The Friday Definer is Define American’s weekly roundup of stories that paint a fuller picture of what it means to be an American in the 21st century. Share these stories with a friend!
Gringo Xolos cross the border for football
Tijuana’s professional soccer team, the Xoloitzcuintles, have fans on both sides of the border. In fact, the Xolos’ official tagline is “el equipo sin fronteras” — the team without borders. Listen to the “Only Here” podcast from KPBS in San Diego as they follow a group of superfans who happen to be gringos — self-described “Gringo Xolos” — as they cross the border for their team.
One more commencement speech
Congrats to Define American Chapters Regional Co-Chair, Oneida Vargas, on graduating from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and to Chapter President Danya Samantha Domínguez for graduating from the University of California, Merced. To all the other Define American Chapter graduates… welcome to the Define American Alumni Network!
And to all the #ImmiGrads out there … how about one more commencement speech, from Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani, who received an honorary doctorate from Boise State University this year:
“Here I am… a Kurd from Turkey who sold his first cup of Greek yogurt to a Jewish deli, to a kosher deli, speaking in a state known for potatoes, in an arena called Tacos [Taco Bell Arena], honestly, that’s as American as it gets.”
Hamdi also says, citing Rumi: Forget the conventional wisdom… Conventional opinion is the ruin of souls. Think unconventionally.
Fasting for threes
Enes Kanter, Swiss-born Turkish professional basketball player for the Portland Trail Blazers, talks to reporters about fasting for Ramadan while playing professional basketball, and the advice he got from NBA hall-of-famer and fellow Muslim Hakim Olajuwon. Spoiler alert: He may eat six PB and Js right before a game — after sunset, of course.
Bonus: Visiting journalist in Minneapolis discovers he can cook during Ramadan.
Big Bird and civil rights history
The Daily Beast tells the story of the founding of the Black Psychologists of America in 1969 and Chester Pierce, the founding president’s great interest in the potential of television to fight racism. Pierce was a key advisor in the production of “Sesame Street,” which he saw as a television embodiment of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “beloved community:”
“What mattered most about ‘Sesame Street’ was not the alphabet songs, the counting games or the funny puppets. What mattered most was its vision of an integrated society where everyone was a friend and treated with respect.”
Bonus fact: Pierce also coined the concept of microaggressions.
Lady Liberty indeed
The Statue of Liberty is imbued with meaning for generations of immigrants to the U.S. But according to a seldom-taught history of the statue’s original inspiration, French Americanist Édouard de Laboulaye, who first proposed a statue across the pond, was an ardent abolitionist and saw the monument as a tribute to the end of slavery.
Gillian Brockell’s piece in the Washington Post, ends with an observation from the preeminent black historian and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, who saw the statue upon returning to the U.S. from Europe in 1894:
“I know not what multitude of emotions surged in the others, but I had to recall [a] mischievous little French girl whose eyes twinkled as she said: ‘Oh, yes, the Statue of Liberty! With its back toward America, and its face toward France!’”
There were immigrants on board that ship with Du Bois, but he didn’t talk to any of them. The ship was segregated.
What “multitude of emotions” surge in you when you see the Statue of Liberty today?
Do you know any of the eight winning words from the 2019 National Spelling Bee?