A Place at the American Table
I'm back at my desk this morning after three extraordinary days in Washington, D.C. National program staff and about 30 New Routes grantees from eight grant sites gathered to officially launch our three year endeavor in using locally produced media and outreach to light the path immigrants are taking in finding their place at the American table.
"A place at the table" is a political phrase often used to express inclusion or exclusion of groups from political process and community life. Certainly, we envision New Routes media as a means to help immigrants have a voice and equity in shaping the communities where they live. But as we move into the busy holiday season, I'm also thinking about the literal Thanksgiving table.
All conferees recorded personal interviews, which will soon be posted on each grantee's New Routes page. One of the questions was: "Tell us about a cherished custom, value or celebration from another culture that you have adopted into your life." With Thanksgiving less than a week away, many grantees focused on this most American and unpolitical of holidays. They talked about gathering family and neighbors together and how their feast day foods have made it onto the holiday table. It's the ultimate positive expression of cultural integration- the garlic beans or tamales next to the brussel sprouts.
In the story we Americans learn as school children, Thanksgiving celebrates the generosity of the receiving community, American Indians, and how they saved the lives of the ill-prepared Pilgrims, seeing them through that first harsh winter. I don't know if this archetypal event ever really happened, but it's a nice story and image of generosity and community.
Pundits tell us that between now and next Thanksgiving we will move through a harsh political year where immigration may well become the election year wedge issue. Keeping the original Thanksgiving story in mind may be difficult as we see political operatives cast immigrants as plunderers of our bounty and wealth. For all of us, Thanksgiving serves as a reminder that the original American story is that when all of us work together, the receiving community and newcomers, we create enough abundance to share. There is plenty of room at the table for all of us.
Tags: abundance, American Dream, community building, generoisty, inculsion, Thanksgiving
Topics: Building Community, Civic Life, Education, Family, Immigrant Integration, Immigration, Politics, Receiving Communities, Storytelling
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This report (PDF 3.8MB) offers guidance for community organizations and those who fund social change in how best to harness the power of local media-making for community health improvement. Spanish-language version is now available. Una versión en español de este informe esta en la web.