Page 1

äçcèñt the magazine of many languages one voice summer 2012


Eight years after the passage of the DC Language Access Act, government agencies continue to deny the rights of DC residents who speak English as an Additional Language. What we’re doing about it

THROUGH THE Building community in the wake of Councilmember Marion PLEXIGLASS Barry’s racist comments A SMART SUMMER English Language Learner youth revolutionize their schools!

Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) fosters leadership and facilitates community-led initiatives to increase the meaningful inclusion of people in the District of Columbia who do not speak English as their primary language.


Staff Sapna Pandya, Executive Director Tereguebode Goungou, Language Access Advocate Karina Hurtado-Ocampo, Lead Education Organizer Tiffany Finck-Haynes, Community Health Organizer Carol Tsoi, Development and Outreach Americorps VISTA Erin Burns, Communications and Partnerships Americorps VISTA Lead Student Organizers Lidya Abune Tewodros Kassahun Manuel Juarez Jia Le

Interns Keiko Alvarez, Policy and Outreach Mekdes Kebede, Outreach and Story-Collecting Rainer Luza, SMART Media Marshall McMurry, Outreach and Story-Collecting Yi Xu, Outreach and Communications Board of Directors Aryan Rodriguez Bocquet, Chair Nadia Firozvi, Secretary Myron Dean Quon, Treasurer Katrina Badger, Director D’Alizza Bramzon, Director Rachel Gwaltney, Director Kadidia Theiro, Director


All Souls - Beckner Advancement Fund Americorps Cafritz Foundation Cherry Blossom Giving Circle Community Foundation of the National Capital Region/ Collaborative for Education Organizing Consumer Health Foundation Hill Snowden Foundation Humanities Council Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs Meyer Foundation

3166 Mount Pleasant Street NW | Washington, DC 20010 202.621.0001 | www.mlovdc.org

“Looking back in order to look forward” a note from Sapna Pandya, Executive Director

The other day, one of our SMART youth program’s student organizers came into the office nervously holding an envelope from a college they had applied to. She didn’t want to open it alone, so she brought it to us. From my own experience applying to college, I was fairly confident it would be good news because it was a thick envelope. Thankfully, I was right! Not only had she gotten in, but she was awarded a prestigious scholarship as well. For some, May and June are simply the month when DC lets us unabashedly know that summer has begun. For MLOV, it is also a time when our stellar student organizers are graduating from high school – one of those points when one ends something and starts something at the very same time. This summer in particular, MLOV faces a similar period. This quarter has marked a time of reflection for MLOV, where staff and Board intentionally looked back at our comings and goings in a variety of ways, including retreats, teach-ins and strategy planning workshops. We have received training in fiscal responsibility, campaign development, contextualizing and re-affirming our commitment to community organizing in DC, communications strategy, messaging for social justice and social media. MLOV emerges stronger and more prepared to address the needs of communities that do not speak English as a primary language with a number of new tools. In other words, after this period of professional development, learning, reflection and growth since incorporating one year ago, we have “graduated” and are ready and set to go!

reflected in part through partnerships with individuals, groups and organizations. We are proud to be one of the co-sponsors, for the first time ever, of the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC)’s Tenant Town Hall in June 2012. We look forward to formalizing the integration of the arts into MLOV’s advocacy and organizing around language access through our partnership with Bloombars. We have also been fortunate enough to have held our monthly teach-ins with a number of inspiring groups already this quarter - including the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Sindicatos Bananeros (COLSIBA), and Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD) DC, and are excited to learning and growing from many more! As always, MLOV cherishes the continued partnership of our supporters and funders. Your involvement provides for young English Language Learners (like our graduating SMART youth) to receive a quality education in DC

Public Schools and prepares them to be leaders in their college careers, for workers in DC’s nail salon industry to receive pertinent information about their right to access health care, and for DC government to continue to be educated about the needs of immigrants in DC. That’s why we launched a new opportunity for meaningful engagement this quarter: becoming an “MLOVer”! Being an MLOVer means you provide a regular monetary gift to MLOV, and in exchange are recognized at our events and receive fun MLOV gifts such as a MLOV t-shirt, a global cookbook, and pro language access buttons! Becoming a MLOVer is also extremely easy - just go to our newly designed and launched website at www.mlovdc.org and sign up, we’ll take care of the rest :) Congrats to the graduating class of 2012, and here’s to bright shining futures! Sapna

MLOV realizes that we cannot create the lasting social change that we seek without the active involvement of both impacted communities and allies,


Release of “Access Denied: the Unfulfilled Promise of the D.C. Language Access Act” and Next Steps Written by the American University Washington College of Law Immigration Justice Clinic, with data collected by the D.C. Language Access Coalition (DCLAC), the report “Access Denied: the Unfulfilled Promise of the DC Language Access Act” was released on April 26, 2012 at the National Press Club.

Numerous advocates, government officials and reporters attended this press conference. Later that evening, DCLAC hosted a community forum at the Columbia Heights Education Campus to share report findings with our immigrant community members. Several impacted community members testified on their experiences with language barriers in their primary language. The report assesses DC Government agencies’ compliance with the 2004 DC Language Access Act. To determine the state of language access in DC, DCLAC amassed data through surveys of limited-English proficient individuals and government agency testing between 2011 and 2012. After the two successful events surrounding the release of the report, Many Languages One Voice (MLOV), which hosts DCLAC, hopes to continue raising awareness on the needs of DC’s immigrant communities. To that end, MLOV will be distributing the report to interested organizations and individuals all across the nation. We have translated the Executive Summary into Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese. If you would like to receive a copy of the report, please contact Tereguebode Goungou at tereguebode@mlovdc.org. For an electronic copy, please visit www.dclanguageaccess.org. -Tereguebode Goungou and Carol Tsoi

From MLOV’s Board Chair We are at the halfway mark for the year, and we continue to hit the ground running! Some particularly special highlights for Many Languages One Voice in 2012 thus far include the receipt of our non-profit status in January; a fully staffed organization with the new addition of our Health Organizer, Tiffany Finck-Haynes (welcome, Tiffany!); and our SMART Youth continuing to make great strides in identifying interventions and solutions for the greater inclusion of the English Language Learner (ELL) voice in decisions affecting ELL students here in the District, most notably the development of the first intergenerational ELL Support Group in a DC public high school.

Key Findings of the Report The 2004 DC Language Access Act requires 35 local government agencies to provide interpretation and translation services. Yet:


of Limited- or non-English proficient participants encountered language access difficulty at these entities.


Of these individuals, reported a lack of translated signs,


and reported interpretation difficulties.

Two additional notable highlights center around “Language Access Awareness” month, which the city honors in April. MLOV was hosted by Bloombars on April 13 for “Many Moves, One Movement,” a beautiful celebration of dance, art, and language, which successfully raised funds to support our education organizing work in SMART. MLOV was also partner to the issuance of, “Access Denied: The Unfulfilled Promise of the DC Language Access Act,” a comprehensive examination of DC government’s compliance with the Act prepared by the American University Washington College of Law Immigrant Justice Clinic and based on information and data collected by the DC Language Access Coalition (of which MLOV is a member). The report is the first of its kind since the passage of the law, and we thank American University and the coalition for taking this important analysis on. The mere fact that over 50% of the limited and non-English speaking participants in the surveys collected experienced challenges and barriers to access from our city agencies eight years after the law’s passage is unacceptable, and we look forward to continuing our work with government partners, the coalition, and community members to institute sustainable change. Lastly, we have expanded our Board of Directors to a total of seven members, welcoming Katrina Badger and D’Alizza Bramzon to our team. The Board and staff are in the midst of finalizing the organization’s three-year strategic plan, which will embrace the marriage of our advocacy and organizing work – a union we’re excited to nurture and grow. I encourage you to visit the MLOV office and website to learn more about our work and approach to building sustainable communities. And we would love to have you as a “MLOVer”! Please consider setting up a monthly contribution to MLOV in support of a more inclusive DC. As always, thank you for your continued support and commitment. Your engagement means a great deal to this organization and to our linguistically diverse communities. Sincerely, Aryan Rodriguez Bocquet

Many Moves One Movement Celebrates Dance, Music, Food, and Community As a fundraiser for our SMART youth program, MLOV held our inaugural multicultural celebration of dance, music, and, of course, food: Many Moves One Movement. The event packed Bloombars, a community arts space that has generously welcomed MLOV. We’d like to thank the many artists, performers, cooks, bakers, and volunteers who shared their time and talents with us. Thanks for making our event memorable and helping us raise funds to support SMART. We’re thrilled to announce that MLOV will be partnering with Bloombars to host future performances of Many Moves One Movement, and we hope to see you there!

As we end this school year SMART has many reasons to celebrate, among them our high school graduates! We want to first give a shout out to our graduating members. We will miss you all! SMART will definitely not be the same without you, but we know we’re also hard to forget and hope you will come back as summer interns next year! Although we’re trying to find ways to cope with the loss of 9 of our most committed student leaders [email us if you have any suggestions!] we also have three very important reasons to look forward to the summer and upcoming school year:


1) The arrival of the newest MLOVer and Education Organizer, Carol Tsoi! 2) The commencement of our 2012 Student Organizing Summer Institute 3) The launch of SMART’s first campaign

Welcome (Again!) to Carol Tsoi Carol (pictured above right with Karina), MLOV’s new Lead Education Organizer, has been working with MLOV this past year as an Americorps VISTA conducting outreach to DC’s Asian/Pacific Islander communities. Carol has a long history of working with English Language Learner (ELL )high school students in her native New York City and we are excited to welcome her wealth of experience, passion and commitment. Welcome aboard fellow organizer, foodie, and compulsive reader of all things radical!

Student Organizing Summer Institute We’re embracing the heat by packing our space with 15 amazing young people for our summerlong Student Organizing Summer Institute. SMART will be working with DC’s Summer Youth Employment Services to offer high school students political education and job training in community organizing. Students will not only learn how to organize, but will take on specific projects that will further the work of MLOV. Among these projects is a survey collecting the working conditions in DC’s nail salons, which will directly inform our health organizing work.

SMART’s First Campaign: ELL Support Groups As if Carol’s arrival isn’t enough to have us looking forward to the possibilities of next year, we will also be launching our first campaign! In an effort to transform DC Public High Schools into more inclusive and, ideally, multicultural learning spaces, SMART will be campaigning to have DC Public Schools adopt our youth envisioned “ELL Support Groups”. Especially exciting is that, on youths’ urging, Principal Thelma Jarret at Coolidge Senior High School is working with SMART students to implement the support group at the high school in the upcoming school year.

ELL Support Groups are school-based groups which help create safe learning environment for ELL students. The groups meet once a month and are made up of the people who know firsthand the issues faced by ELL students and their families. ELL Support Group terms would run from February to December. Every January new candidates will be chosen (process to be determined). The ELL Support Group is comprised of 2 teachers, 2 ELL students, 2 parents of ELL students, and 2 representatives from organizations that work with the immigrant community. ELL Support Groups are responsible for: + Planning an annual ELL orientation at the beginning of the school year that will help ELL families understand the education system in DC and the rules and culture of their local school. + Organizing festive multicultural events that will help immigrant families feel more welcomed in the school space, expose the larger student population to the diversity of cultures in DC, and promote a general sense of community amongst the entire school population. + Mediating interpretation and translation problems faced by ELL families and finding school-based solutions to these problems. For example: if the ELL Support Group notices that many parents who do not speak English have recently had problems communicating with the main office staff, then the ELL Support Group might decide to provide a “Language Access Training” for the main office staff. If ELL students suddenly start complaining about bullying the ELL Support Group might decided to hold a special “cultural exchange” among the entire student body. -Karina Hurtado-Ocampo, Lead Education Organizer

Congrats! SMART Class of 2012

Lidya Abune, Coolidge Senior High School Yonatan Abune, Coolidge Senior High School Nehemias Arno-Cueva, Roosevelt Senior High School Hemant Guyadin, Roosevelt Senior High School Tewodros Kassahun, Cardozo Senior High School Rainer Luza, Roosevelt Senior High School Basluel Mekonnen, Coolidge Senior High School Holy Mbah, Coolidge Senior High School Samuael Seyoun, Coolidge Senior High School ...and Karina Hurtado-Ocampo, Lead Education Organizer, who is leaving MLOV to pursue further studies in New York. Thank you all for sharing your time and organizing skills to make DC a better place for English Language Learners! We’ll miss you all!

THROUGH the PLEXIGLASS investigated and written by Ha-Rin Kang and Carol Tsoi In light of the recent discussions spurred by Councilmember Marion Barry’s disparaging comment on Asian small business owners in Ward 8, staff members at Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) found it necessary to hear from the Asian small business owners themselves. In the span of a week, bilingual staff members interviewed 14 Asian business owners in Ward 8, many of whom did not speak English well. The commonly heard complaint against Asian small business owners is that they work in Ward 8 for a short period of time, without contributing anything to the community, until they have saved enough money to move out and work in more affluent neighborhoods. However, our anecdotal data states that this is simply not the case. Many of the workers we spoke to behind the counter have worked in the neighborhood for 20 to 30 years. In one storefront, numerous community service awards crowded the display window. The earliest of which dated back to 1999. When asked about these plaques, the owner answered, “Yes, I donate money and food items to the elementary school across the street several times a year. The parents of the students frequent my shop, so I want to support their children.” Another shopkeeper told us that he and his wife go to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings every month. When a local school complained about his distracting store sign, the shopkeeper immediately offered to take down

his sign. He believes that communication is the most important thing when working with his customers. A restaurant owner, who has been in Ward 8 since 1991, shared that she always tries to cook food that she sells as she would feed them to her own children, with care and cleanliness. She feels directly attacked and misrepresented by Marion Barry’s comments. She was very upset that Marion Barry had to pinpoint “Asian” business owners instead of just general business owners in Ward 8. Of the 14 stores we visited, half provided jobs to community members as cashiers or guards. When we asked the other half why they did not hire locals in their shops, they responded that their stores were simply too small to require another employee. While many advocates feel compelled to speak on behalf of Asian shopkeepers because they assume that Asian shopkeepers fear reprisal, many Asian shopkeepers were in fact very outspoken about their frustrations and eager for outlets to voice their concerns. Unfortunately, for those who have testified in the past, a sense of futility has come over them, as no real change has yet to occur. In continuing our dialogue with shopkeepers about their concerns, we found a few trends. For the owners of smaller stores, public safety is still a large concern. They stated that while they may call the police when they see theft occur, the culprits often leave by the

To watch a video of MLOV Director Sapna Pandya joining other advocates responding to Marion Barry, visit our website. time the police arrive, only to return when the police leave. In secluded areas and without English language capabilities, many small store owners feel they must rely on plexiglass for their own protection. In our own sample set, we found plexiglass present only in the smaller stores in secluded areas and not installed in larger stores or restaurants. For many shopkeepers, interactions with DC government posed the greatest frustrations. Language access remains a major problem for many of our Asian shopkeepers. A restaurant owner related an experience in which the health investigator wrote in cursive and asked her to sign the report. While the shopkeeper could read English, she had difficulty reading the investigator’s handwriting. When she asked him to explain what it stated, the investigator continued to berate and scream at her, “Just read it and sign!” Frightened, the shopkeeper felt she had no choice but to sign the document. Another shopkeeper explained that she understood that the DC Language Access Act currently requires DC government agencies to translate important documents into Korean. However, whenever she has requested these services, the documents were never translated and mailed to her. The shopkeeper has only ever received the DC Lotto newsletter in her own language. MLOV strives to support these shopkeepers, who do not speak English as a primary language, to sit at the decision-making table as well and continue to build stronger communities in Ward 8.

Welcome to MLOV’s New Community Health Organizer Tiffany Finck-Haynes (rightyt, enjoying the official MLOV hammock) is MLOV’s new Community Health Organizer. Tiffany will liaise with the Vietnamese American Community Service Center (VACSC) to address specific barriers nail salon workers, and use lessons learned from this project to similarly address the barriers that workers in other service industries experience. She has prior organizing experience with labor solidarity and environmental stewardship campaigns to promote environmental and social justice. Hailing from the green mountains of Vermont, Tiffany’s feet landed in Washington to pursue a degree in International Affairs at George Washington University. She is fluent in Spanish and has had experience working with communities in South America.

Visit our blog at www.mlovdc.org for the latest news, and follow us on Twitter (@mlovdc) or on Facebook!

Health Updates Many Languages One Voice’s Health program organizes workers who speak English as an Additional Language, creating community-led solutions for overcoming barriers to accessing quality health care services in DC. We’re happy to welcome Tiffany Finck-Haynes as a new full-time Health Organizer, and Keiko Alvarez (see next page), who will be researching and conducting outreach in Spanish and French to develop a health campaign that reflects the needs of DC’s immigrant communities. MLOV will continue its work with the Nail Salon Project, working with nail salon workers and owners to achieve better occupational health conditions in nail salons while also addressing the issues of healthcare accessibility, health literacy and language access. MLOV has started organizing with day laborers and childcare workers regarding similar issues. MLOV is also working to promote measures that ensure quality translation and interpretation in all clinics and hospitals in the district. MLOV is also in the process of planning several community health fairs for members of our limited-English proficient immigrant communities to receive linguistically and culturally appropriate health resources.

Meet our Summer Interns

Braving the sweltering DC heat, MLOV’s new interns share a wealth of experience in policy, communications, and community engagement, as well as the language skills (and friendly personalities) necessary to conduct community outreach.

Born and raised in Mexico, Keiko graduated from the University of Arizona in 2002 with a B.A. in Political Science and a double minor in Latin American Studies and French. She got her Master’s Degree from Université Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne (Paris) and L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Toulouse) in Géopolitque et Relations Internationales.

Keiko Alvarez Policy and Outreach

Between 2005-2010, Keiko worked in the human rights field at the Geneva-based World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and the Mexican Mission to the United Nations. Subsequently she gained experience

in capacity-building and technical cooperation effectiveness at the Agency for International Trade Information and Cooperation (AITIC), the International Trade Center (ITC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). She moved to Washington, DC, in June 2010 to take on a job within the Economic Affairs Section of the Embassy of Mexico. As a volunteer at MLOV, Keiko is able to combine two of her greatest professional interests, simultaneous interpretation and social justice.

Mekdes Kebede, Story-Collecting and Outreach Mekdes Kebede was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia until she turned fourteen. For that past five years, Mekdes has been living in Arlington, Virginia. After completing her GED at Wakefield High school, she’s now striving towards a bachelor’s degree in Grinnell College, Iowa: “I found out about this organization through a fellow Ethiopian who was a student volunteer at the office. After further researching the organization and its basis of existence, I realized that it was something I wanted to be a part of. As an immigrant who has experienced both cultural and institutional challenges during the transitional period of my time here in the U.S., I understand the importance of organizations such as MLOV. Hence, I plan to make every effort to assist the organization in meeting its goal.”

Marshall McMurry, Story-Collecting and Outreach Marshall McMurry, a native of South Texas, is currently studying English at The George Washington University. He has a background in Latino civic engagement, having worked for various bilingual educational organizations, a Latino cultural museum, as well as the City of San Antonio. He is excited to expand those skills in the District of Columbia and as he adjusts to his new home. Moreover, he is enthusiastic about spending the summer with the MLOV team as a story collector for the upcoming exhibition on immigrant histories.

Yi Xu, Social Media Yi Xu is an international student from China studying International Politics, Economics and French in St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Says Yi: “I’m so excited to intern with Many Language One Voice this summer. Being an international student in Maryland makes me feel different. In college, I find that international students usually try hard to approach school services and to attend student activities. I was uncomfortable with it, and so I began to focus on the issues about immigrants who do not speak English as their first language. Through my internship with MLOV this summer, I am happy to learn more about situations of immigrants in DC and the ways to improve social justice.”


e MLO in th

! d l i W

As part of our long-term planning and visioning for MLOV’s future, staff took a week-long retreat, which included a two-day camp out in Harper’s Ferry.

Profile for Erin Burns

Accent: The Magazine of Many Languages One Voice  

Summer 2012

Accent: The Magazine of Many Languages One Voice  

Summer 2012

Profile for mlovdc