The president of the Chattanooga area Chamber of Commerce opened the combination reception, celebration, and press conference at Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum on July 15, 2014. The online invitations had gone out only 24 hours earlier, but the room was packed with 800 people. It had been six years since I attended the announcement of the Volkswagen plant coming to Chattanooga in this room. This year was noteworthy because of the wrangling over union representation, politics, state funding, and various personality driven conflicts that would determine whether Volkswagen would build a second car here.
The good people of the First Waughtown Baptist Church were consumed by utter jubilation – it was Baptism Sunday. Wearing the best of their Sunday best they sang hymns as they proceeded to the banks of the Belview Creek not far from the Church and just beyond the old Belview School. The candidate for baptism was none other than my mother’s distant relation Brother Hines. Bro Hines hailed from a strong old Baptist family and his people were numbered amongst the founders of First Waughtown and it’s mother church First Baptist Winston and his father was a Baptist pastor of the family church in Davidson County.
Although my grandmother has been dead, for over ten years her cousin Magalene Dulin Gaither, still refers to me as “Betty’s grandson.” Magalene, while mature in age is far from being absentminded as a matter of fact, she reigns as a sort of Queen Mother of Davie County. She is active in a number of civic and social organizations; she organizes weddings; her phone is the first to ring upon a death – even before the undertaker; she writes, directs and produces dramatic performances; she is an acclaimed historian, educator, and musician; she assists folks with their college thesis and anyone seeking public office or any other place of notoriety is sure to ring her phone and to knock at her door to receive her blessings. In the words of our late cousin, Sadie Dulin Jones, “if Mrs. Gaither doesn’t know about it, then it just didn’t happen…”
I got into a fight at church last night.
Furthermore, I got into a fight, at church, over sweet tea.
I had brought my small son to youth group at a church I went to years ago as a teen before I went to college. We moved back home last year, and this is only his second time to go. I am not overly-religious, but around here, church is the main social hub for the kids, with sports being the second.
The discussion of diversity in the South brought to mind a few experiences I have personally had. It goes without saying that people from different geographical areas in the United States, and the world for that matter, are different in many ways. Speaking in the distinctive Southern dialect, I am often set apart from my peers, students, friends, and professional in the United States and internationally.
According the Human Development Report 2013, published by the United Nations, the Asian middle class will grow from 500 million today to 1.75 billion, or three times its current size, by the year 2020. The report notes that all across the southern hemisphere countries have increased economic productivity and raised human development indicators that show improved quality of life. This “Rise of the South” has precipitated a global transition in economic, political, and cultural relations.
My transitional experience from the tough life of a new immigrant to become a college graduate, as a new U.S. citizen, a volunteer for CARE International, a private humanitarian aid organization, and now my charitable organization the Global Paint for Charity, I feel very grateful and blessed to be here especially in Atlanta Georgia. But it’s important, as immigrants living in the Diaspora, that we don’t forget what we can do to help people back at home. It’s not good enough for us to complain about what other people aren’t doing for us. It’s important that we all need to group and regroup together, to discuss ways to make a difference in those in needs back at homes and our community in here.
Growing up in a small Tennessee town with a population of 1500 people never stopped me from dreaming about traveling the globe to visit other countries. I wished to learn about the languages, manners, and native dress of other countries. I longed for the adventure of exploring the differences in food, history and religion in cultures and societies around the world.
Roberto Rios was the first in his Latino family to “set foot on American soil,” as he described it. Roberto was embarking on a college career at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee. The son of a Church of Christ minister, Roberto spent the majority of his 23 years involved in the church in his hometown of Lima, Peru. A move to America away from all his family was not going to change his Hispanic heritage. When Roberto graduated two years later with a degree in computer information systems, he quickly secured a job in computer networking in Arizona. After marrying his bride Jeana, he moved his family back to Lima where their first child was born. “We really wanted our child to be born in Peru,” said Roberto who anticipated returning to the States.
When 25-year-old Lucia Montas moved to the City of Chattanooga, it was the first time in her life to live in a multicultural place where the Hispanic people and the Latino culture were not the majority in the population. As she described, it was the first time that she experienced the diversity, the culture clash and felt that she was living in the United States.