“Music City” Snapshots

Chairs set up for graduation on the leafy Vanderbilt University campus.


A Catholic church with what struck us as unusual architecture. We tried to see the inside, but it was locked.


A cheery couple visiting from Lewiston, NY, north of Niagara Falls. You don’t have to be from Alaska to see a foreign country from your American living room! They were interested in the whys and wherefores of the Ride.


There is visual art here, too, not just country music.


There is rich history.




Note the misspelling below.



These gentlemen, Pete and Johnny, admired the Lightning and talked about how far we came and why we did it.


Janet works for the police department. She likes that HRF helps refugees and with the support of retired U.S. generals and admirals, works to stop human rights abuses in the U.S. and worldwide. She snapped our photo by the Cumberland River.



TJ, Rusty, and O were glad to hear about the Ride and wished us well in our campaign to get people thinking and to raise funds for HRF and TIRRC.


Geshan Alwis, an American software designer, born in Sri Lanka, lived 10 years in New Zealand before moving to Nashville. He was curious about the Lightning and our campaign. He said our country is recognized as a human rights leader around the world, yet that sometimes we fall short. He is a true patriot, because rather than assume America has all the answers, he wants to make our country better.


We ended the working part of our day with a visit to the Nashville International Center for Empowerment (“NICE”), http://www.empowernashville.org/ . There we met Kathy Edson of Nashville Public Television; Gatluak Thach, who at age 6 was a child soldier in South Sudan, at age 18 was an illiterate refugee in snowy South Dakota, who made the most of the opportunities offered by his new country (America) and 7 years ago founded NICE to help first women, then all newcomers, learn English and the skills they need to be part of American society.

Here we are with Kathy Edson, Gatluak, and some of the staff. The whole office turned out to welcome us and tell us about themselves – they come from all over the U.S. and all over the world – and their work.



Below, L to R: Gatluak, Kerry Foley (Community Development Director), Kathy.


NICE is short-staffed and underfunded. There is a waiting list to get into its English and other classes. There is a chronic shortage of transport for its clients. With the help of NPT, they are trying to educate the locals with videos


and otherwise; a community that understands NICE’s mission will more likely provide resources closer to meeting immigrants’ needs. A surprising number of people in Nashville don’t realize that the city is an immigrant magnet. Many mistakenly assume that immigrants all are Mexican and unauthorized (“illegal”, to use the common, rude, and inaccurate term). Even we were surprised to learn that Nashville has the largest population of Kurdish-born people in the U.S.A.

Like other authorized immigrants – some would say, like all immigrants – Nashville’s immigrants have the right to be here. They also have responsibilities to the community. NICE is working hard to equip them to meet those responsibilities.

We enjoyed spending time among these new friends.

On the way back toward the city center, we met Charles Flagg.


Mr. Flagg writes Gospel songs and humorous songs. He sang us one of the latter. A bicyclist himself, he was fascinated by the Lightning, and handed us a donation toward HRF’s work.

We met a lot more people today than we’ve told you about. Crossing guards, police officers, construction workers, tourists, local people – so many had kind greetings, warm words, wished us well. We don’t know if Nashville really is “Music City” – some might think the name pretentious – but for us, it has been “Friendly City”.

All this, and Elvis too!