One Small Step, Partner Project

This guest blog is brought to you through Brave Coalition’s partnership with StoryCorp’s One Small Step project. One Small Step brings people with different political viewpoints together to record a StoryCorps interview with each other. Here is a reflection from one recent Denver participant.

 “Take a risk, do something you haven’t done before.” 

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That’s how I read the invitation to participate in the Brave Coalition’s Partner project with StoryCorps, called One Small Step.  “What kind of risk?” I thought.  I tend to be selective in my willingness to take risks but I’m not entirely risk averse.  Invest in an aggressive mutual fund? Sure.  Set myself up for public humiliation? Not so much.  As I read the email invitation what started to form in my mind seemed more like the second.  “Have a conversation with a stranger, who has opposing, possibly exactly opposite political beliefs as me and have the whole thing recorded for the Library of Congress and possibly broadcast on the radio.”  Well that is certainly something I have never done before. Why risk it?  

In a conversation, I thought, as opposed to a social media post there is the opportunity to listen; to hear and be heard as a human being rather than a segment or a nameless faceless enemy.  I am of the opinion that there is a lot of ranting and very little listening happening in our current political environment.  When I am engaged in a face to face conversation, I can’t escape the glaring reality that there is another person looking and listening to me. So, Yes, I can take a small step and be willing to listen to someone else share where her beliefs came from and what influenced her views.

I was a little surprised to notice how much I enjoyed having someone listen to the origin and evolution of my own views. We talked for 45 minutes and apart from the baseball sized black foam microphones in front of us it was a fairly ordinary conversation. The major exception was that, on our own, we would have never had such a conversation. I got to see and share how in a number of instances we want the same results in our community we just have differing views on how to bring about those results.  In the end neither of us changed our views, and to be clear that isn’t the objective of the One Small Step project, but we did have the opportunity to see that as people we have a lot in common, likely more in common than opposing.  

Without talking I would have been left with just my point of view.  The view that there is no common ground between the Left and the Right and the distance is spreading between people. That’s how I feel when I spend any time reading Facebook and Twitter posts. However, having the opportunity to speak with, listen to and be heard by another person leaves me with some hope that what looks like a chasm of political ideology could just possibly be crossed by people willing to take just one small step. 

By: Aaron Schettler

#bebrave #wearebrave

The Alphabet Rockers

By: Bella Kolfenbach, 4th grade

Last Thursday, the Alphabet Rockers came to my school to give an assembly. When someone comes to our school to do an assembly, I usually have a favorite part, but when the Alphabet Rockers came,  I did not have a favorite part because I thought everything about them was amazing. They want to show the world their shine. What I think is cool about them is they want people to be who they are and who they want to be. They traveled all the way from California just to tell people that they are amazing and that you are amazing. They talked about how you CAN BE DIFFERENT IN MANY WAYS BUT YOU NEED TO BE PROUD, EVEN IF YOU ARE DIFFERENT.

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During the assembly, they told us their stories. This showed us how they shine. Kaitlin’s story is that when she was little she loved music. So one time she went to a talent show and most of the people who were performing were boys. But she still went up there and showed what she could do. And then she met her friend, Tommy. Tommy told a  story of how when he was younger, he was judged by his skin color. He had to learn to stand up for himself. He also had good friends, like Kaitlin, that would stand up for him if someone said something mean.

One of my favorite songs they did was called “Shine”. I liked this song because it talked about how even though we are all different, we all shine and should show our shine. My favorite thing it says in the song is ‘(I’m) not just a star, i’m-a i’m-a galaxy’. I think this means that you are not just a little thing in the sky, you can shine and be as big as a galaxy and be as big as anyone else, no matter what you look like. This REMINDS ME OF A MOVIE called “Wonder”. There is this part where the sister says, ‘you can’t blend in when you are born to stand out’. We may all be different, but we are each meant to shine!

When the Alphabet Rockers came to my school, I learned many things. I LEARNED THAT YOU NEED TO STAND UP FOR OTHER PEOPLE AND BE KIND TO PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT. I learned is that it’s OK for PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT to STAND OUT. I learned that sometimes people see people who are different as something ugly or scary, just because they are different. I learned this happens more often to black people. What made me cry, and trust me it is really hard to make me cry, is that black people or people who are different are not getting treated as well as white people.  I kind of knew this before, but it made me want to try harder to change how people treat each other.

The Alphabet Rockers are teaching kids that we are each as big as a galaxy, not just a star. And also that you are not just a star, you are a galaxy. You are amazing and can shine in a fun and encouraging way. I want to be just like the Alphabet Rockers and teach kids that they are important and beautiful, and do it in a fun way. One of my favorite moves that they did was called the ‘meatball and spaghetti’. The ‘meatball and spaghetti’ is where you crunch up into a ball and then slowly lift up your arms and rattle them. It looks like this:

 

The Alphabet Rockers are cool, fun, funny, awesome, loving, brave, kind, and helpful. And that is all I have to say about the Alphabet Rockers. You should see them some time.

About the Author:

Bella Kolfenbach is a 4th grader at Isabella Bird Community School in Denver, CO. She is a big sister to two brothers, a slime expert, stitch-lover, and good friend. Her dream is to convince others that all people should be treated equally.

#bebrave #wearebrave

A Family Story of Two Immigrants

My family immigrated to the United States when I was 5 years old. My father applied for and obtained a green card relatively easily as an educated professional. Without any hiccups, my parents became US citizens a few years later and I followed thereafter becoming a US citizen on September 16, 1988. I remember with pride obtaining my citizenship, but I was not as appreciative of the benefits I would be afforded. My family is from Canada.

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Twenty-four years later, my then fiancé applied for a fiancé visa to the United States. We filled out countless documents detailing his education, medical exam, financial and bank information and evidence of our relationship together including emails, travel, and the birth of our daughter. He was granted a visa and we moved from Kenya to the US in the fall of 2012. Carefully following immigration procedures, we completed in-person interviews, submitted ongoing paperwork and documentation of our life together, allowing him to obtain permanent residency (a “green” card). At the same time, he obtained an MBA from the University of Denver and found stable employment. Eventually, he was able to apply for citizenship. He studied seriously for his citizenship test- 100 questions I would not have been able to answer half of and passed with flying colors. The whole family attended his swearing in ceremony with pride. His citizenship meant so much. Visa-free travel around the world, employment opportunities, and above all, the confidence that we could remain as a family indefinitely in the United States. Things I never once worried about with or without my US citizenship. My husband is from Kenya.

Recent immigration rhetoric has turned ugly in many ways. When we don’t know individual immigrants, we tend to lump people into whole groups that don’t represent who they are or where they come from. Our immigration history shows that as a country we go through waves of targeted anti-immigrant fervor- sometimes targets Catholics or Jewish people, other times Chinese, non-white, and Latinos. At certain times it was incredibly hard to immigrate if you were Irish, Polish, or Italian- hard to imagine today.

While it is true that many immigrants come to the US seeking a better life, clearly many are not impoverished, uneducated, violent, or hold extremist views. African immigrants, who were recently characterized as coming from “shithole” countries for example, have generally higher education rates than the US population as a whole with 43% holding bachelor’s degrees or higher versus 29% of U.S. citizens, and 70% already speak English on arrival. But statistics only mean so much. What about the actual people? The majority of Kenyans we know in the U.S. came initially for educational opportunities not available in Kenya. They chose to stay because job options for them in Kenya aren’t comparable to here.

My children are incredibly lucky. Not just because they were born in the U.S. and have U.S. citizenship but because they are also able to be dual citizens of Kenya. Kenya is an amazing country, with incredible people who we are proud and blessed to be a part of.

If you’re uncertain about immigration- get to know an immigrant, learn about your family’s own immigration story and challenges. You may be surprised how alike our stories are.