Updated: Feb 20
I left my heart in Nashville. As I write this, I can hear Tony Bennett belting out these words with reference to my beloved San Francisco. Click here and have a listen. It is such a beautiful song.
I loved Nashville from the moment I set foot in the airport last September. My first trip was to meet folks from The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) and to see a one-person show in the space where I would be performing several months later. It was also an opportunity to learn about Nashville’s Latino community and to meet folks. And was I ever lucky to be connected to so many leaders in business, law, journalism, education, the non-profit sector.
Everyone I met was so generous with their time and introductions. Special shout-out to Jessie Garcia Knowles, who opened so many doors for me, and whose friendship I so value. Jessie, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce, was previously the Director of the YMCA Latino Achievers Program and served as the Assistant Dean of Students at Lipscomb University. She is also the pro bono director of the ELLA Program (Entrepreneurship Latina Leaders of America), and her energy appears boundless.
I had three shows at TPAC and also participated in a sold-out pre-show preview sponsored by Vanderbilt University. This was a conversation about identity, othering and belonging, and the importance of our cultural ties, with Jermaine Soto, Director of Faculty Development, and Dr. Hilario Lomeli, Mellon Assistant Professor of Latinx Studies at Vanderbilt. All were wonderful events, with lots of audience engagement.
I loved that several friends came from elsewhere (Portsmouth, VA, Lexington, KY, and Atlanta) to see my show and that relatives of Bay Area friends, and my director’s best friend from childhood, also attended. I got to connect with new Nashville resident, Theresa, whom I have known severeal decades from our days at MALDEF where we were both lawyers. She and her spouse recently moved from San Francisco to Nashville. The feedback in the post-show talkbacks is always illuminating, and I appreciate hearing from folks about how my play has touched them. I’ve received invitations from teachers to speak to their students via zoom, which will be happening soon, and I’ll be recording an episode with a Nashville podcaster who was in the audience.
In addition to my shows, I had the opportunity to meet with the staff and invited guests of the Rose Immigration Law firm for a lunchtime conversation. In my meeting with law students at Vanderbilt, I heard how students of color experience microaggressions from professors and fellow students. I got a tour of Casa Azafrán, a beautiful event space and home to nonprofits that offer services in education, legal, health care, and the arts to immigrants, refugees, and the general community. There I met folks from Conexion Americas and spent a wonderful hour with the staff of Tennessee Justice For Our Neighbors (TNJFON) a legal organization. Love that Casa Azafrán’s signage is in English, Spanish, and Arabic, reflecting the communities it serves.
Casa Azafrán also has a beautiful industrial kitchen for use by small food-based community businesses.
Learned a lot about Nashville’s important role in the civil rights movement, and am eager to know more. I plan to return in September for TNJFON annual fundraiser, and I look forward to connecting with my new Nashville friends at that time.
In closing, I’d like to share two emails I received this past week.
“I deeply appreciate your stories, perspectives, and experiences (they) have given me great food for thought. What you had to say relates so much to situations we encounter almost daily in our work, and it’s so important for us to be reminded of the seemingly small things we can do to make our clients feel more valued and comfortable.”
"Your show inspires individuals to stop for a moment and soul-search their own view of the race debate (and biases, in general). I admire your commitment to shifting our conversations to one of learning rather than blaming.”
Thanks so much, Nashvillians. Deep gratitude to TPAC’s Kiera Lytle, Danielle Allen, and the tech staff whose professionalism and skill gave me great confidence at every rehearsal and show. This was the Southern debut of my play, and I felt so very welcomed by the community. This, I am certain, is due to the various journalists (English and Spanish media) who took the time to interview me and introduced my work to Nashville. Thank you. Muchisimas gracias.
Next up, I’ll be at Texas A&M University in Kingsville, Texas, 28 miles from my hometown Alice, Texas, where I still have family and lots of childhood friends. That performance is on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. One show only and it’s FREE and open to students and community members. Just show up.