Last Thursday the Haverford House Fellows had the honor of hosting President Weiss for dinner. Jemma cooked a wonderful baked spinach and sausage pasta. We shared our work with Dan and also heard about his vision for the upcoming school year. We thoroughly enjoyed Dan’s company and hope he visits again soon!
On April 27, a mash-up of Immigration Field Study participants, Puentes Adolescent Empowerment Program students, Haverford House fellows and friends attended the play “Down Past Passyunk” thanks to the support of the CPGC. “Down Past Passyunk,” put on by the InterAct Theater Company, was an original play by A. Zell Williams that told the story of the collision of immigrant communities old and new in South Philly, as told through the story of the owner of a cheesesteak restaurant. (Sound familiar?!) It was so cool to see a play about the places we are everyday– the play started with the sounds of the 47 bus heading down into South Philly which is the bus I take to work! Afterward, we actually got to meet A. Zell Williams, and one of the 7th graders let him know that his play was “awesome.” The middle school students and the immigration field study participants were thrilled to see each other again, and we headed to Shake Shack (a free coupon came in our programs!) to discuss the play afterwards.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, is having a series of hearings on the progress of the War on Poverty. Through these hearings, members of the Budget Committee can learn about programs that are used to fight poverty, and about the progress and successes of these programs in the past 50 years, since Lyndon B. Johnson launched the “War on Poverty.”
Last Wednesday, I attended one of these hearings with Tianna Gaines-Turner, a member of the Witnesses to Hunger program at the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. As someone who has experienced poverty first-hand, Tianna works hard to make her voice heard by policymakers who decide on which poverty-fighting programs will be supported and which will be cut. The hearing on Wednesday was titled, “A Progress Report on the War on Poverty: Lessons from the Frontlines.” However, none of the three witnesses testifying had ever experienced poverty first-hand.
Tianna’s presence at the hearing reminded members of the Budget Committee that the decisions they make impact real people, many of whom (like Tianna) are working hard to break the cycle of poverty for their families. Although Tianna has not been invited to speak as a witness at any of these hearings, she did submit written testimony for a previous hearing, which described her experiences and the strengths and weaknesses of government-funded public programs aimed to fight poverty. Another Witness to Hunger, Barbie Izquierdo, also submitted written testimony for this most recent hearing. The press has also noticed that some voices are missing from this discussion: a recent article in ThinkProgress discussed how Paul Ryan Won’t Let Poor People Testify at Hearing About Poverty.
As lawmakers and policy analysts reflect on the successes and shortcomings of public assistance programs, it’s essential to include people who have direct experience with these programs in the conversations. Their perspectives are vital for understanding how these programs can better address the immense problem of poverty within the United States.
The CPGC hosted its annual retreat for the summer interns a few weeks ago, and when the staff kindly invited to put us up for the night to participate in the retreat, we were thrilled at the thought of breathing some fresh country air.
The air did not disappoint. And the weekend was filled with fascinating discussions, impassioned social justice thinkers, and fellowship.
a campfire in the woods
some friends–new, old and 4-legged
This is Jemma, now, writing about our last day! Today was maybe my favorite, so I’m glad it’s my turn to write.
We woke up, ate our last cereal breakfast, and headed to Center City. The temperature had dropped about 30 degrees overnight, and we found ourselves in a massive wind tunnel and absolutely freezing. We stumbled into our first stop: Al Día news, Philadelphia’s Spanish language newspaper. We were greeted by a team of Al Día reporters, including Arturo Varela who had arranged the meeting, as well as the managing editor of Al Día, Sabrina Vourvoulias. They guided us into a beautiful conference room where we sat around to discuss their important work of providing a Spanish-language media source in Philly. We were especially interested to hear their perspective on the City Council hearings yesterday, as they are, of course, far more knowledgable than we are. They commented that there were many new faces in the hearings from a diverse array of immigrant communities. We also discussed the role of Al Día in the community, and their mission of “expanding the notion of what ‘Latino news’ means,” emphasizing that it isn’t solely to cater to issues specific to the Latino community, but rather also topics such as art and culture in the city. They also shared that soon their website will be entirely bilingual, in English and Spanish. The editorial in the newspaper is always in English to make their message available to a broad audience. We all found their perspective fascinating!
Next, we hopped back on the Broad Street Line and headed to South Philly where we met with Mark Phillips, who currently works at the Department of Commerce of Philadelphia, working on outreach to local businesses in the Latino community. He gave us an overview of what it looks like to start a business in Philadelphia, and especially the challenges that immigrants in the community face. For example, many don’t have a high school education or speak English. Compound that with being undocumented for many, and you can imagine how difficult and confusing the process is. Mark then took us to a local business he works with, “Los Taquitos de Puebla” where we had a chance to chat with the charismatic owner, Juan Carlos, who had seen us yesterday at City Hall! We chatted with him in Spanish about how the community has changed in the past ten years, and the exciting revitalization of 9th Street.
We had a little time before we headed to tutoring, so we stopped at a favorite panadería (bread and pastry shop) near Southwark School, “Cafeteria and Panadería Las Rosas.” After buying tea and churros, we began chatting with the owner, David, and when we explained to him what we were doing, he quickly gave us three pastries on the house. The next thing we knew, we were meeting the bakers. who came out from the kitchen to take a few photos with us. The shop was originally a bakery owned by Italian immigrants, but had since closed when David bought it two years ago, an example of the waves of immigration that have come through South Philly. After being given two more slices of cake and a warm fig pastry for free, we headed to Southwark School!
The crew got to experience my daily grind as they came to tutoring! It was so fun to have them! We ducked out a little early to head to Tequila’s Restaurant, a beautiful Mexican restaurant in Center City. Owner David Suro-Piñera spoke to us for an hour about the history of the Mexican community in Philadelphia, and his passion for supporting the community. A highlight came when Ramelcy asked David if he considered himself an activist, to which he replied, “No, I would say I’m a Mexican with a conscience.” We were all in awe of his combination of intellectual perspective, sense of humor, and generosity. If this weren’t enough, we then enjoyed an incredible dinner. Personally, I ate shrimp, lobster, and crab enchiladas. No complaints.
This week has been absolutely incredible, and I feel so lucky to have spent it with six incredible Haverford and Bryn Mawr students. I can’t wait to see where they go next! I can personally say that I have such a more complex and rich perspective on the community I have been working with, and feel a renewed sense of passion for my work at Puentes. Thanks, CPGC!
By Alejandra Alvarez(HC ’16) and Ramelcy Uribe (HC ’16)
“Sin papeles! Sin Miedo!”
This morning, we started our day with a march with Juntos on ending ICE holds. In Philadelphia, when a crime is reported, people can be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because of their immigration status, even if the person was a victim to a crime, and then deported. The march to protest this unjust state of affairs started at the Italian Market on 9th and Washington and ended at City Hall. We were given signs and a sheet of paper with chants. As we marched, people chanted and honked to show their support. The group grew from supporters joining in along the way to City Hall as well as supporters meeting at City Hall. (You can see the march, and catch a glimpse of Alejandra, on NBC10 here: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Immigrant-Advocates-Call-for-Philly-to-End-ICE-Holds–249993911.html)
When we arrived to City Hall, the chanting continued. It took us a while to get into City Hall because the passes that were supposed to be given to Juntos were “misplaced,” but the protestors finally got in. There were so many of us that a fourth floor was opened to let more people into the hearing. At the hearing, people from different organizations spoke about the injustices of ICE being part of the Philadelphia police system. This connection creates fear among many communities so many victims do not report crimes, creating unsafe communities, as well as fostering mistrust towards the police. It was also mentioned how ICE often times works on its own terms and makes up its own rules. These testimonials were personal and very powerful. The mayor is expected to support the separation of ICE and the police except possibly the cases of violent crimes or rape.
After listening to the testimonies at the hearing, we walked to meet Ileana Garcia, a Haverford alumna (’08) and former resident of Haverford House, for lunch. Ileana works for Councilman Oh where she works with the Spanish and Portuguese speaking communities of Philadelphia. Listening to Ileana speak was very helpful, especially, because she can speak from the Haverford experience and shows an example of what can be done after graduation to help communities.
“Give a child a space to express themselves creatively, and they’ll fill the room with colors and energy.” I have seriously trusted and lived by this belief in all spaces where youth are given the chance to use the arts to learn about themselves and their culture. We spent our afternoon in a community-led Mexican art class. It is a space described as a “safe haven” for (mostly) Mexican mothers and their children to learn about cultural histories and traditions, as well as maintain the importance of Mexican culture at an age where children are learning to grapple and juggle the complexity of a dual identity in the United States. During the class, some of us worked on making maracas out of plastic Easter eggs, plastic spoons, tape, and rice & beans to fill the eggs. The other half of our group painted sombreros with festive colors and cool designs. All the projects were made with recycled materials so not only did we get our inner Frida Kahlo on, but we were eco-friendly too! (Ain’t that fancy?)
If the class wasn’t awesome enough, the kids were great. They introduced themselves, told us fun facts, and showed us what great communal art looks like.
Finally, we ended our day at the Garces Foundation, where Mallory Fix-Lopez told us about the awesome work that revolves around empowering immigrant restaurant workers. Their programs revolve around language access so that undocumented folks can use English to communicate and express themselves in the workplace, but we also found their dedication to giving this community confidence and belief in themselves and their skills to be especially impressive and impactful. How many places do you know that value confidence as much as any other skill? (Tip: not many!) Mallory also told us about the courses offered for restaurant workers that include more traditional ESL classes, and also include awesome cooking demonstrations and themed months so that all educational activities are intersections of skills and roles so that everyone walks away with a strong and diverse skill set!
You can easily see the Garces Foundation is doing some great, crucial work for the immigrant community and more specifically to those working in the restaurant industry.
We ended our day with a bus ride home and our last night in West Philly was graced with a delicious dinner and joyous laughs. Good times were had by all.
By Pita Gomez (’14) and Tracey Alvarez (BMC’14)
This morning we had a late start, but we were ready for our second day of the immigration field study!
Our first stop was at the amazing non-profit organization called La Puerta Abierta (The Open Door) in Kensington. This grassroots organization started four years ago and is one of three known organizations nationwide that offers free social and mental health services to the immigrant community. Here, we had the opportunity to participate in their bi-weekly case presentation meeting through which we were able to see how they serve the Spanish-speaking community.
Afterwards, we met with Haverford House fellow, Ben Van Son, and Philly Fellow, Annie Reading, at HIAS and they spoke to us about their work serving the refugee population in Philadelphia. Annie excitedly shared with us her current development of the community garden project with the Nepali refugees. Ben, as the Refugee Housing and Basic Needs Coordinator, spoke to us about his role in accommodating these newly arrived groups of people. Then, we met with two attorneys, Vleidmy and Philippe, who kindly answered all of our questions regarding legal immigration processes that are relevant to the Latino immigrant community.
We enjoyed a nice, short trip back to Haverford House in the warm weather. As soon as we got back, we got to work…in the kitchen. We volunteered to cook Mexican food for our group. Everyone helped chop tomato, onion, cilantro, and nopales! While Ramelcy, Helen, Alejandra, and Kayoung went out for a walk, we finished making rice, refried beans, chicken, guacamole, and nopal salad.
After a long but very exciting day, we finally sat down to enjoy our Mexican nachos! Yummy.
By: Helen Felker (’16) and Kayoung Lee (’16)
Today was a packed day!
We woke up bright and early and were out the door by 8:30 to go meet Sister Maria Lauren at Annunciation Church. Sister Maria lived for several years in Michoacán, and is continuing her service to the predominantly Mexican community that is rapidly growing in South Philadelphia. As a place held in trust by the community, the Church functions as a meeting place and common refuge for many. Sister Maria has seen it all, and is currently working on teaching ESL classes and protesting the current alliance between Philadelphia Police Department and Immigration services. Unfortunately, because Philadelphia police are required to report any undocumented immigrants to Immigration, many undocumented people are afraid to report anything to the police, instead suffering discrimination and other crimes in silence. Hopefully, we will be able to see Sister Maria again on Wednesday morning, when we go to a protest over this dangerous policy.
After our meeting with Sister Maria, we went to see Southwark School, the public elementary school where Puentes Hacia el Futuro is based. We were fortunate enough to speak with the principal of Southwark about current challenges facing the Philadelphia Public School system. More specifically, we spoke at length about No Child Left Behind and the current struggles faced by many English Language Learners at Southwark.
After this eye-opening meeting, we ate lunch at South Philadelphia’s landmark Singing Fountain, and met with Esther Morales, the director of Puentes Hacia el Futuro. Esther was kind enough to show us the community center where Puentes Hacia el Futuro offers many of its after school programs.
Right after the meeting, we rushed to meet the 7th grade girls in Southwark Elementary participating in weekly group discussions with Jemma as part of the adolescent support program of Puentes de Salud. After sitting around in a circle and getting to know one another, we went out to explore and got a taste of South Philly’s Italian market with the girls. Their ambition, enthusiasm, and curiosity was inspiring, and the lovely weather was very accommodating. We concluded the tour in Capitolo Playground, while we munched on delicious tacos that the girls treated us to with their own money that they raised through a bake sale they organized last week.
Afterwards, we went to the Puentes de Salud clinic in the Penn Medicine building. We were able to squeeze into one of the staff rooms to hear the founder of Puentes Hacia El Futuro, Daphne Owen’s energetic presentation of the work that the clinic is doing. Their nurse-practitioner focused model of providing health services interested me, particularly their desire to provide a service that takes time to discuss one-on-one with patients the confluence of factors that determines health outcomes.
We came back home exhausted from our busy first day, but our hunger was soon quite satisfied by a delicious dinner of cranberry-tomato salad and oven-baked mac & cheese (credits to Jemma!).
We’re super excited about the days to come!