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HAZLETON, Pa, July 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- America's Wire today released a story about Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon's efforts to heal strained relations between white and Latino immigrant communities in Hazleton, PA. The blue-collar town in the heart of former coal country became the first municipality to pass a local anti-immigration law in 2006.
The story, written by Chris Echegaray and Susan Eaton, recounts Maddon's visits to his hometown, where he was dispirited by conversations with people who were blaming immigrants for the city's economic decline. Meanwhile, Maddon was inspired by a warm potluck gathering at the home of a Dominican family friend, where immigrant families shared cuisine from Guatemala and Peru and blared Merengue music.
"That was my seminal moment," Maddon recalled. "We're the same, just speak a different language. The Slovak, the Polis, the Irish, the Italians. We all started the same."
The Hazleton Integration Project (HIP), which Maddon helped create in collaboration with a diverse group of Hazleton residents, is about more than "welcoming immigrants" or providing services. The central goal of the recreation programs, social events, public dinners, cultural celebrations and Spanish, English and citizenship classes offered in the new Hazleton ONE Community Center is to heal and build a more cohesive community.
"This is not a place that is only for immigrants. And it is not just an open gym, either. The very explicit goal of this place and this effort is to bring two currently much separated communities together," said Bob Curry, HIP's board president.
HIP features after-school and summer recreation for children and families, public cultural events, a homework center, citizenship classes, Spanish and English instruction and meeting space for community groups.
Echegaray and Eaton report: "Maddon and his wife, Jaye, sat down recently to eat in one of Hazleton's Latin restaurants. A cook came over and greeted the table. Maddon, familiar with Mexico's geography, asked him, in Spanish: "Where are you from?" The cook seemed perplexed. "I'm from Hazleton," he answered. Maddon saw possibility in the miscommunication. Billboards with pictures of culturally diverse groups of Hazleton's residents, he imagined, might abet healing. The billboards will go up soon and carry a simple message: "We are from Hazleton."
This story is available free of charge from America's Wire. Go to www.Americaswire.org and click downloads (right column). America's Wire provides mainstream newspapers, community papers, websites, ethnic publications and wire services with stories reporting on structural inequities and the communities impacted. America's Wire is operated by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
(Chris Echegaray and Susan Eaton write for One Nation Indivisible, a project that writes about people and organizations helping create inclusive, racially and culturally diverse schools, communities and social institutions. To learn more go to Onenationindivisible.org.)
Michael K. Frisby
SOURCE America's Wire