Post-election days are filled with heated conversations wherever you go: Starbucks, farmers’ market, grocery shop, or friendly get-togethers—and it seems people just won’t let it go. Immigration and Inclusion are among the hottest topics. In a campaign interview with CBS “60 Minutes” Donald Trump said we are getting the people who are criminal out of the country, “probably two million, it could be even three million.” Campaign over, I wish our new President would be aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, are so eager to earn the US citizenship that their heroism and sacrifices on the battlefield often demonstrate it.
We came to America without a clue
When November rolled around and Thanksgiving, too
Stories of pilgrims with funny black hats
And Native Americans with feathers – Who knew!
Every now and then, a convergence of world events causes us to think more deeply about who we are and where we have been. The current refugee crisis is one such confluence of occurrences that have caught the attention of individuals worldwide. In the midst of the scramble of countries to make appropriate adjustments in their national lives to accommodate an influx of newcomers, many individuals are trying to do something to ease the refugees’ discomfort.
Chattanooga’s 2016 women GroundBreakers Storytelling Series began with a session on immigrants. Introduced by entrepreneur Denise Reed, three women who immigrated to the US and Chattanooga shared their stories, followed by Dr. Lisa Clark Diller, Chair of History & Political Studies/ Southern Adventist University.
Diller explained, “Historians collect stories over time and then try to draw conclusions about them, so I hope to make some general observations here about women and immigration in Chattanooga—which are set in the larger U.S. historical context.”
Personal and inspiring stories by women groundbreakers are front and center for the 6th annual celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This year, in honor of the group becoming a member of the national Lean In movement founded by the CFO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, Chattanooga’s Lean In Circle will host not one event, but a 4-part series. Humanities TN is the Presenting Sponsor of these storytellers as they put Hot Topics into historical perspective: Immigrants, Education, Civil Rights, & Veterans/ Military.
March 3: IMMIGRANTS – The Walden Club RSVP 3/3
Hear how women immigrants make a difference and inspire future change makers.
Dr. Mbakisya Onyango: Prof. of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science/ UTC (CECS)
Jessica Oliva-Calderin: Immigration lawyer & Managing attorney partner/ CALDERIN & OLIVA
Nasera Souidi-Johnson: Nasera Souidi-Johnson: Past Pres./ International Business Council (Chattanooga Area
Chamber of Commerce), Past Pres./VP of Membership French-American Chamber of Commerce, Director/ CBL Associates & Properties
Historical Context: Dr. Lisa Clark Diller – Chair of History & Political Studies/ Southern Adventist U.
Facilitator: Denise Reed – President & CEO/ The Concierge Office Suites
March 8: EDUCATION – Girls Preparatory School
Be inspired by women’s stories from the cutting edge of education in Chattanooga.
Welcome: Sheila Boyington
Introduction: Mayor Andy Berke
Stacy Goodwin Lightfoot, Vice Pres. of College & Career Success/ Public Education Foundation (PEF)
LuLu Copeland, Director of Workforce Development & Training/ Chattanooga State Community College
Historical Context: Linda Moss Mines: Chair of History & Social Sciences Dept./ GPS, Historian/ Hamilton County, Board Member/ Chattanooga History Center
Facilitator: Luronda Jennings – Founder & Exec. Director/ Journey Educational Services, Inc.
March 17: CIVIL RIGHTS – Ridgeview Baptist Church RSVP 3/17
Hear lessons learned from the very different paths to justice, inclusion, & equality.
Ardena Garth Hicks: TN’s 1st African American woman Public Defender
Dr. Eleanor McCallie Cooper: Co-Founder of Chattanooga Connected
Dollie Hamilton: Compensation Consultant CCP – Human Resources
Historical Context: Caroline Sunderland, Former Sr. Educator/ Chattanooga History Center
Facilitator: Maria Noel, Diversity & Inclusion/ Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce
March 24: VETERANS/ MILITARY – The Gathering Place at The Crossing Church RSVP 3/24
Hear what these women veterans achieved in service to their country, where they are now, and their inspiring words of wisdom.
Patty Parks: U.S. Navy-retiree, TN State Director/ Military Women Across the Nation
Aubrey Williams: U.S. Army, United States Military Academy/ West Point
Lt. Tay Brymer: Public Affairs Officer/ Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Chattanooga
Historical Context: Major Paul Dean – MA History/ Vanderbilt U., Sr. Army Instructor JROTC / Ooltewah HS
Facilitator: Jessica Dumitru, J. D. (Texas A&M), MA International Affairs (New York U.), BA European History & International Politics (Sewanee)
Lean In – Women Ground Breakers is a community outreach project of the American Diversity Report. Created in 2001 as the Women’s Council on Diversity, we continue to provide public diversity programs onsite locally & online globally. We are now the Chattanooga Circle of the national Lean In movement begun by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Face Book. Members include: Deborah Levine (Chair), Leanne Barron, Cathryn Cohen, Erin Crane, Traci Day, Carrie Di Memmo, Laura Hessler, Ardena Garth Hicks, Luronda Jennings, Shawn Kurrelmeier Lee, Linda Moss Mines, Victoria Overholser, Tina Player, Denise Reed, Donna Roseberry, Brenda Freeman Short, Sue Stohlmann
Dr. Fiona Citkin urges minorities and immigrants to work together to bring meaningful, positive change in the U.S. in her Huffington Post article, “Immigrants and Minorities of America, Unite!” Yes, there are many benefits to bringing minorities and immigrants together, but there are also numerous pushes & pulls involved in uniting them, in establishing their local-global connection. I have long maintained that “Harmonize NOT Homogenize” is key to our working together, but today’s highly emotional environment makes even this approach difficult.
The vague feminism of our grandmothers was about their desire to be counted with – not only as wives and mothers but also as equal partners in life outside home and society salons. If we think of feminism as influence-seeking, it’s as old as humanity, transitioning from individual to mass feminism. Thus, strong women always strived to achieve individual influence—and some succeeded. Think La Malinche, lover/advisor of Juan Cortez, or Esther – wife/advisor of Persian King Anasuerus, or feminist-minded Eleanor Roosevelt who shaped the role of the First Lady, or countless others who became influencers because of their men. Women rulers, like Queen Victoria, Catherine the Great, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher, – impacted the world through their strategic thinking. History provides ample individual illustrations of what’s feasible for a “weaker sex.”
A black-and-white photograph curled at the edges pressed between the pages of Anna Karenina falls into my hands as I fumble about the bookshelf. Anna Karenina. It appears I was using the photograph as a bookmark and apparently gave up after page 662. Do not judge me, dear Reader – I was only fifteen at the time. No doubt, I found the drama of my own life infinitely more interesting.
Home is the place that cradles our souls and soothes our most primal needs. Yet, for most of us, the only place that is certain to be a home is a mother’s womb, for after we are born, we move through time and space sometimes by force, sometimes by will, and spend a lifetime searching for a way of return. My family relocated to the United States when I was just out of high school. It was a decision made by my father who as a young man had been brought to the Soviet Republic of Armenia in 1946. My father’s parents had survived the Genocide of the Armenians on western Armenian lands (Eastern Turkey) in 1915, and like thousands, had made a life for themselves in Aleppo, Syria after walking for days through the deserts of Der El Zor.
In the early 1900s, Jewish tailors among the Eastern Europeans who arrived in America in droves. Only one tailor, my great grandfather, ended up as one of few Bermuda Jews. Picking up an Americanized version of his Russian last name, he became Axel Malloy passing through Ellis Island in New York City. He was better known by the first name of David, a name change that happened when he seriously ill. The family kept to the Eastern European Jewish tradition changing one’s name to hide from the Angel of Death.