Thank you for the March 16th cover story about refugees living in Memphis ("Invisible People"). I work with a non-government organization that assists Burmese refugees living in Thailand, many of whom wait anxiously to be resettled in various countries. Faced with little hope of returning to their communities of origin, many refugees have few options and remain indefinitely as stateless visitors in a refugee camp or resettle to a third country with enough resources to build a better life.
As Ms. Phillips reported, federal resources are often not enough for refugees to adjust to life in America. Some refugees receive vocational training before arriving, but these skills are often not sufficient to hold jobs in countries of resettlement -- nor do the skills carry much weight in countries where they cannot speak the language.
I applaud the services provided by ACC, Rhodes College, and United Methodist Neighborhood Center. I hope that other community-based organizations, academic institutions, and faith-based groups will reach out to these new members of our community. Mr. Atem and Ms. Lomo offer clear examples of the contributions that refugees want to make as productive members of society. The least we can do is help build their capacity to do so.
Editor's note: In response to readers who asked for information about assisting Memphis immigrants: To help with tutoring and English as a second language, contact the International Coalition for Refugee Women and Children at 323-4993 (firstname.lastname@example.org). To volunteer with Associated Catholic Charities, contact Fatemeh Yazdi at 722-4773.
Sent by God
I must agree with Ophelia Ford that she is sent by God (Editor's Letter, March 16th issue). Just as beauty requires ugliness, truth requires deceit, etc., so apparently does good, honest, and responsible government require the Ford family (among others).
But if the people of District 29, the Democratic Party, Memphis, Shelby County, and Tennessee will not, or cannot, admit what an utter Third World farce her election was, then they too reject any semblance of integrity and responsibility in the election process.
Herbert E. Kook Jr.
Some movies have an impact far beyond their initial box-office numbers. One such movie is Hustle & Flow. It is not a movie that can be easily dismissed.
Rock-and-roll started here, and the economic avalanche that was created on Union Avenue by Elvis and Sam Phillips is still bearing fruit today. There were a lot of critics then, as there are now. But no one ever builds a statue to a critic. The song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" has everything to do with the theme of the movie, which is not about endorsing the gangster lifestyle. It is just the reverse. It's about a guy trying to get out from under his history and finding another way to make a living. The only experience he has is his past, which includes pimping.
The song was his truth. And truth is not a bad thing, even if the message is uncomfortable. If you can get past your biases and preconceived notions about righteous behavior, then it becomes an enjoyable movie with a song that brings it all together as a whole.
Joe M. SpitzerMemphis
March 16th marked the third anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist who was deliberately run over by an Israeli military bulldozer. Eye-witnesses confirmed that Rachel, with her bullhorn and red fluorescent jacket, was completely visible to the bulldozer driver as he charged toward her with a pile of debris, crushing her, then running back over her again as she attempted to protest the demolition of the home of a Palestinian doctor. Yet, despite eye-witness testimony and pressure by human rights groups, the U.S. refuses to conduct an independent investigation into Rachel's murder and has accepted the official Israeli allegation that it was an accident.
Sadly, Rachel's experience is not unique. Just as the U.S. government rightly joins the world community in condemning Palestinian terrorism, it should also join the world community in condemning Israel's brutal military occupation and the atrocities perpetuated by it. Peace is only possible through justice, and justice lies in the international consensus: ending Israel's occupation of the West Bank.
We have to finish Rachel's conscientious peace work.