At seven years of age, when the bullets came flying and people said, "Run!" Augustin Nsabimana ran. As he and family members fled the advancing troops of the RPF, this Rwandan youth saw what no child should see: decapitated and decomposing bodies of the sick, the slow, and the unlucky. Underneath it all was the terror that bespoke his family's flight: Run! Run, or you could be next. In this story of loss and redemption, grown-up "Auggie" tells of the national chaos that was 1994 Rwanda and the parting words of his brother, which became the title for his book, "See You In Heaven."
From the mountains of Argentina to the lakeshore of Michigan, Jorge Rodriguez knows one profound truth: your body is not fit unless your mind and spirit are also aligned. A lifelong practitioner of health and wellbeing, Dr. Jorge Rodriquez has trained celebrities like Brad Pitt and everyday citizens of his newfound hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. In this deeply touching interview, Jorge talks about his own challenges with health and the surprising generosity of others.
Mira Krishnan knows a thing or two about otherness. She grew up in mostly-white neighborhoods of Michigan, the child of Tamil Indian immigrants. After college, she directed her professional skills from engineering and neuropsychology to helping families with autistic children. As a transgender citizen, she uses her speaking and advocacy skills to speak on LGBT issues. With such a broad range of life experiences, Mira is profoundly qualified to talk about community and the meaning of belonging.
Why do Americans fear foreigners? Author Deepa Iyer, herself an immigrant from India, talks about Islamophobia, racial anxiety, and "othering" following the attacks of September 11, 2001. She shares stories from her new book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future.
When do our cultural perceptions become deceptions? Whenever we let stereotypes and unfounded assumptions take over our thought processes. Interculturalist Joe Lurie talks about five decades of global learning––from observations as well as personal missteps. He shares some of the wisdom from his new book and offers tips for immigrants who want to succeed in the U.S. workplace.
An immigrant child, Ana Ramirez-Saenz was raised in West Michigan by a single mom who worked long hours in a pickle factory. During her days at MBA school and at work in the banking industry, she saw first hand the lack of diversity in leadership and its cost on morale and the bottom line. Today, as President of La Fuente Consulting, she guides companies towards more inclusive practices and more powerful decision making. An exclusive chat with an insightful leader.
Love of an American made her move to the United States. Love of food from her Brazilian homeland made her enter local cooking contests. And an entrepreneurial spirit made her a baker of the tasty pão de queijo, a staple of her childhood and reason for her growing business. Love and a Brazilian oven in Kalamazoo, Michigan!
With a vision of something better for their children's futures, Elisa Perez-Arellano's parents did what countless others have done before: immigrated to the United States, a land of opportunity. They stressed traditional Mexican values: hard work, family, and staying in school. Those values paid off. Today, Perez-Arellano is a college graduate--with a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Social Work--working tirelessly to support those she preceded on the journey: immigrants without insurance, without a knowledge of the system, and those without hope. Her after-hours advocacy extends to supporting the Latino LGBT community as it looks to overcome stigmas and stereotypes. An inspirational woman with the wellbeing of her adopted community in her heart!
David Alvarez grew up on the thin slice of rock between earth, sky, and sea called Gibraltar. With a view of the dying vestiges of British colonialism in his own life, he launched on a career of researching and telling about that provocative legacy in other lands. He chats with us about S. Africa, Palestine, and Healing Children of Conflict.
Growing up Puerto Rican in the South Bronx of the 1950s and 60s was tough. Poverty, alcoholism, domestic violence, and being the "invisible minority" were daily occurrences. Yet Sonia Manzano found her refuge in the performing arts, and the young dancer was poised to accept the job of a lifetime when the Children's Television Workshop cast her as Maria on the now-acclaimed Sesame Street children's program. After four decades of performing on PBS, author Manzano reflects on the importance of children of color seeing themselves represented in the media--both on the stage and behind the camera.
Where do I belong? This is the question asked by immigrants and expatriates for as long as human beings have migrated. Alan interviews Brazilian-born Marcos Bragança, an expat with a widely dispersed family. His American-born son Thomas talks about the ebb and flow of language and culture growing up in the United States.
Growing up in Latvia is tough in any century. If it wasn't being overrun by the Poles, Swedes, and Germans, it was being crushed by Soviet oppression. This led to floods of Latvian refugees to the United States in the 1940s and 50s. Decades later, the aging Latvian Lutheran congregations needed a fresh supply of pastors for their churches. Enter Ilze Larsen, former cellist and newly ordained minister from the Baltic. Listen as Ilze tells of the feisty fortitude that still characterizes her people 5,000 miles from their homeland.
Terence Reuben discusses discrimination and racial segregation growing up in Durban, South Africa. Rising above his Apartheid roots, he earned a physical therapy degree and landed a career an ocean away. At Metro Health Hospital, therapist Reuben helps patients recover from injuries. On weekends, triathlete Reuben pushes wheelchair "captains" over marathon courses and across finish lines.
Americans have said it so long, it approaches cliché: "The U.S. is the land of opportunity." However, this still rings true for thousands of newcomers every year, including Guatemalan-born Natanael Krische. Listen to the story of 18-year-old "Nate" who entered illegally and worked hard to became a citizen, small business owner, and pillar in his West Michigan community.
From Sweden to the USA, they've shaken hands with the mightiest in both lands. They've saved energy and published books. And along the way, Anders and Ewa Rydåker have planted roots and learned what it means to belong in a place. Join us for a chat with Alan's favorite immigrants!
If you ever needed convincing that Arturo González Vargas was passionate about the power of non-profits to transform lives, spend just five minutes with this young man to dispel any doubts. For 18 months, the Grand Rapids Community had the privilege of sharing his wisdom, energy, and optimism for all things empowerment. An Atlas Fellow from Monterrey, Mexico, Gonzalez Vargas worked as a tireless advocate for Kids Food Basket, an organization providing daily nutrition to thousands of school children in Western Michigan.
Three years ago, Takunda Mavima had the world by the tail. He was an immigrant child whose family had worked its way into Middle America. He was an honors student who’d recently attended his senior prom. With a scholarship to Grand Valley State University, he was poised to enroll in the pre-pharmacy program and chase his professional dreams. Then, a night of drinking turned his life literally upside down. In this interview, we look at tragedy, forgiveness, and a rise from the ashes.
Born to South Korean immigrants, Christine Lee has always been aware of her "otherness" as a child growing up in white America. From "strange" lunches brought to school to the disappointing launch of Margaret Cho's All-American Girl, Lee has been waiting for Asian-Americans' glimpse of inclusion in America's grand mosaic. It finally arrived when she watched--with her white boyfriend--ABC's novel Fresh Off the Boat, a weekly sitcom featuring a Chinese-American family and their everyday culture clash in Orlando, Florida. Alan talks with Christine about diversity, inclusion, and the function of storytelling.
Jorge Gonzalez is a community connector. Born in Michigan to immigrant parents, he spent part of his youth in Mexico and part in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. With a background in banking and community development, he is the perfect choice to lead the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce into its next phase of growth. Join us as he talks about the power of education and the need for all citizens to be culturally competent in today's marketplace.
How does a state like Michigan keep its talented university graduates who are from overseas? How do Michigan-educated international students hook up with employers for internships and eventual employment? Feel Like You Belong welcomes Jeff Towns, Executive Director of Michigan’s Global Talent Retention Initiative (GTRI) along with Trinidad-born Yasha Nath, a Michigan college grad with the kinds of skills the state is clamoring for. Encouraging news for international students who want to stay in the state after graduation as well as for U.S. employers looking to navigate the unfamiliar waters of hiring foreign-born employees.
GTRI website: http://www.migtri.org/