Additional thoughts on Naturalization Ceremonies

On Thursday July 29,  I attended my second Naturalization Ceremony, this time at Bucks County’s Historic Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. It’s apparent these ceremonies that bring new citizens in to America, are distinctively unique: Pennsbury’s was different from the one I attended last month in Lancaster County as posted on my July 14, 2016 blog: —The American Fabric.

I was looking forward to the Naturalization ceremony at Pennsbury Manor. Here there DSC_2789were rows of chairs lined between two majestic columns of towering Maple trees. With the Delaware River flowing lazily behind them and a back drop of William  Penn’s Manor in front of them, 46 candidates for citizenship from 21 countries filled the seats with their families or friends sitting next to them. All nations of many shades of skin from many different countries–just as I’d seen at my first Naturalization Ceremony–were prepared to become new citizens of America. Because I’d  traveled to Ghana, Egypt and Kenya I was drawn to candidates from that  Continent and decided to interview someone from the Motherland: Hassane Yarra.

DSC_2817Formerly from Mali, West Africa Hassane arrived in America in 1999. I was able to speak with him after the ceremony when Pennsbury re-enactors gathered around him, the tallest of all the candidates with his rich dark skin and corn rows sprouting from the crown of his head. Interviewing him was an opportunity to share with my followers another story of an immigrant who chose America as his Home.

After Hassane graduated from high school he entered college in 2012 on two scholarships–Soccer and  a second one for Track and Field. He is currently studying at the University of Pennsylvania for his Masters in Finance. Hassane described  how voting happens in his former country of Mali. A paper ballot, printed only with the name of the President requires the voter to place a YES or NO in the respective block. With election ‘officials’ watching the voter, “if an X is marked in the NO box that person may disappear and never be seen again.”

How fortunate are we!

Three Judges from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania presided over the Pennsbury Manor ceremony. They shared stories of their ancestors who arrived in America in the late 1800s and 1900s and each of them encouraged the new citizens to engage in the civic responsibilities of voting and serving on a jury.

 From left to right: Honorable Mitchell S. Goldberg; Honorable Cynthia M. Rufe; Linda A. Caracappa


From left to right: Honorable Mitchell S. Goldberg; Honorable Cynthia M. Rufe; Honorable  Linda A. Caracappa

If you are able to attend a future Naturalization Ceremony, do so. It will renew your respect and pride for America.

Hussane Yarra completing his Voters' Registration form

Hussane Yarra completing his Voters’ Registration form

The League of Women Voters of Bucks County had set up tables for the new citizens to fill out voter registration applications. Hassane was one of over two dozen new Americans who took the time to complete the application. Still others carried the forms home with them.

The last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Tuesday October 11. For more information contact the League of Women Voters, Bucks County at 215.230.9986. Every vote matters, especially in this Presidential election.

Vote in Every Election. Still matters, always matters.

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Green Acres

_DSC8423[1]“A Native American farmer in Bucks County is about to lose his farm”.

That telephone tip came my way three years ago this month. It concerned 145 acres known as theThorpe First Nation Family Farm. Currently owned by Dale and Renee Thorpe, the farm has been in the family for five generations and was in financial trouble with its mortgage holder. Much has happened since I got that phone call. In January of this year I posted a blog–Takin’ it to the court–highlighting the early struggles that brought together a hundred activists (including Native Americans) to save the Thorpe farm.

The Thorpe’s were determined to keep their farm. They petitioned Philadelphia Bankruptcy Court where they’ve appeared on and off over the last two years. At every turn the bank’s attorneys (Susquehanna, now BB&T Pavilion) fought them. Reluctantly, the Thorpe’s decided to sell off a separate parcel of 48 acres which would solve their mortgage problems. An interested prospect offered $1.2 million for the parcel and then strangely, withdrew the bid.

This past summer the bankruptcy  judge ruled that in order to satisfy the bank loan the entire farm must go up for auction. The auction was held on September 16. Bidding was swift. Surprisingly, for a paltry amount of $1.7 million the bank accepted a bid for the entire 145 acres which included the outbuildings, the family’s home and all the livestock. Equally surprising, the beneficiary of that bid was the same man who had previously offered to buy that 48 acre parcel at a slightly less amount but had changed his mind.

The Thorpe’s have appealed the accepted bid. States Dale Thorpe in a December 3, 2015 article published in the Bucks County Herald, “I think this sale was orchestrated. It sounds like collusion to me.”

Until a ruling is made on the auction bid, Dale, Renee and their five children remain on the farm.

The appeal of the auction bid isn’t the only legal action they’ve taken to save their farm. On October 28, 2014 a Civil Rights lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia 3rd District Federal Court against Upper Makefield Township Supervisors. The suit lists multiple instances where the township had served unfounded zoning violations against the farm. Within the past two weeks the judge–Honorable Cynthia M. Rufe ruled the suit should go forward. Attorneys on both sides have begun discussions.

There’s an ironic twist to this struggle that involves the Upper Makefield Supervisors. At the December 1, 2015 the Supervisors considered a proposal about a 30 acre farm threatened with sale. They voted to purchase 24 acres of the farm in order to establish a conservation easement. I am bewitched, bothered and bewildered to figure out where the township’s responsibility is in serving their constituents.

Supporters for the Thorpe’s continue to stand with the family. The farm is sacred ground where once a tribe of the Lenape Nation lived, hunted, fished and are buried. The land has historical significance as it was the starting point for the William Penn Walking Purchase. Dale Thorpe is a distant relative to deceased Olympian Jim Thorpe. As a boy whenever he walked the farmland he would discover arrowheads in the soil. His tribal heritage includes Lenape, Sac and Fox Nations.

The December 19, 2015 front page of Lancaster Farming published an in-depth interview with Dale Thorpe about the issues surrounding the financial and operational challenges facing the farm. The facebook page, Save Thorpe’s First Nation Organic Family Farm is the hub for updates to the cause. A supporter also created a gofundme page to raise money for the legal appeal of the auction bid (www.gofundme.com/festival of fears).

This is not over.

This is not over.