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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Trampling on Native Heritage

DSC_1882For the times I’ve volunteered at the Thorpe First Nation Family Farm, I’ve been aware of the Thorpe’s struggle to keep their land from getting sold. This past August a sign announcing an auction for September 16 was planted in the farm’s field across from the parking lot. The auctioneer–Max Spann–notified the media with a press release for two dates when interested parties could travel to the farm in order to walk the land and tour the family’s farmhouse.

Thursday September 3 was the second and final opportunity for speculators to check out the property. I went to the Farm to take pictures and get a sense of the people who were there to gain information about this 143 acre piece of land that has been in the Thorpe family for 5 generations. As a friend and supporter to the Thorpe’s it was unsettling to observe strangers strolling around the property, peeking inside the farm’s outbuildings (strictly off-limits for this preview) and watching as other strangers were greeted by a realtor at the door of the farmhouse before showing them through the comfortably warm rooms of the Thorpe’s home.

October will mark three years since two disasters hit the farm. On October 13, 2012 a suspicious barn fire destroyed the building where all the machinery, tools and Native American artifacts were stored. Then seventeen days later–on October 30–Hurricane Sandy tore off the roof of the Market.

Tragic.

A few months ago, as some supporters gathered at the Market, one remarked to me, “I feel Louise is here today,” She was referring to Louise Leckner, a hands-on healer who volunteered her gifts at the first Farm event held in February 2013. It was organized by a newly formed group of people whose goal was to Save the Thorpe First Nation Family Farm. Although a section of the Market’s roof was covered with tarp, the Thorpe’s decided to keep the doors open to bring in needed revenue. On that day, besides Louise, there were Native American drummers, storytellers and crafters bringing awareness to visitors about Native culture and heritage. Sometime during the middle afternoon Louise experienced a feinting spell that rendered her unconscious. 911 was called staying on the line to give instructions over the phone to a First Aid trained person. Almost half an hour passed before the ambulance arrived. Louise never regained consciousness and several days later on February 16, 2013 she died in the hospital.

A month later the Market was served with notice from the Township to close. Renovations began and the Market was approved for reopening in September 2013,.

picture one

Louise Leckner (photo from Bucks County Courier Times)

A lasting result of Louise’s death was Upper Makefield Township government’s approval to place an EMT Station in their Fire Department. Through Louise’s passion as a healer and her sudden death, citizens of Upper Makefield would live because an EMT was now in their community.

My first post of 2015, Takin’ it to the Court recounted the last two years of supporters’ efforts and the Thorpe’s struggle to keep the bank from the door. The post also mentioned a Civil Rights lawsuit filed by the Thorpe’s attorney on October 28, 2014 in U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Upper Makefield Township. The suit details the excessive zoning violations wrongfully placed against the Farm.

While walking the grounds two days ago, taking pictures and observing the ‘lookie-loos’, I  felt the presence of Louise. It gives me hope that the Thorpe First Nation Family Farm will not be lost.