| By Mandy McLaren and Sara Wise |
The worshippers arrived in their Sunday best. Bibles were readied, children were shushed, and, with the beat of an African drum, Easter services began.
The congregation alternated easily between bowed prayer and risen song, as the sounds of Dinka – the language of South Sudan’s largest ethnic tribe – resonated in the eaves of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where prayers had echoed in English just hours before.
The more than two-dozen South Sudanese seated among the church pews hold this time together sacred. They gather weekly at St. Paul’s in Alexandria. There, they reconnect to a place their hearts never left.
Just six years ago, South Sudan gained its independence. Many refugees here and across the U.S. believed a long-awaited return home was finally in reach.
“When you get that country you’ve been waiting for for years, it’s an unimaginable feeling,” said Chol Isaac Achuil, 36, one of the nearly 4,000 South Sudanese refugees resettled across the U.S. in the early 2000s. Known internationally as the “lost boys of Sudan,” many earned college degrees at American universities, intent on one day rebuilding their country.
Juan Cortes, Youth Program Coordinator. Photos provided by CASA.
| By Ana Tarlas and Aya Elamroussi |
Javier Luna came to the U.S. from Peru when he was 24 years old in 1998. The economy was good, the job market was plentiful and American society was enthralled by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Luna lived in the U.S. through the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the 2008 financial crisis and Donald Trump’s shocking presidential win. He considers the U.S. his home.
“Once I touch American soil, I feel home,” Javier said. “I feel safe. This is my home. I live here. I vote. I pay my taxes. I love this country.”
Luna is a community organizer for Central American Solidarity Association, or CASA. It is non-profit organization in Langley Park, Md. that specializes in empowering immigrants and providing numerous services to the immigrant community at large. Most CASA consumers are from Latin America, speak little English and come from a low-income background.
With 70 percent of its residents foreign-born principally in Central America, Langley Park is the heart of the Latino immigrant community in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.
Popping the Gallaudet bubble: Deaf students balance interaction with a changing, predominantly hearing neighborhood
| Story by Shaun Courtney |
| Multimedia by Josephine Peterson |
The sound waves reverberate in the chest, with a rhythmic “thump, thump, thump.”
Deaf or hearing, passersby feel the police cruiser before they see it speeding, lights flashing, along Florida Avenue Northeast near Gallaudet University. It is hard to ignore. The rumbler siren, often a tool for grabbing the attention of distracted drivers, is used in this neighborhood to alert Gallaudet’s 1,900 deaf and hard-of-hearing students of an approaching police car.
Gallaudet University’s 99-acre campus in Northeast Washington is surrounded by a tall black wrought-iron fence that, from the outside, looks imposing. From inside, the barrier makes the campus feel comfortably sequestered from the hustle of Washington. In recent years, nearby neighborhoods of H Street, NoMa and Union Market right next door have brought an influx of mostly hearing people with new development around the campus.
Many members of the university community expressed complicated feelings about what the shifting world beyond Gallaudet’s gates means for the university. There is excitement about more buildings with deaf-friendly architecture and the possibility of a community where more people speak American Sign Language ASL, even if they are not deaf or hard-of-hearing. But what if the hearing community’s increased presence diminishes the unique ASL culture of the campus?
| By Patricia Torres and Samannaz Rohanimanesh |
In her traditional maroon dress with gold sequins, Vijay Kushawaha dances to the drums of Indian music with two smiling little girls alongside her. Kushawaha, a volunteer and worshipper, is one of a few hundred people who is clapping and dancing along to the music on the fifth day of Navratri, a nine-day celebration of the Hindu goddesses.
Besides the music, a stream of people walk down the Hindu temple’s aisle, surrounded by dozens of gods. When they reach the altar, they kneel down to pay respect to Vishnu, Lakshmi and Saraswati, three of the main gods in the Hindu religion.
“Everybody is like a family here and we want everyone to come here and feel at home,” Kushawaha said. “It is a place of peace, a place where you share your happiness, your sorrow, your good times and bad times.”
As one of the first Hindu temples in the DMV area, the Hindu Temple of Metropolitan Washington has been a place of worship since 1988. The temple has been an integral part of the community, and has grown over the years, as the Hindu population has increased.
|By Alejandra Wasem|
Niciera Armor was starting to take her classes more seriously. That was her “rose.” But she was also letting little things get to her, which stoked her anger and drove her to fight to control her anger. That was her “thorn.”
Armor shared her week’s highlights and struggles with a group of 12 other girls at Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School in Northeast D.C. during a recent meeting in April.
The group, known as H.E.R. Story, is an after-school club where girls meet once a week to discuss how they are feeling, how they are doing in school and how things are going at home. They sometimes study together, plan community service events and share snacks and juice.
For a growing and acculturated immigrant community, the entire D.C. Metro area has become ‘Little Ethiopia’
For many college students, the neighborhood of Adams Morgan may conjure images of bars, tattoo parlors and quaint coffee shops. But for the members of the Ethiopian community, this neighborhood is home. A walk down 18th Street Northwest still reveals these smells and sights, a hint of spices, an array of colors – and a community of people committed to sharing and embracing their culture.
Merchaw Senshaw is part of that community. Senshaw, the owner of Quara, an Ethiopian restaurant in the area, said the United States has been home to him for the last 20 years. He has found the Adams Morgan community to be welcoming and friendly. But Senshaw’s move to open a restaurant in Adams Morgan actually came out of a challenging situation.
Senshaw came to the United States on the recommendation of a friend, but, in 2008, that same friend had to shut down his restaurant in Adams Morgan as a result of the recession and increased rents in the area. This wasn’t the only closure to happen in Adams Morgan during the financial crisis. Adams Morgan lost several other Ethiopian restaurants, inspiring Senshaw to fill the void with his own establishment.
| By Taylor Hartz |
When the school bells ring in Anacostia, hundreds of kids pour out from playgrounds and school yards and onto the cracking sidewalks. A sea of school uniforms creates an echo of giggles and shouts down Martin Luther King Ave., in the heart of one of Washington’s poorest wards.
Instead of heading toward their homes, most of the children file into various buildings along the avenue that offer after school services ranging from playtime to tutoring. With over 80 percent of households being led by single mothers, there is often no one home at the end of the school day, nor any extra funds for private daycare.
Although Wards 7 and 8 contain less than half the number of businesses and non-profits as D.C.’s other wards, there is no shortage of space for kids after school.
Whether they need help with homework, a snack to tide them over until dinner, or simply someone to keep an eye on them, volunteers and non-profit staff spend hours each afternoon making sure no child heads home to an empty house or on an empty stomach.
The political right has bemoaned the United States’ shifting racial demographics. But does this change really hurt the nation? I asked citizens in the diverse community of Langley Park, Md., to weigh in.
| By Evan J. Pretzer |
From 2009-2017, LGBT people won the right to marry their partners, the restrictions on women serving in front line combat were overturned and, for the first time ever, non-white births began to outnumber those of their Caucasian peers. To many U.S. conservatives, this statistic and the trend towards greater diversity that it represents threatens a core sense of “American” identity they fear will be lost.
On election night 2012, then Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly declared that the “white establishment” was now a minority. In 2014, former Republican Rep. Allen West, himself African-American, warned that the Coca-Cola Co.’s Super Bowl that depicted a diverse cast singing “America the Beautiful” in English and Spanish would send us all down the fiery road to hell.
And earlier this year, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa posted on that we couldn’t restore our civilization with “someone else’s babies.” He later doubled down on these remarks and stated in an interview with CNN that he meant exactly what he tweeted out to the world.