Conversations can lead to positive action

The International Examiner September 20, 2006 0


BY NHIEN NGUYEN

As the country moves forward on the immigration debate, many people have become so frustrated and disillusioned that they throw up their hands in the air and do nothing.

But one way to address the complex immigration problem is to revert to a simple solution: conversation.

Conversation is one of the simplest forms of communication, and it’s a basic component of a healthy society that is woefully lacking in our communities, in particular as it relates to the emotionally charged immigration debate. E-mails, blogs, online communities and other media have made it so that we don’t even know neighbors who live right next door to us.

That’s why Hate Free Zone Washington is sponsoring a special initiative, entitled “Conversaton Project,” which is a monthly opportunity for community members to discuss immigration issues. The next conversation takes place on Sunday, Sept. 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Panama Hotel & Teahouse (607 S. Main St.).

Spearheading the past two conversations is Hari Kondabolu, organizer for Hate Free Zone’s “Liberty and Justice for All” campaign. Kondabolu’s parents were born in India and came to the United States in the late ‘70s. Even though Kondabolu grew up in the racially diverse area of Queens, New York, he realized how sheltered he was after Sept. 11 happened, an event that completely changed his way of thinking.

Driven to do something about the rise in racial hate and immigrant backlash, Kondabolu moved to Seattle last year to do community action work at Hate Free Zone. In order to get the country moving in a direction that protects civil rights and liberties, Kondabolu believes that we need to have a strong, diverse base that is unified on the immigration issue.

He says one of the tools to do this is to build a strong, informed community.

“People don’t act because they don’t know,” says Kondabolu.

When people hear stories of how the immigration problem has affected them personally, says Kondabolu, they are horrified and want to do something about it.

The first conversation earlier this summer included a small intimate group of about 10 people; the second round last month increased to 15. The goal is for each conversation to build on the previous one where groups become larger and eventually split into more groups all over the city that meet more than once a month.

As each conversation goes deeper, it becomes quite clear that the immigration debate is about much more than just immigration rights issues. It is linked to so many other issues, including civil rights, due process, and other basic human rights that this country was founded upon.

Kondabolu has been amazed how willing people are to share their pain and personal stories. People want to talk about this issue but may not feel that they have a safe place to do so. At these conversations, they feel like they are being heard and eventually, some action may be taken.

To find out more information, visit their Web site at www.hatefreezone.org.
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