Photos and Story by Sergio Pacheco/Contributing Writer
On Saturday, November 9, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) hosted its annual membership convention in the Miller Education Center. The non-profit organization had various informative sessions, food and performances.
The annual TIRRC convention is an event that not only provides useful and informative workshops, it also celebrates and highlights accomplishments that were achieved throughout the year. The program started with a plenary session where four panelists, Gabby Salinas, Joda Thongnopua, Mohamed Shiukri and Jazmin Ramirez answered general questions that the audience had. Panelists also shared their thoughts and ideas on how community members can build power in their communities, from organizing to electoral power.
For about an hour, six different skill building sessions were held on both the first and second floor of the building. One of the sessions, “We’re more than just immigrants,” focused on how to make the immigrant rights movement stronger by building solidarity across communities with different backgrounds.
Another session called “Organizing for Change” described how an organized community can build power through people based on five key factors: storytelling, building relationships, structuring teams, strategizing, and acting.
“At first I thought it was like a political movement, but today I realized that’s it’s more of supporting each other,” said Victoria Lopez, an alumna from MTSU. Lopez said, “I met this one girl, who lived back where my family’s from in Mexico. I also found out that she’s from Manchester – I was raised in Shelbyville – and she wants to kind of do a similar movement in her town, like I want to do in mine.”
The next set of sessions, which lasted from about 2:45 until 4 p.m., focused on campaigning. The “What’s next for Immigrant Youth” session, led by Anna Martinez and Jazmin Ramirez, managed to gather a lot of high school and college aged young adults, for obvious reasons. This session, like most of the other sessions, asked attendees to first introduce themselves and then break off into groups. The activity revolved around questions like what they would like to see more of in their community, projects and future goals they’d like to see in the year 2020, and some ideas that can encourage more people to be more involved. Each group had about twenty to twenty-five minutes to come up with ideas and then each group had the opportunity to present. Most of the groups had similar ideas such as getting more people to vote, increasing the number of youth leaders and providing better health education. Each session had two or more group leaders that introduced the session and then asked attendees what they knew about certain topics.
“This event is all about inclusion. We have the Somalian, Latinx and a few other communities gathered today to learn, but to also celebrate TIRRC’s accomplishments. It was due to their help that we managed to come this far and we plan on striving for a better future,” said Patrik Dash, the campaign organizer for TIRRC.
TIRRC currently operates out of Casa Azafran, which is home to various non-profits that offer services in education, legal and health care to immigrants, refugees and local communities. TIRRC plans on having their own building by summer of 2020 near Ezell Road and Antioch Pike.
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