We live in a very mixed neighborhood. Approximately half of the homes here are market-rate, home-owner occupied; the others are subsidized public housing. This neighborhood is mixed-everything: income, age, religion, ethnicity. Many of my neighbors are immigrants. Community events can have up to seven translators (all talking at once). Talking a walk in the early evening is a marvelous olfactory experience, with dinners from many places all under construction at once.
Current events are sometimes very personal around here.
In the wake of Travel Ban 1.0, some of our community members drafted a letter to our immigrant neighbors.
“We know you as mothers and fathers and caregivers, as our friends and neighbors. We know you as our brothers and sisters. You are us. America is not America without you. May we walk hand in hand into a future where racism, hate and violence are relics of the past, where differences are celebrated and our children inherit our joy. We stand ready to support you in the ways you ask us to.”
About 200 of us signed the letter. It was translated, copied, and taped to everyone’s front doors.
Our letter meant a great deal to some neighbors, some of whom I suspect have personal stories of direct experience with war, violence, hunger, hate and hopelessness. How hard must it be, to think you have left the horrors behind and then suddenly be confronted with the threat of more, this time from the highest office in the land that was to be your refuge.
“You have shown us kindness and care in the most genuine way and at a time when it is really appreciated and needed. We are touched by your compassion and willingness to stand with us.”
Last Saturday, some of our immigrant neighbors hosted a community potluck. I have no idea how many people attended, but we filled the community room and ran out of chairs. There was so much food, of so much variety, people took home plates and takeout boxes of leftovers. Some of the kids read poems about friendship and hope. Several women spoke to the room (via translators) about how much they love our community, how much they appreciated the letter of support.
This is what community looks like: people standing together in the face of fear, sharing the common human act of eating. Somehow, I don’t think this is what our president had in mind with his ban.
(Oh, and we made the evening news. Should I be happy that we were featured or sad that a diverse community gathering for a shared meal is newsworthy?)