Saturday, March 7th, 2015, the Knoxville Office of Neighborhoods will host The Neighborhood Conference at the Knoxville Convention Center. This event will bring together leaders and members of resident-led, resident-controlled neighborhood groups in the Knoxville area with government leadership and local nonprofits (including SOCM!) to explore ways to improve the health and vitality of Knoxville’s residential neighborhoods. The event will host information booths from a multitude of local groups, and will feature over 30 workshops for the public on topics ranging from grant writing to creative event making.
While SOCM is proud to be tabling an information booth for the conference, SOCM members are also making an impact by tabling at other information booths, attending the many workshops, and by serving as speakers for the workshops. One workshop in particular, ‘Workshop 3-B: New Neighbors, New Worlds,” explores the experiences and challenges of the thousands of new immigrants and refugees that have moved to Knoxville in recent years; one of SOCM’s own board members, Drocella Mugorewera, will be featured as one of the speakers during the workshop, focusing her attention on African immigrants and refugees living in Knoxville and East Tennessee.
Drocella has special insight into this topic, as a former member of the Parliament of Rwanda (in addition to several high-level government positions) who was forced to flee the country with her family before settling in Knoxville. “I’d like to share my experience and skills,” said Drocella, “and that’s why I accepted the invitation to speak at The Neighborhood Conference.”
Drocella believes that the ability of a community to organize itself hinges on that community’s cohesiveness, “I believe that without communion, there is no community, and vice versa,” she said. In her upcoming workshop, Drocella will narrow the focus to African immigrants. “Sometimes people do not know the culture of other countries or continents, so I’m mostly focused on African culture and what is the difference you see when you come here, what you are bringing, what you can integrate in daily life,” she said.
Drocella stresses that American values of openness and acceptance should inform how residents interpret the recent influx of immigrants to Knoxville. “America,” she said, “is the best and the biggest diverse country on earth, and American values like diversity, like prosperity, [they’re] very important. So everyone who is here is a good part of building this community. And we as immigrants, I think we have a chance to work with the residents and the American citizens to build this country, because it is also our country.”
“I think if we have sustainable neighborhoods, this is how we get sustainable counties, sustainable states, and a sustainable country” – Drocella Mugorewera
During her talk in the workshop, Drocella plans on pointing out reasons why people might immigrate to the U.S., the challenges to cultural integration immigrants face, and will present some strategies to help immigrants and refugees integrate into our communities.
Be sure to check out Drocella’s insightful and timely talk during Workshop 3-B: New Neighbors, New Worlds at The Neighborhood Conference this Saturday, March 7th, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm. Also, be sure to come by the SOCM information booth and grab some free SOCM merchandise. If you can’t make it to the conference, we will be live-tweeting it, so follow our Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.