Going for Gold…Diaspora in Higher Education.

 

 

Being a Diaspora presents a host of challenges but also gives a  sense of determination to make it in the land of dreams where all is possible. It is no surprise then that according to a resent survey released in August 2012 by the US Department of Education, 23% of all undergraduate enrollment in 2007-2008 consisted of immigrants or children of immigrants.

 

Going for Gold means going for the best there is. Members of the Diaspora knows that only hard work and determination can get you there. In the current economic times where joblessness and budget shortfalls reign supreme, it is ever more important to get the right skills that will net you the right job. In the same survey, it was clear that income level of parents did not seem to significantly influence rate of attendance. This means if you are determined to go to school, you can go and lack of income should not be a deterrent to attendance. Taking advantage of financial aid, grants and scholarships have helped get diaspora to achieve their goals.

Being a diaspora means you understand the challenges that led to your being here in the first place and being willing to put in the work to get to gold.

 

 

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Non-English Speakers look foward to fewer Rights in North Carolina

In the United States, a person who is going to...

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act demands that a person may not be discriminated against.

At least that’s what it looks like.

North Carolina has been violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Justice determined. 

In a puzzling series of  negligent policy decision making  by law makers of which the result may have even been longer sentences for  non-English speakers,  which of course overburdened Carolinians have to pay for  in the  long run in form of taxes. A nominal cost  (on 0.3% of the $463.8 million budget) of offering translators would have been an easy solution.

What has not been mentioned is what now?

Now that North Carolina has been found to be violating Title VI, what consequences will the agency have to experience?

A little known fact is that Title VI continues to state that

If an agency is found in violation of Title VI, that agency may lose its federal funding.

Now as upsetting as this all is, I would hate to imagine that  cushy $463.8 million being taken away.

If our law makers cannot abide by the law when enforcing  the law, exactly who is getting served by the law in question?

 

 

Celebrate Your Otherness

African Americans Allowed to Vote

The word Diaspora comes from a Greek word that means to “sow or scatter seeds.” A group of Diaspora has the special characteristic of attempting to preserve their culture and religious beliefs.

It’s this “otherness” within us that constantly attempts to recreate experiences validating pieces of ourselves carried from the past.  When I traverse North Carolina experiencing different cultural events I can’t help but marvel at the rich tapestry of varying cultural experiences responsible for the unique qualities making up North Carolina.

The amazing experience of seeing the Black Mambazo group in Clayton,NC  was surreal at best. Here was lil O’l me,  far away from my birth country experiencing a performance that was a symbol of hope. The group started spreading  the message of love when apartheid was the order of the day in South Africa. Now 52 years later and a bunch of Grammy awards  under their belt, the group still continues delivering  beaming smiles, lively songs interspersed with gravity defying leaps left everyone awash with gratitude at this once in a lifetime experiences.

Black Mambazo In Clayton, NC

North Carolina House Meeting on Immigration Reform: Making Room for Change

A special House meeting was held on Wednesday January 25th, 2012 on how to deal with the ‘immigration problem’ in North Carolina. Discussions hovered around how to get to the heart of the problem which seemed to be illegal employment. It seems the problem is how to go about enforcing immigration reforms which won’t hurt the North Carolina Economy as is the case with the Arizona reforms.

Illegal Immigrant rights protest in the US/Mex...

Latino Protesters

Immigration reforms trigger ‘immigrant flight’.   Distribution of immigrants across North Carolina is somewhat blurred but it is obvious that Hispanic Immigrants (the largest immigrant population) favor rural areas. Immigration reforms will most certainly impact the agricultural sector.  Prompted by economic opportunities and policy mandates, ‘Immigrant flight’ has not to do with choice but more to do with survival. As more stringent immigration policies are considered and passed, immigrants will be forced to move to friendlier territories where they can enjoy economic opportunities.

After the meeting, a group of people held a rally outside the Legislative building protesting the immigration reforms being considered. It will be interesting to see how North Carolina approaches the immigrant question. Sweeping reforms could lead to a mass exodus of immigrants the impact of which might be severe on the North Carolina economy. For now it seems, North Carolina is carefully watching what happens in Arizona before jumping in and adopting similar reforms.

What 2012 has to offer to the American Immigrant

Statue of Liberty, New York

Do Not Give me your Tired nor your Poor

…..”Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The New Colossus- A sonnet by Emma Lazarus inside the Statue of Liberty

 

It seems that the golden doors  of America are fast closing on the Immigrant. No longer are the tired, poor or homeless welcome to the land of the free and home of the braves. Set to take effect in 2012 and some already being enforced are the most punitive restrictive immigration laws yet. In 2012 the illegal American Immigrant can look forward to the following:

  1. In Alabama,  13 New Immigration laws took effect in 2012 among them requiring policemen to conduct verification of immigration status during legal stops. Also in effect is the requirement of all employers conducting business any government body to use the E-Verification system.
  2. In Georgia, any company with 500 or more employees is to use the E-Verification system to check their employees’ immigration status.  The hope is that in June of 2013, employers with over 10 workers are to also do the same.
  3. Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina also joined in and passed similar E-Verification laws.

There is hope yet for the immigrant because California has passed the Dream Act allowing children who may be illegal to receive in state tuition rates as well as some scholarships.  California also went ahead and allowed new US citizens to register and vote on Election Day.  The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Obama administration was going to make it easier for an illegal immigrant related to a US citizen to seek legal status. The administration hopes to create a path to legal status for the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.

So where does that leave the American Immigrant?  Members of the Diaspora either knowingly or unknowingly interact with illegal immigrants. Not only that, but as anti immigrant sentiments continue to rise, the uncomfortable question of immigration status may become a driving wedge forcing groups to feel unwelcome in a country that has in the past been unified by its differences rather than its similarities.

The immigration reform waters are murky  but one thing is for sure, the illegal immigration issue is not going to be an overnight solution. At best, it will lead to finally bringing the question to the public debate and perhaps become a central issue that gets addressed in the coming elections after unemployment. At worst, it will mean that states will continue to pass laws that will impact their tax payers and displace immigrant families.

 

Diaspora Banter Part 1:Dog Talk

Trying to assimilate into a new culture can be tricky for a member of the Diaspora.  Subtle cultural nuances such as mastering the skill to conduct random banter can be more challenging than the more obvious cultural shifts one must make when trying to mingle with their new neighbors.  In America for example, conducting meaningless small talk is an integral part of getting to know each other and is a skill that must be cultivated and natured if a Diaspora has any hope of interacting ad becoming Americanized.

There is hope however, for those who find it difficult to engage in the activity of small talk in order to appear more open and accessible to others.  To conduct small talk, one must find a topic that is safe to for the participants to engage in. At this point it is important that I mention that any topic that might involve actually knowing the details of one’s life is off-limits. Steer away from any references towards physical appearances; these attract lawsuits because of the real emotions they evoke. All personal details must  be volunteered without any prompting.

My dog Poligraf Poligrafovich

Dog Talk for Diaspora

In the process of enculturation, a Diaspora must get comfortable with filling every silent space with information whether it’s relevant or not. This is called being outgoing. Years of engaging in small talk have yielded one topic that is a sure-fire way to create a connection and possible camaraderie. A Diaspora must squelch the need to create meaningful friendships as this is rare but can happen if you continue to engage in meaningless small talk. It’s in the form of Dog Talk.

Vast numbers of Americans own dogs. . Lovingly cared for, the lucky canines receive undivided attention, affection and are coddled sometimes even more than humans.  Some studies have even shown that companionship from dogs has the effect of reducing stress levels among Americans.

So it is no surprise then that striking up Dog Talk can be responsible for creating the kind of small talk that is necessary to get to know your neighbors. To perfect the skill, it is perhaps best to try it out on Random strangers walking dogs. This is important because you must communicate genuine interest in a topic that you might have absolutely no knowledge or interest in. Later, once you have learned to appear interested, you can try it out on your coworkers and neighbors.

Most Americans don’t mind carrying out conversations about their dogs to perfect strangers because they love their dogs so much and can’t wait to display this to any and everyone.  Asking specific questions about dogs is a great way to create lengthy conversation. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what a ‘shetland sheepdog’  is. Most dog owners don’t care whether you know the difference. They just feel the need to tell you so that you too can celebrate the existence of their most beloved companion.

It is important however, not to be intimated by the vast amounts of information you may receive about dogs when you are getting to know your new neighbors. Sprinkling affirmatives is imperative because otherwise you risk losing an enthusiastic participant. Other questions you might want to ask are: how old the dog is, whether it’s male or female, and even if it’s been neutered.

If you are a Diaspora and are a neighbor to someone owning a dog, you must ask to pet the dog. This was difficult for me in the beginning because of a latent fear I had developed from unsavory experiences with wild dogs in Africa. American dogs are trained to be nice.  Some may  nip at you, some may be  too boisterous with their play but owners will generally tell you if you can pet them. This way they can continue to display how knowledgeable they are about their pets.

If you are a Diaspora who works with someone who has pictures of their dog on their desk, they want you to comment on the picture. It will yield more conversation than if you attempt to just ask them to tell you about themselves. Because most dogs reside inside the house with their owners, and are therefore

taken out on walks every morning or evening. Taking a walk during these times, will make you accessible to your neighbors so that you can engage in more conversations that will endear you to them.

In a culture beleaguered with small talk, a Diaspora must learn to engage in it no matter how uncomfortable the experience may be for them. I must say that as resistant as I was in the beginning, I found myself engaging in meaningless banter almost on a daily basis and has made people refer to me with adjectives such as friendly, outgoing, and even open despite the absolute lack of really knowing who I am and where I am from.  Without learning this most important skill, a member of the Diaspora has absolutely no hope of successful integration into American society.

Draconian Immigration laws in Alabama and Georgia receive mute reaction

Immigrant.March.WDC.7sep06

Latina Immigrants demonstrating in March

The word ‘Mute’ has been redefined by the GOP lately.  Each one of the candidates skittering around a host of issues except the huge elephant in the room that is currently affecting desperate families; Immigration Reform Laws.

GOP candidates ranted on about various economic packages claiming to hold the solution  to the current unemployment crisis; I waited in vain to hear what if anything any of the candidates would say about the ongoing drama unfolding in Alabama and Georgia. Mute!  Complete and utter avoidance of anything in regard to the current immigration laws being enforced in Alabama and Georgia.  2000 kids did not show up to school in Monday morning. Nothing was addressed about that. Families preparing for the worst and asking neighbors to take care of their loved ones should they suddenly be arrested and again, Nothing. Nary a word on this was mentioned last night in the GOP debate. Not even a hint or insinuation in reference to this topic.

Is this a reflection of times to come? Have we perfected the art of ignoring that which does not directly affect us. Staying mute on matters that might be too complicated for our short attention spans.  Saying nothing. Doing nothing. It is becoming an all too familiar phenomenon. There are signs however that there are those among us who are noticing this and are simply fed up. These are the men and women demonstrating in a fashion reminiscent of the civil right movement outside Wall Street.

Perhaps it’s time we shamed our leadership into doing the jobs they are elected to do. The main problem is that most are thinking that a lot of responsible people are somewhere trying to resolve their problems. Gandhi said it best, ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’ If you want change, if you see something wrong, you should get up and be the change.

The GOP candidates conspicuously avoided the immigration question and it is no surprise then that very little of what is going on in Alabama and Georgia is being highlighted.

The Newtonian principal, every action has an equal and opposite reaction definitely rings true here. For every action taken to displace families the reaction will definitely be experienced in the communities.  Food prices will be affected due to lack of laborers. Families will be separated due to arrests and deportation. What will happen to the children once the families are separated? Tax payers-You-will realize you have to house all those immigrants you have arrested and then you will complain. Small businesses will be affected due to loss of customer base, which in turn will contribute to the rise in unemployment.

Why is insistence on the myopic perspective in regard to Immigration?