ArtPlace America announced that Conexión Américas is one of 70 finalists for the 2017 National Creative Placemaking Fund (NCPF).  ArtPlace selected these 70 proposals from 987 applications, making Conexión Américas’ project one of just 7% of the projects across the country to make this cut.

ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund is a highly competitive national program, receiving 987 applications this year. Investing money in communities across the country in which artists, arts organizations, and arts and culture activity help drive community development change across 10 sectors of community planning and development: agriculture and food; economic development; education and youth; environment and energy; health; housing; immigration; public safety; transportation; or workforce development.  

Conexión Américas has proposed to work with a coalition of organization’s to implement culturally relevant artistic projects and “complete streets” designs along the Nolensville Pike corridor to improve safety and build civic pride. These artistic interventions were developed with community input during the Envision Nolensville Pike process, a year-long, arts-based community planning process, which relied on drawing, model building, storytelling and prototype building to bridge cultural divides.

With ArtPlace’s support, our coalition will address Nolensville Pike’s problems while protecting what we love in order to create the community we envision: one that is reflective of the vibrant residents that live here, one that is safe and healthy, one that encourages the creative expressions of its residents and one that is empowered to advocate and implement change for years to come,” said Renata Soto, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Conexión Américas.

“The National Grants Program is actively building a portfolio that reflects the full breadth of our country’s arts and cultural sector, as well as the community planning and development field,” said ArtPlace’s Director of National Grantmaking F. Javier Torres.  Knowing that these projects, and the hundreds of others who applied, are using arts and culture strategies to make the communities across this country healthier and stronger is inspirational

“We believe that these projects, when added to our tremendously strong portfolio of demonstration projects, will inspire, equip and connect members of the arts and culture field, the community planning and development field and those who are working to make healthy and equitable communities creatively across the country,” said ArtPlace America Executive Director Jamie Bennett.

The complete list of the 2017 applicants for ArtPlace’s National Creative Placemaking Fund may be found here.

Date posted: June 12, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

NASHVILLE, TN. – Conexión Américas and Transportation for America presented their report “Envision Nolensville Pike II: Recommendations for achieving inclusive development” a study detailing recommendations to mitigate involuntary displacement of existing residents and small businesses along the Nolensville Pike corridor. The study, funded by the Convergence Partnership, lists a suite of tools that Metro Nashville decision-makers may use to make the busy corridor safer for everyone and improve the economic prospects of the area while avoiding displacement.

“We do want improved crosswalks and better transportation options, we just need to make sure residents and businesses already here have the capacity to remain, thrive and enjoy the advancements that come with development,” said Renata Soto, co-founder and executive director of Conexión Américas.

Conexión Américas co-founder and executive director, Renata Soto, presents the report’s recommendations to a full house at the Salahadeen Center

Home to many immigrant-owned businesses, the Nolensville Pike corridor is one of the most diverse areas in Nashville and is the anchor of one of the nation’s fastest growing immigrant communities. These prosperous small businesses meet the demand for products and services that large, national chains cannot provide. However, given its location just a few miles outside of downtown, the Nolensville Pike corridor is poised to experience the pressures of redevelopment and associated displacement. The most effective time to put proactive growth management policies into place is now.

The recommendations include creating a Nolensville Pike business alliance, improving the collection and availability of data about the corridor, developing pathways for business owners to purchase commercial property and increasing production of affordable homes.

In remarks at the Salahadeen Center, Mayor Megan Barry outlined the steps her administration is taking to ensure continued prosperity along the corridor, and welcomed the recommendations in the report.

“We look forward to using it as a roadmap as we go forward,” said Mayor Barry, “and working closely with this community to find new ways that we can make sure this corridor continues to thrive and grow.”

Mayor Megan Barry addresses attendees at the Salahadeen Center

Preserving the unique identity of the area and avoiding the displacement of its businesses and its residents will require a coordinated approach by the Mayor’s office, Metro Nashville agencies (e.g., Metro Planning Departments, Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority), the Nashville Area MPO, nonprofits and private sector entities including community organizations and foundations. This study encourages Metro agencies to use the provided proactive measures to inform policy decisions as the Nolensville Pike corridor continues to develop.

The full report can be accessed here.

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About Conexión Américas

Conexión Américas is a Nashville-based nonprofit organization established in 2002. Its mission is to build a welcoming community and create opportunities where Latino families can belong, contribute and succeed. Every year, we assist more than 6,000 individuals and their families in their desire to start businesses, buy homes, improve their English, help their children succeed in school and go to college, and become an integral part of Nashville’s social, cultural and economic vitality. Conexión Américas is the lead partner of Casa Azafrán, a nonprofit collaborative at the gateway to Nashville’s International District that is home to Conexión Américas and nine partners. To learn more, visit www.conexionamericas.org.

About Transportation for America

Transportation for America is an alliance of elected, business and civic leaders from communities across the country, united to ensure that states and the federal government step up to invest in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions — because these are the investments that hold the key to our future economic prosperity. To learn more, visit: www.transportation4america.org.

Date posted: May 23, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Access to an affordable college education for all of Tennessee’s students is key to securing the future economic prosperity of our state. Today, the Tennessee State Legislature failed to advance a bill that would have broken down the barrier that so many undocumented students face in their decision to go to college — paying out-of-state tuition rates no matter how long they’ve called Tennessee home. The measure, supported by Governor Bill Haslam and countless higher education officials, would have given undocumented students a chance to attend college and pay the same price as the peers they graduated with.

“Today we had the difficult task of letting students in our Escalera college prep program know that the state they’ve lived in for most of their lives has yet again denied them an opportunity for equal access to higher education,” said Karla Coleman Garcia, Conexión Américas’ Policy Manager.

Without equal access, Tennessee loses thousands of promising students who are ready to contribute in fields like medicine, engineering and education, and will fall short of its Drive to 55 goal.

Thank you to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition for spearheading the Tuition Opportunity campaign and empowering hundreds of students to become civically engaged. We will keep advocating for all Tennesseans’ right to an affordable education.

Date posted: April 11, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

Many said he wouldn’t do it, that candidate Trump’s pledge to deport millions of undocumented immigrants was just a campaign slogan. But you’ve heard the news this week: the Trump administration has outlined the federal government’s plan to do exactly that.

Here’s a quick read explaining the new policies. But read it later. Please stay with me for now:

No reporter or policy wonk can tell you about the real effects of the new immigration policies in the lives of real people right here in Nashville like Karla Ruiz can. Families like hers are already bearing the full brunt of Trump’s indiscriminate deportation plan.

Just a few weeks ago, we were encouraging and coaching Karla to take that giant step of leaving our culinary incubator to open her own restaurant. We had even been scouting a couple of promising locations with her.

As you saw in the video, now, our conversations have changed from aspirations and dreams to dashed hopes and fear of what may come. Now we talk about making sure she is prepared for the worst and has a Family Plan in case she is detained and deported.

That’s what we’ve been working on around the clock lately: the Protecting Our Families initiative to make sure families like Karla’s have individualized help to make a Family Plan and assist them in compiling, translating and notarizing the mindboggling list of essential documents. We are also educating families about their rights, about avoiding fraud from unscrupulous businesses that prey on vulnerable people, and about taking care of their mental health in these stressful, trying times.

We are working harder than ever. But the new reality clearly demands additional human capacity and resources. Many volunteers have already responded to our call for help, and we are beyond grateful.

What else do we need?

•At Conexión Américas, we need more staff time to reach more families with one-on-one support to help them prepare a Family Plan to ensure children are taken care of in case their parents are detained and deported.

•Our partners at Family & Children’s Service need an additional bicultural counselor here at Casa Azafrán to respond to the increased anxiety and depression among children and adults created by the current environment of fear.

We need your help protecting our families.

We need to raise $100,000 for Conexión Américas and Family & Children’s Service to be able to expand our capacity as soon as possible.

I know we have asked for your support already. And you may have sent us a generous contribution recently. I wouldn’t be asking for your support at this time if the need in front of us weren’t that great, uprecedented and challenging.

Please consider a monthly recurring contribution. Donate here.

Thank you in advance for supporting our families. Please keep raising your heart and raising your voice to keep families together and to fulfill the promise of an #INDIVISIBLE nation that celebrates the roots and possibilities of all its people.

Sincerely,

Renata Soto

Co-founder and Executive Director

P.S. Karla is one story among too many of people living in extreme fear and putting their dreams on hold. Please join our #INDIVISIBLE campaign, if you haven’t already, and contact US Senators Alexander and Corker and your US representative and ask them to stand for humane, common sense immigration policies that truly fix our broken immigration system. Please consider donating today so Conexión Américas and Family & Children’s Service have the resources to support families who need us now more than ever.

Date posted: February 24, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

img_7632-1 Today, Conexión Américas’ INDIVISIBLE campaign welcomed Representative Jim Cooper at Casa Azafrán to hand deliver the over 300 postcards written by Nashvillians at INDIVISIBLE events since the November election.

At the event, Rep. Cooper graciously accepted the postcards and spoke to a group of about 40 Nashvillians who showcase the diversity this city has to offer. Rep. Cooper listened to the unique stories of immigrant high school students from John Overton and Antioch High Schools as well as local college students and DACA recipients. Also in attendance were Rashed Fakhruddin, president of the Islamic Center of Nashville, Lisa Howe, CEO of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Michael Spalding, President of Equal Chance for Education and Zulfat Suara of the American Muslim Advisory Council.

Trevecca Nazarene freshman, DACA recipient and Equal Chance for Education scholar Guadalupe Gamino presented her postcard to Congressman Cooper. Equal Chance for Education provides scholarships for students who are not eligible for student loans and financial aid because of their legal status. With the help of a scholarship from ECE, Gamino is studying international business at Trevecca and pursuing her American dream.

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“I have lived in the United States since I was seven months old. Nashville is my home and I hope that you stand and support my dream of finishing my college education and being able to put my degree to use.” Gamino said.

In response, Rep. Cooper stated that these personal stories mattered. He pointed out that Nashville’s thriving economy relies on the talented and capable young people like Gamino. During his remarks to the audience, Cooper emphasized the importance of maintaining a welcoming community here in Nashville.

“One of Nashville’s greatest strengths is that we’re hospitable, we’re nice, we get along with each other,” said Cooper.

At the end, Karla Ruiz, of Karla’s Catering, presented Rep. Cooper with a box of heart shaped chocolates. Ruiz, an immigrant entrepreneur who works out of Conexión Américas’ Mesa Komal Kitchen shared her story and her love of this country.

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“America is great because its people are great,” Ruiz said as she handed the chocolates to Cooper.

Conexión Américas’ INDIVISIBLE campaign is still planning to deliver postcards to Senators Alexander and Corker personally as well, whether that means traveling to Chattanooga or Washington, D.C.

If you’d like to write your own, stop by our offices at Casa Azafrán on Friday, February 10 from 8:30am – 7:00pm for our Valentine open house. Buy Karla’s delicious chocolates, take your picture for our Raise Your Heart mural and Raise Your Voice by writing a postcard to our elected officials.

Date posted: February 9, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The executive orders signed by President Trump today, and those expected tomorrow, hurt public safety and the fabric of our communities.

Instead of building walls and closing the door to people escaping extreme violence, war and poverty, the new administration should be working to ensure the United States continues to be a beacon of hope. Instead of bringing back failed policies like Secure Communities, which led to racial profiling, families living in fear, increased distrust of law enforcement and devastating separation of families, the President should work with the congress to pass humane, common-sense solutions to our broken immigration system.

Nashville is a more vibrant city today thanks, in no small part, to the energy brought by thousands of refugees and immigrants who have found here a new community where to invest their entrepreneurial spirit, where to pursue their American Dream, where to put down roots and call home.

We applaud Mayor Megan Barry’s stated commitment to remaining a welcoming city and assuring our immigrant community that she will do all she can to protect us. As Mayor Barry said, “Nashville is stronger and safer when we are a warm and welcoming place for all. While we cannot control border policies here in Nashville, we can pull together as a city by embracing the immigrants and refugees who are an integral part of our community.”

It is time to raise our hearts and our voices.

Please call or write Senators Alexander and Corker and your US Representative and say:

“We need solutions, not fear mongering and discrimination against immigrants and refugees. Thank you for supporting comprehensive immigration reform in the past — we need your leadership now to find real solutions and make sure the United States remains a beacon of hope for those escaping extreme violence, war and poverty.”

Senator Corker: 202.224.4944

Senator Alexander: 202.224.4344

Find your Representative here:http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Thanks in advance for raising your voice to uphold the promise of an INDIVISIBLE nation.

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Date posted: January 26, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The HCA Foundation has pledged a challenge grant of $200,000 for Azafrán Park. If you support the park today, every dollar you give is doubled thanks to the generosity of this grant.

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Today, our kids at the Casa Azafrán Early Learning Center got a sneak peek of Azafrán Park–their future playground. Architects from Hastings Architecture Associates, LLC and Tara Armistead of Tara Armistead Landscape Architecture showcased the design plans for Azafrán Park.

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Just like our beloved Casa Azafrán, this park’s importance goes far beyond bricks and mortar.

The park will be a long lasting legacy to the infrastructure and social fabric of a neighborhood that lacks open green spaces. It is a community building opportunity to bring Nashvillians of diverse backgrounds together to build not only a park, but new connections, friendships, shared memories and a sense of collective pride.

Now more than ever we need beautiful, inviting shared civic spaces that bring us closer to our neighbors, to nature, to art, to each other.

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A few weeks ago we received a message that boosted our commitment to get the park done: The HCA Foundation pledged a challenge grant of $200,000 for the future Azafrán Park. And we hope you help us earn it. If you support us today, every dollar you give is doubled thanks to the generosity of this grant. Will you help us make the park possible?

Azafrán Park represents our commitment to creating welcoming spaces. Please contribute to Azafrán Park today and your support will be matched dollar per dollar!

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We thank Metro Parks and Recreation, Tara Armistead Landscape Architecture, Hastings Architecture Associates, LLC, SKANSKA for their partnership. We are also grateful to Rotary Club of Nashville, the Joe C. Davis Foundation, The Maddox Charitable Trust, LP Foundation, Dr. and Mrs. Tommy Frist and other individuals for their financial support for Azafrán Park.

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Date posted: December 15, 2016

Categories: News

Casa Azafrán was abuzz with holiday cheer last Saturday for the annual Holiday Bazar supporting our immigrant entrepreneurs. While shoppers bought art, crafts and hand crafted food they also showed their support for a welcoming community through our INDIVISIBLE campaign.

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At the Raise your Heart booth, we captured photos of Tennesseans who believe in the promise of an INDIVISIBLE nation that celebrates the roots and possibilities of all its people. These photos now make up a mural at Casa Azafrán sharing messages of support and unity with those who come to Casa Azafrán to learn English, start a business, pay taxes, take a dance class or find legal help. See the album here.

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In our staff kitchen the Raise your Voice tables were packed all day with Tennesseans writing postcards to our elected officials encouraging them to keep Tennessee welcoming and support immigration reform. Here are a few of the messages they shared:

“We are all Nashvillians and we are all Americans. That is what makes us the greatest country in the world.”

“Immigrants made this country great, and they continue to…”

“I am the descendant of Italian immigrants who came here 100 years ago.
Let’s not forget our roots.”

“As an immigrant to the U.S. during the Cold War, I understand what it is like to find sanctuary in the U.S.”

“Never lose sight of the melting pot we call America.”

A big gracias to the entrepreneurs who brought their handcrafted goods, delicious food and beautiful art. The businesses represent immigrant and local Nashvillian entrepreneurs who have participated in our micro-enterprise programs and culinary incubator. We invite you to support these entrepreneurs throughout the year!

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Calipso Designs | Maria 615-594-0223

Churro Queen | Brenda 615-406-7238

Daddy Bob’s Pimento Cheese

Delicias Colombianas RR

Desserts by Mo | Monet 615-498-5869

Dos Fridas Coffee & Art

Fernando Vargas

Folklore “Viva la Vida”

Hummus Chick

Jairo Prado Studio

La Super Michoacana

Little Gourmand 

María Arias Detalles y Buen Gusto

Mat’s Design Email

Nelly’s Sweets

Neta’s Hair Care

Parnassus Books (supporter)

Prohibition Popcorn

Que Delicias Colombianas

Soberdough

Sweet Tables Email

Your Tour Guide to Cuba

*A special gracias to Caitlin Mello for sharing many of these photos.

Have you joined #indivisible? Raise your heart and raise your voice for a welcoming community. Events and volunteer opportunities coming up!

Date posted: December 14, 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

As part of the annual Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration, high school students from Middle Tennessee were invited to participate in an essay and multimedia contest for young Latino writers.

The purpose of this contest is to listen to the voices of young people reflecting on the theme “My Hispanic Roots, My American Dream.”

We would like to thank the  teachers of Metro Nashville Public Schools for encouraging their students to submit essays and multimedia projects, and for all they do to celebrate our roots. We would like to give special recognition to Sra. Solveig Novelo of Hunters Lane High School, Anne Moctezuma-Baker at Martin Luther King Jr Magnet High School, Mrs. Guzman Ardon at Antioch High School, Mrs. Robinson at John Overton High School, Mr. Thorps of Cane Ridge High School, who all had students submit essays.

Our winner of the contest and a new laptop computer (to write those college essays!) was:

Amy Guerrero Hernandez Martin Luther King Jr Academic Magnet High School

A short excerpt of Amy’s essay:

My American Dream is not to have a decent home and provide for my family through hard work and dedication; my parents have already achieved that for me and have shown me it is possible, that the Dream can become a reality. My Mexican­American Dream has always been to inform people around me about the importance of their voice and individuality, whether it is during an election season or in class to educate a peer about the dangers of their ignorance.

These essays also stood out with their poetic and powerful messages and were chosen as finalists. Click on each name to read that student’s essay.

Ana Flavia Negrín Yerena Martin Luther King Jr Academic Magnet High School

Brayan Hernandez, Antioch High School

Adriana Elias, Antioch High school

 

 

Date posted: October 15, 2016

Categories: Uncategorized