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Coke’s Beautiful Ad

3 Feb


Coca-Cola had a beautiful advertisement during the Super Bowl.  The ad featured America the Beautiful sung in a variety of languages by Americans of all different ethnicities.  It is easy to be jaded and cynical in that this was an attempt to sell one of the more unhealthy products we have created.  However, in the current political climate and the debates raging on immigration, identity, diversity and multiculturalism, the Coke ad showed that one of the most successful companies on the planet has cast its lot with a multicultural and inclusive America.  Of course, it made the decision to produce the ad based upon demographics, market research and a bottom line analysis and not due to adherence to a great moral principle.  But honestly, who cares?  Purity tests are for Stalin.  Coke’s ad represented a vision of America that is not only accurate but also beautiful in its kaleidoscopic inclusivity.

Lots of words have been written about the backlash against Coke for airing the add.  We will not waste our time on these modern-day know-nothings.  They are destined for the dustbin of history and we hope that by failing to give them more attention, we will only accelerate that process.

What the Coke ad did for me was remind me of a talk I have given to second graders at Lafayette Elementary School in DC twice in the past three years and I will certainly do it again when my youngest reaches that grade.  The second graders study immigration and I get to spend a morning with the seven year olds and talk about immigration with them.  It is always fascinating and hilarious.  But what is so amazing is how seven year olds simply get it.  They understand why people immigrate.  Even if they do not understand the complexities, they understand that people have come to America because they dream of a better life.  The concept is entirely natural to them.

Mr. Kings class

I always start my discussion with the second graders by explaining that America is an idea.  Unlike, for example, being French, a person is not an American because her mother, her mother’s mother, her great grandmother and so on were all born here.  A person is American because she and her family believed in the ideals of the American experiment, ideals we have not always held up, fought wars to establish and keep struggling to realize.  I explain to them that their parents or grandparents or great-grandparents came to this country so that one day they could attend Lafayette Elementary, so that they would be raised believing that they can do anything.  So railsplitter_i52428_450px obama-childthat their lot in life would not be pre-determined by the circumstances of their births.  This may seem like high-falutin’ stuff for second graders, but they understand that America is not a land of kings and czars, but a land where an unschooled frontier lawyer could become the greatest president this country has ever seen and that a mixed race son of an immigrant could be the first black President.

After discussing that for a while, we turn the talk to tacos.  The kids always understand that the food they love comes from somewhere else and they are always grateful for the presence of these cuisines that they have come to love.  Growing up, I thought all food was Italian (it was Long Island), but these kids are surrounded by Ethiopian, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Central American and African cuisine.  They are bearers of remarkably diverse culinary passports.

So, the Coke ad reminded me of these kids who understand and value immigration and think that their world is a more interesting and better place for having a broad spectrum of ethnicities at their feet.  They are growing up in an age of incredible richness and texture, a richness that was captured beautifully by the Coke ad.

A Saturday with CASA de Maryland

17 Jun

On Saturday, June 15, BR team members Andres Benach, Sandra Arboleda, and Mariela Sanchez-Odicio spent the morning at CASA de Maryland in a free legal clinic in anticipation of immigration reform.  In these events, we are cast as the experts on immigration law, but I am sure that we learn so much more from greeting the community than we provide in legal advice.



CASA de Maryland is an outstanding organization and on the front lines of so many essential civil rights battles.  CASA has provided a safe place to hire day laborers where a wage can be negotiated and the impact on the community is minimal.  Moreover, they have educated the workers on their rights and provided them with tools to track their hours and maintain records in case of a wage dispute.  CASA offers English classes, health screenings, citizenship workshops, tax consultation and so much more.  They led the successful fight for the Maryland Dream Act and have mobilized thousands in support of immigration reform.  These efforts have made CASA a target of the anti-immigrant wingnuts who use every mention of CASA in the media as a chance to spread their venom.  Fortunately, these weak efforts have failed to deter, and have even invigorated,  CASA’s commitment to its mission.Assembly

On a beautiful Saturday, members of the immigrant community heard from county and state officials about the services available to them.  They heard from the police department of Prince George’s County that their mission was to protect the community and not to enforce immigration laws.   Children hit the moon bounce while their parents met with tax professionals, lawyers, nurses and financial advisers.  During my morning, I met eight people seeking legal advice.  All of them were from Mexico or Central America and had a similar sad story to tell: they left home as teenagers to escape poverty, violence or to help their families.  They had lived their adult lives in America, occupying the lowest rung of our society, doing hard work for scant pay.  However, all of them recognized that their sacrifices were for their children and that, maybe, this country would recognize that their values are American values and welcome them in to the greater community.  While I spoke to clients, Sandra and Mariela completed requests under the Freedom of Information Act to get copies of client files from the government.Kids

A full morning of work and we were ready for lunch.  While CASA offered pizza, there was also the option of homemade pupusas.  Now, if you have not tried a pupusa, do yourself a favor and find one as soon as you can.  If you can not find a pupuseria, just find a weekend adult soccer game.  There are sure to be women selling pupusas on the sideline.

Hope was in the air on Saturday morning and a great and strong force for good was mobilizing.  It is hard not to be excited and hopeful for the country’s future after spending a beautiful Saturday in a beautiful community.