News

27
Jun

Immigrants Bolster Our Communities

God bless the American dream!

As you may know, America is a land of immigrants where refugees can build and develop a lifestyle that suits their very needs. My parents took advantage of the many freedoms that govern our precious nation.

I would venture to say that anyone else out there is a product of immigrants somewhere in their family lineage. For many of them it was a history marked by turmoil, resiliency and tremendous sacrifice.

‘As you may know, America is a land of immigrants where refugees can build and develop a lifestyle that suits their very needs. ‘

I had the privilege of joining an immigrant group in my city. Members of our community gathered in unity one Sunday afternoon to conduct a blessing. I was invited to represent my Armenian church. They marched to a park from different churches with proximity.

Most within the gathering were of a minority population. As I spoke, a translator defined my words in Spanish. Many of them did not know of our Armenian Genocide 101 years ago. On the other hand, I was not aware of the obstacles they had faced while landing in America. We learned from one other.

The event was organized by Emily Bloch of the Merrimack Valley Project. A slight rain did little to deter the crowd as members held signs reading “Dignified Lives and the Right to Drive.” Others donned tee-shirts with the words “Immigrants United for Respect and Dignity.”

I’ve always had the greatest respect for Rev. Jane Bearden, rector at Trinity Episcopal Church. She’s always made it a point to attend our Armenian Genocide commemorations at our Armenian Church at Hye Pointe and words do not elude her in conveying the proper message.

“We stand together in solidarity because that dream of a place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not a reality for everyone,” she noted. “We stand here today to say to those who are not allowed to share the American dream that they do not stand alone. It is time to create equity in our laws.”

She reminded the gathering that it’s time immigrants are perceived as not being a problem with our country but the solution that enhances the history of any city in the world.

“We stand as people of faith to offer God’s blessings and our compassion for those who have emigrated here but have not received the welcome they deserve,” she added.

I can relate to that with my own parents. Because he wanted to better himself, my dad attended night school after working all day in his coffee shop. He was in a class with other immigrants bent on improving his English skills.

Upon introducing himself with his ethnic name (Yervant Vartabedian), an arrogant instructor ridiculed the man. He told my father to change his name to Jones or Smith and that he was in America and to forget his culture.

My father shunned his warnings and tenaciously clung to his ideals as immigrants would do. They confronted discrimination with an iron fist and a strong heart.

We lived in a tiny flat in Somerville, my parents, brother and myself with an immigrant grandmother and a cousin who arrived here from the USSR. We were a family. There was always room for one more immigrant if the situation dictated. Our comfort zone was love, not lack of space.

A woman from Ecuador shared my sentiments at this rally. Her name was Maria Hernandez and she arrived here 11 years ago with her daughter to start a new family life. Full of dreams and illusions, Maria launched a career in education. She ultimately learned English and passed her state exams to earn a teaching license in Massachusetts.

It wasn’t enough just to learn a new language for this immigrant. She became a member of the Student Council and availed herself with the opportunities offered by Community Action. In time, Maria obtained her teaching license and currently works two school systems.

She teaches Spanish to teenagers who want to be bilingual and works with adults to help them pass their exams equivalent to high school.

“Being an active part of my immigrant community has given me the opportunity to learn the way of life in this country,” she points out. “Being an immigrant is the ability to speak two languages and know how to behave in two cultures … to love the roots and wings … to fight and work to win with effort what others are guaranteed by being born here.”

Maria reached out to the crowd, fortunate to have the elements of becoming a citizen. It was no surprise what followed later. Her words drew applause.

“Now, it is my responsibility to help my immigrant brothers and sisters achieve their goals as people helped me when I first arrived,” she confirmed. “Lift up your foreheads with dignity and make it very clear that we have not come to destroy this land but to build.”

Source: Armenian Weekly

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