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Children from 20 countries take oath to become U.S. citizens / San Antonio Express News

By | NEWS

Just before one of the biggest events of her young life, 6-year-old Olayinka Olayande waved a miniature American flag in the air Saturday like a conductor directing an orchestra.

The youngster and her family immigrated to San Antonio from London in 2011. Earlier Saturday, Olayinka nodded as her mother explained that she wouldn’t lose her Caribbean and Nigerian background and would receive a document that would declare her as a citizen of the United States of America.

“Especially coming from our own heritage means she now has opportunities that weren’t presented to us when we were her age,” Laseason Olayande said, her husband, Babatunde Olayande, at her side. “I think that’s paramount.”

Olayinka was one of 50 children from 20 countries who became U.S. citizens Saturday at the DoSeum, San Antonio’s children museum. The naturalization ceremony was the second collaboration between the DoSeum and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The ceremony was one of Saturday’s many events for DreamWeek, a citywide summit of events that aim to promote equality, tolerance and diversity, leading up to the city’s MLK March on Monday.

After the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, Senior Immigration Services Officer Juanita G. Reyes called each of the children’s names as they threaded their way through aisles to receive their certificates of citizenship. CIS branch chief Harvey B. Lugo handed the children their documents beneath an image of a large, American flag rippling in the wind, with the Statue of Liberty in the foreground.

Camera flashes and cellphone snapshots greeted San Antonio’s newest American citizens, who included the Martinez sisters — Lorena, 9, and Paola, 11 — born in Mexico.

They smiled as they showed their certificates to their parents, Enrique and Magda Martinez.

“They were waiting for this service a year ago,” Magda Martinez said.

Enrique Martinez said he and his wife were thrilled when they heard that their daughters could take part in the special naturalization ceremony.

“We felt with this citizenship, they can take advantage of the opportunities in the United States and Mexico,” he said. “They are very aware of the process because of my orientation to become a U.S. citizen. They were very excited to know they were going to become United States citizens.”

Shokare Nakpodia, founder of DreamWeek, said the young citizens fulfill the idea of America.

“What was actually done was to unite and strengthen families that have decided to make this their home,” Nakpodia said, “where they can flourish and bring all of their cultural talents. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Keynote speaker Shahrzad Dowlatshahi, the city’s chief of protocol, told the children about her own immigrant experience of being born in Iran and of having a mother from England and an Iranian father. She encouraged the children to embrace this special moment and to be proud of their roots.

“You are a window of the world for many of your friends at school,” Dowlatshahi said. “You know what the world looks like.”

After the ceremony, Ziyad Aljumaili, 40, told his 9-year-old son, Abdullah, how proud he was of his accomplishment.

Aljumaili, who worked with U.S. military forces in Iraq, said living in America had been his dream since he was a child. Now, he’s happy to share his dream with his son.

“He’s ready, he’s looking for a bright future,” Aljumaili said. “I want my sons to grow up in a safe environment.”

Children Celebrate Becoming U.S. Citizens at the DoSeum

By | NEWS

The United States of America became 52 citizens stronger Saturday, as children from around the world took the Oath of Allegiance in a naturalization ceremony at the DoSeum.

This is the second year the DoSeum has hosted the event as a part of DreamWeek. In a time of inflamed rhetoric about who does and does not belong in the U.S., the spirit in the room was celebratory and inclusive.

The ceremony at the DoSeum included children from Kenya, Malaysia, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Mexico, Bangladesh, and India.

As families arrived, a child ambassador greeted them with wristbands good for all-day access to the DoSeum. The children, ages 4-13, then began the final phase of what has now become a familiar part of process: waiting. 

Just a couple more hours of waiting, one more line, a few more signatures and Moustafa Altabokhi, 9, would be a U.S. citizen. Naturalization is a long process. After completing the required steps, Moustafa’s parents submitted his and his 12-year-old sister Miriam’s applications for citizenship on the same day. One year later, Moustafa was called in for the interview that would allow him to move his path to citizenship forward. Miriam is still waiting.

The siblings’ complicated journey began long before that: In 2009, their father was stabbed and left for dead on a trash heap in Baghdad. Their uncles were shot execution-style. Miriam still does not understand why.

San Antonio MLK March Celebrates 30th Anniversary / Texas Public Radio

By | NEWS

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of San Antonio’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. March. Billed as one of the nation’s largest MLK marches, some 300,000 residents and local dignitaries are expected to participate. Mayor Ivy Taylor will be in attendance as well as Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Rep. Will Hurd and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.

Events are scheduled through the weekend and next week but the march on Monday is the highlight.

The community is invited to begin the day with an 8 a.m. Early Morning Worship Program at the MLK Jr. Academy, where the march will begin at 10 a.m. Organized by the San Antonio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission and the City of San Antonio, the march ends about 3 miles away at Pittman-Sullivan Park in San Antonio’s historic  East Side.

Participants can catch a free bus ride from VIA Metropolitan Transit to the starting location. Following the march, the commission presents a commemorative program honoring Dr. King. This year, that program features a keynote address by award winning artist, activist and speaker David Banner. Gospel singer Keith Pringles and R&B artist Jidenna are also slated to perform as part of the event.

The commission will also present the Baha’I Unity Humanity Award and the Rev. R.A. Calloes Courage Award.

Find more events on the city’s calendar. Also DreamWeek San Antonio is hosting related events through Jan 21. The schedule is here.

Find more about the event here.

2017 DreamWeek highlights equality and diversity in San Antonio / La Prensa SA

By | NEWS

DreamWeek San Antonio kicked off last Friday morning with the help of Mayor Ivy Taylor, keynote speaker and pastor at Community Bible Church Dr. Ed Newton and a presentation by DreamVoice president Shokare Nakpodia. Together, they introduced a 16-day event that will foster tolerance, equality and diversity with the help of over 100 partners and hosts that are participating in the 2017 DreamWeek. This multicultural convergence of thought is designed to spread awareness, enlightenment and foster an exchange of ideas. Expanding on the success of previous years, DreamWeek will continue to keep with the spirit of inclusion featuring keynote speaking engagements, culinary galas, film screenings, art gallery exhibits, panel discussions and more. For Mayor Taylor, DreamWeek is an opportunity for locals to become educated of the importance and difference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made in America.

Weekend Fun: MLK March, San Antonio Cocktail Conference

By | NEWS

DR MARTIN LUTHER KING JUNIOR MARCH IN SAN ANTONIO

A three-day weekend is ahead of us! It culminates with an amazing happening on Monday! People of all ages and backgrounds will gather on the East side to be a part of the largest Dr Martin Luther King Junior March in the country. This year, marks a special milestone– the 30th anniversary!!!

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MLK MARCH DOCUMENTARY/FRIDAY NIGHT AT WATSON AUDITORIUM AT ST. PHILIP’S COLLEGE

In honor of 30th anniversary, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the parent company of News 4 San Antonio and Fox San Antonio has created an amazing film documentary highlighting the march and its history.

DREAM WEEK IN SA ACTIVITIES/DREAMWEEK.ORG

The weekend is also full of DreamWeek activities– from art parties and showcases, to live music, to a Taste of the Dream and to a Youth Empowerment Summit. You can find a full list of happenings on the DreamWeek website.

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SAN ANTONIO COCKTAIL CONFERENCE/NOW THROUGH MONDAY

THE San Antonio Cocktail Conference is underway in downtown San Antonio. From a Distillery tour, to tastings, to mixology classes and even a Stroll on Houston Street Saturday night to sample crafted cocktails and tasty food from downtown restaurants. There are dozens of events and classes from which to choose. All of this fun benefits Houston Street Charities that support children’s needs in our area. Uber is offering a discount for new riders just remember to use the “sacocktail” code.

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DreamWeek kicks off with messages of hope, understanding / NowcastSA

By | NEWS

Freezing (and in some cases, icy) weather did not dampen the spirits of more than 100 people who attended the DreamWeek San Antonio opening ceremony Jan. 6.

Gathered for a warm, freshly cooked breakfast at The Spire at Sunset Station, the attendees heard powerful words of hope, compassion and cultural diversity from guest speakers and organizers.

DreamWeek, which runs through Jan. 21, features more than 150 events citywide. Paying tribute to the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., these events promote the themes of understanding, peace, communication, education and tolerance.

DreamWeek San Antonio has grown in size in the last few years. As recently as 2013, the overarching event featured more than 30 events.

It now has more than 150 activities, ranging from film screenings and panel discussions to concerts and culinary festivities, with the MLK Jr. March – scheduled for Jan. 16 – being the centerpiece.

Jackie Gorman, executive director for San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), praised the San Antonio MLK Jr. Commission and other partner planning groups at the opening breakfast.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of giants. I’m excited about what God is going to do with this march,” Gorman said.

Mayor Ivy Taylor said, despite the recent political and cultural discord felt nationwide, it’s vital for communities to continue properly honoring the memory of King and his work.

“It’s entirely appropriate, especially in these days and times, that we would be reflecting on where we’ve come from and thinking about what work is necessary to bring Dr. King’s dreams alive,” she added.

Taylor said she feels Dr. King’s work is perhaps best reflected, locally, in how all people can be better connected to opportunities toward prosperity.

“Of course, you can’t be connected to opportunities for prosperity if you’re not treated with respect,” she added.

The mayor said instead of focusing on the things that divide Americans, people should concentrate on what brings everyone together.

She continued: “Even through we may feel challenged or concerned with what’s happening at the national level, we must focus specifically on San Antonio, on what our challenges are as a community and how we all can work together to bring that dream to life here.”

Ed Newton, the keynote speaker, is marking one year as lead pastor at Community Bible Church. He recalled growing up the son of deaf parents in subsidized housing.

Newton spoke of enduring adversity through his teenage years, including struggling to graduate high school and get into college.

But, as he put it, Newton found salvation with Christ. His grandmother scraped together enough money to help him start his college career, which culminated in his earning a doctorate.

Newton’s family of four now includes his Filipino wife, three daughters, and an adopted son originally from Nigeria. Newton said he often sees people in public staring at him and his family.

The adversity of his past, and the occasional racial misunderstandings he and his family face, help to shape his life and his message, Newton said.

Newton explained this adopted son, Lawson, has occasionally questioned why people see his family in a different way.

Newton said he once responded this way: “I said Lawson, i have hair, you have hair. I have a nose, you have a nose. I have ears, you have ears. I have knees, you have knees. We have a whole lot more in common than we do that’s different.”

Newton also recalled living in Memphis, Tennessee, where King was assassinated in April 1968. He showed a photo of his young son holding up a peace sign with his fingers from atop the very motel balcony where King was slain.

Newton said American society has made much progress from the turbulent civil rights era, but it has a ways to go.

“Dr. King, your dream came true, but this is not just about children (of different colors playing together),” he said. “The dream is that we live together and share lives together, and see each other as sons and daughters.”

Newton quoted King, “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Shokare Nakpodia, president of the nonprofit DreamVoice, highlighted some of the featured DreamWeek events that lie ahead. Those events include:

  • A screening of the documentary film “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema-Park North;
  • SA2020 impact report luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 12 at the Witte Museum;
  • SAGE’s Taste the Dream Gala 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Witte Museum;
  • Children’s naturalization ceremony 10 a.m.Jan. 14 at The Doseum;
  • Listas Para La Lucha/Ready for the Struggle conference (from Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 14 at San Antonio Mennonite Church, 1443 S. St. Mary’s St.
  • Voter registration 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at Pittman-Sullivan Park, co-presented by Neighborhoods First Alliance. Registration will be taking place before, during and after the MLK Jr. March, which ends at the park.

Shokare, among other speakers, encouraged attendees to make it to as many DreamWeek activities as possible.

“Let’s make it even bigger this year,” he added.

**Cover Image: The DreamWeek San Antonio opening ceremony kicked off during the early morning hours Jan. 6 at The Spire at Sunset Station. Photo by B. Kay Richter.

Glass Blowers Show Off Craft at DreamWeek / Spectrum News

By | NEWS

SAN ANTONIO – With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day about a week away, the DreamWeek summit celebrations continue throughout the Alamo City.

The January city-wide summit kicked off early Sunday with a Second Sunday Dream Day at Caliente Hot Glass Studio.

For two years, glassblowers have partnered with Dream Week to celebrate diversity and inclusion.

Guests inside the hot shop got a chance to understand what it takes to get a finished piece of art.

“You can’t do it by yourself. … You need to be a trustworthy, reliable of the team or otherwise known as you need to be good to others so that you can have the help of everyone. Synergistically, we’re all better than the sum of its parts,” said Glen Andrews, Caliente Hot Glass Studio.

More than a hundred events – including film screenings, art galleries, and concerts – will highlight ideas of tolerance, diversity, and equality during the 16 days of DreamWeek.

DreamWeek: A Time to Broaden MLK Jr.’s Vision / Rivard Report

By | NEWS

For the group assembled Friday morning on the Eastside, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality and tolerance has a broader reach than ever.

In the historic space that was once home to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, the oldest majority African-American congregation in the city, more than 100 local leaders kicked off DreamWeek, the annual citywide celebration of King’s legacy. Speaking at The Spire, keynote speaker Ed Newton said that King’s vision – especially in today’s increasingly diverse society – applies to all people, regardless of race, culture, religion, or socioeconomic status.

“Dr. Martin Luther King died for something that was significant,” said Newton, lead pastor of Community Bible Church. “It was more than just little white girls and little white boys playing with little African-American boys and girls. It was for the understanding that we will no longer be seen as multicolored, but as multicultural” in today’s global society, and that means respecting each other’s diverse viewpoints and beliefs.

Keeping that in mind is especially important in a city like San Antonio that is growing both in population and diversity.

San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, the city’s first black mayor, said that DreamWeek is “an extension” of King’s dream, and encourages the city to embrace his ideals and work toward tolerance, equality, and diversity.

“I think it’s entirely appropriate, especially in these days and times, that we be even more diligent in reflecting … and thinking about what work is necessary to bring Dr. King’s dream to life,” Taylor said. “In the past we’ve kind of scratched the surface … and now we really need to dig deep and delve into what that dream is really about … which is ensuring that each and every person is connected to opportunities and prosperity.”

San Antonio Celebrates DreamWeek 2017 / Spectrum News

By | NEWS

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — DreamWeek 2017 has kicked off, with a message to honor the past, take stock in the present, and present a vision for the future.

DreamVoice President and Founder Shokare Nakpodia said that organizers are hoping to allow people to vent a little bit.

For the fifth year, Dream Week in San Antonio will be a platform for self-expression, tolerance, diversity, and equality.

“The goal is really we just need to say, there shouldn’t be any surprises really if you listen to people,” Nakpodia said.

This year more than 160 events and panel discussions will tackle a wide variety of topics.

“Such as gun control, how people speak, talk about voting rights, obviously we still have issue of gender and religious rights as well,” Nakpodia said.

While discussions will focus on specific issues, the annual MLK march becomes a melting pot of cultures and mouth pieces for civil rights. Now in its 30th year, organizers are expecting the biggest turn-out to date.

“I hope that we can hit the 500,000 folk mark this year. We’re at about 350,000 which is still head and shoulders above every other march in the country,” said District 2 City Councilman Alan Warrick.

Dream Week events provide the platform and the MLK Junior Commission awards the tools for success. This year more than $400,000 in scholarship money will be given to local students.

“It’s really a great thing to see the city come together and focus on our young people because they are the future and they are Doctor King’s dream and Doctor King’s legacy,” Warrick said.

It’s through a legacy of peace and diversity that San Antonio reflects itself.

“We have very unique way of settling our conflicts with very little drama for a city this size,” said Nakpodia.

An inspiring discussion, an exchange of ideas, and igniting change in the city we call home.

–MORE INFORMATION:–

• For more information on DreamWeek: http://dreamweek.org/

• For more on the MLK March: https://www.sanantonio.gov/mlk/

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