One Voice Celebration

"One Voice Event A Success and With Communities Celebrating Shared Values & Diversity in Brighton and Hove"

 Communities came together as ‘One Voice’ on May 21st and with local authority councillors and the Leader of the Council, Cllr Warren Morgan, re-iterating the importance of cohesion in the City.

The One Voice event also brought together community groups, civil society actors and charitable organisations who showcased their work and speeches were from faith, cultural and activist groups who confirmed the need for communities to celebrate shared values and to counter intolerance, bigotry and extremism.

Speaking about the event, key community activists stated the following:

 Mohammed Asaduzzaman, of Brighton Bangla and a member of the Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership (BMECP) said:

“It is essential to ensure the harmonious interaction of groups with various cultural identities and to celebrate their willingness and desire to live together. This is what the One Voice programme does. This is why we must also maintain policies for the inclusion and participation of all citizens since they are guarantees of social cohesion.”

 Sally Polanski, the Chief Executive of Brighton and Hove Community Works said:

“Faith groups play a significant role in the Brighton and Hove Community and we are pleased to be working to build relationships in the sector. We look forward to taking part in the One Voice event and celebrating the diversity of Brighton and Hove with friends and colleagues across the city.”

 Dr Maria Antoniou, the Interim Director at the Brighton and Hove LGBT switchboard stated:

“I'm very pleased that BME, faith and LGBT organisations are coming together to challenge discrimination and hate crimes. Having 'One Voice' really does make us stronger."

 Khadija Kamara, founder of the local Brighton based Siwa charity and mother of the late Ibrahim Kamara said:

“One Voice is a programme that we should all engage with. It brings communities together and gives us the ability to discuss issues around the protection of young people from issues such as extremism. These are small but important steps in also tackling grievances, racism and hate.”

 

Lynn Ruth Miller, know for her comedy, cabaret and storytelling skills came along to One Voice to share a story about her life. We thought it would be nice to record the story here:

THE MELTING POT

1134 words

by

LYNN RUTH MILLER

My mother's family came to Toledo, Ohio from Yasse, Rumania in 1900.  My grandma had lived in a hut with a dirt floor and you can imagine how thrilled she was when my grandpa presented her with the white frame house he had built for her.  It had wooden floors, a big front porch with a glider and a real ice box in the kitchen.  My grandma bought her groceries in shops run by immigrants like herself and spent the rest of the day keeping house.  She spoke Yiddish and that's the language my mother learned.

When my mama entered kindergarten, my grandma bundled her into thick woolen underwear that rumpled around her ankles and a loose dress with a bow at the back.  Her hair was combed into long curls tied with a huge ribbon. She smiled at her new teacher and greeted her in Yiddish.

In those days, teachers made no effort to understand the language of the immigrant children who entered their classrooms.  It was the child's responsibility to speak the national language.  No one encouraged my mother to be proud of her ethnic heritage.  Instead, she felt ignorant and confused.  And so the worst happened.  My mother flunked kindergarten.

Her shame was immense.  Somehow, she managed to master the language enough to pass the first grade and by the time she was a teenager, she dressed like everyone else in her class and there wasn't a trace of the old country in her words.  Still, she was humiliated by the different way her family lived and the strange foods they ate.  She swore that when she had a child, that child would look like children in the magazines she read and it would speak faultless English.  It would eat the American Way.  No spicy Eastern European stews drenched in chicken fat and reeking of garlic.  Her child would go to bed at seven and lunch on tuna fish and mayonnaise, because she was American. 

I was that child. My mother dressed me in starched Shirley Temple dresses and polished Mary Jane shoes.  I wore slender leggings and a fitted navy blue coat with a white velvet collar to protect me from the elements.

The finishing touch to my outfit was a classy little hat with a white feather that bobbed as I walked. . . a far cry from rumpled woolen underwear and that shapeless dress that hung in uneven lengths somewhere in the vicinity of my mother's knees.

I drank orange juice for breakfast and finished my homogenized milk at every meal.  I ate my salads on a separate plate and could not touch dessert until I finished my vegetables. I was not allowed to lisp or slur my words.  I never heard baby talk and I certainly never heard Yiddish . . .except at my grandma's house.

When I was three years old, my parents took a month's vacation in Miami Beach.  They left me with my grandma. I adored my bubbie.  That was what I called her in my perfect American diction. She called me Leenie Root.

The minute my Mama kissed me good by, my grandmother took me into the house and opened up the trunk where she kept my mother's old clothes. She swaddled me in my mother's woolen underwear and topped it with a pink, shapeless dress that had patches at the elbow and hole right near the hem.  I thought it was beautiful because it smelled like my bubbie to me.  My grandma folded up my Shirley Temple dress and wrapped it in mothballs.  "It's too cold to wear such a t'ing in vinter,"she said.  "Now, come.  I will comb your hair."

She stood me on a chair next to the sink and formed long curls on my head with a wet comb.  She tied them back with a great big ribbon and showed me my reflection in her hand mirror.  I was thrilled.  I looked just like the picture on the mantle of my mama and all my aunts.

How can I ever describe the magic of that month? I woke up each morning to a breakfast of hot oatmeal smothered in sweet butter and syrup and then downed a large cup of baby coffee (1% coffee, 99% milk.) At lunch I ate corned beef or pickled herring with raw onions. I smelled just like my mama did before she left home and learned about halitosis.

Every afternoon, my grandma told me stories about my mama and her three sisters.  After dinner, she scooped me up on her lap and we practiced a special American surprise for my mother.

On the day my parents returned, Mama ran up the steps of her childhood home with her arms outspread.  "Lynnie!" she cried.

I looked at the tanned stranger who smelled of expensive perfume and I shrunk behind by bubbie's skirt.  "Who's dat?" I whispered.

My mother looked at me and tried to hide her horror.  I stood before her, my rumpled underwear sagging around my ankles, my muslin dress stained with mustard and hot pastrami.  My hair was pulled back in long curls.  I smelled like a delicatessen and I looked exactly like she did when she was that tormented child frightened by a hostile, new world.

My grandma patted me on the cheek and said.  "Sing, Leenie Root.  Sing for you mama."

I knew exactly what to do.  Hadn't we rehearsed this little routine every evening for a month?  I threw back my shoulders, opened my mouth wide and  I sang: "Yankee Tootle vent towndown, a ridin' on da po-o-ony!"

And my mother wept.  "Oh, Mama" she cried.  "How could you do such a thing?"

My grandma lifted me into the air and kissed both my cheeks. "Dat vas gorgeous, Leenie Root," she exclaimed and I can imagine the look she gave my mother over the top of my head.  "You sang chust like Jeannette MacDonald!"

Today, we know something my own mother never understood.  We know that America is richer for its variety.  We don't hold a child back because he can't speak understandable English.  Instead, we have special teachers to help that child communicate with others and I think that's a very good thing.

I am very proud of the progress women have made in this century, but I sometimes wonder at the price we paid.  My grandma was an uneducated housewife who couldn't read and never dreamed of a life outside her home, but she was never too busy to love a child.  Growing up can be a very frightening thing and it is reassuring indeed to know that, no matter how life batters you, in one beloved heart, you are always a treasure.