your Bull Connors, your White Citizens’ Councils, your Strom Thurmonds, using violence and rhetoric to oppress.

But this story has other characters that go beyond the heroes and villains. Most modern whites are descended from the nameless faces in the crowds that were witnesses to this history. Connor may have released the dogs in Birmingham, Ala., but we watched them bite from the safety of our homes. South Carolina’s Thurmond may have filibustered the Civil Rights Act, but we nodded in agreement while reading our daily papers. We are captured in the iconic photograph of young Dorothy Counts, dressed in finely pressed linens, walking to a new school for the first time, proud to be the first African-American to integrate a white school in Charlotte. We are the ones spitting on her, screaming obscenities, and the ones watching from our yards, actively refusing to intervene.

It is true that not all whites acted with hate or carried the same views as the segregationists. But when I look at the pictures of the marches and rallies, I don’t see us. It is only in the pictures of violence and hate that I see us represented in full force.

The question I often ask myself is, “Who would I be?” If in December 1955, I was riding a downtown bus in Montgomery, heading in the direction of history, what would my role be? Would I be the bus driver who notified police that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat? Would I be the arresting officer blindly enforcing unjust laws? Would I be the mayor fighting tooth and nail against integration? Or would I have been the homemaker who borrowed her husband’s car to aid the resulting boycott? In a sea of white faces involved, who would I have been? Then I realize, chances are I would have been the white person seated across the aisle from Ms. Parks, who raised her paper to avoid being witness at all.

But this is the wrong question to ask. The right question is, “Who am I now?” Who am I in the struggle for racial justice when our schools are more segregated today than on the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated? Who am I today when a person can be detained indefinitely because he is Muslim? Who am I today when we are amending our North Carolina Constitution to say that a family with same-gender parents is not really a family? Who am I today when we dehumanize and subjugate the immigrants who pick our food and build our infrastructure?

The struggle for a better America, like Black History Month, doesn’t just belong to the oppressed; the enormity of what has been accomplished and the dreams left unrealized cannot be captured in a month. We owe it to each other to see our true selves in the struggles of the past and to commit our best selves to the struggles of the present.

The question now is: Who are you?

[Originally published in Creative Loafing Charlotte. Posted with permission.]