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Nashville - City of Welcoming Culture | Blog Living Diversity - Shaping Society

Nashville - City of Welcoming Culture

August 6, 2018 / Dr. Torsten Meise

What New York is to the arts and Los Angeles to film, Nashville is to country music: the place to be a star. While songs about trucks, beer, love, heartbreak, and abandonment often sing about the simple life of Midwestern America, Nashville country culture also embodies the idea of ​​social advancement through luck and hard work. Hundreds of songs have paid homage to this myth of the city.

"Roll into town, step off the bus /
Shake off the ‘where you came from’ dust /
Grab your guitar, walk down the street /
Sign says Nashville, Tennessee. "

- Jason Aldean, "Crazy Town"

 

"I've been chasin 'the big wheels all over Nashville /
Waitin 'for my big break to come /
Livin 'on ketchup soup, homemade crackers and Kool-Aid /
I'll be a star tomorrow, but today I'm a Nashville bum. "

- Waylon Jennings, "Nashville Bum"

 

Many thousands of musicians have got on the bus over the decades to end up as a nobody in the city and work their way to happiness and fame along Music Row, the district with the studios, record companies and music shops. Perhaps this variant of the American happiness seeker's dream, exemplified by stars like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette or Dolly Parton, was the reason why the “Welcoming America” initiative, a nationwide network of cities and organizations, began in Nashville.

 

Welcome to immigrants

In 2005, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), founded just two years earlier, launched the “Welcoming Tennessee” (WTI) initiative in Nashville. The reason was the rapid rise in anti-immigration sentiment and rhetoric in the state. Initially, only 50 posters with positive messages were revealed. But since then, the WTI has fought hard to dispel prejudices about immigrants and immigration. In 2009, the initiative expanded across the United States and today has more than 80 US cities as members, including New York City, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Seattle, and San Francisco.

 

Boomtown Nashville

Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in the US, largely due to immigration. The state of Tennessee had the sixth highest immigration growth in the United States between 1990 and 2000 and the fourth highest among Latinos. In 2012, Nashville had the fastest growing immigrant population in the United States. If the current trend continues, around 2.5 million people will live in Nashville and the surrounding area by 2040 (today: around 680,000 in the city and 1.8 million in the metropolitan area). In addition, the city will be a "Majority-Minority City" in which no population group represents a majority.

 

No "English only"

A turning point in the city's history was the dispute over the idea of ​​making English the city's only official language. The associated referendum was rejected by the population in 2009. A large part of this success is attributed to the activities of the WTI and other local organizations such as the Conexión Américas. The mayor at the time also led a coalition of business leaders, trade unions, church and civil society organizations and educational institutions against the introduction of the English-only policy.

 

Stakeholders are involved

After the vote, the city became even more committed to the newcomers. Nashville now has its own office dedicated to the integration of immigrants with the express aim of giving immigrants easier access to business and educational opportunities. In addition, the city administration set up the New American Advisory Council: Stakeholders from migrant and refugee organizations exchange information with the city administration every month about the needs of the "New Americans". They explore concrete measures to improve the opportunities for participation of new immigrants and to strengthen the cohesion of the citizens of Nashville.

 

Model for the USA

During a visit in December 2014, then US President Barack Obama called the welcoming climate in Nashville a model for the entire country. And Nashville prides itself on its welcoming culture. “We're the friendliest, warmest, most welcoming city in America. We are diverse. We are progressive. But we are also in favor of the economy, "said Nashville's Mayor Megan Berry a year ago to a journalist for Forbes magazine, formulating the city's credo. Even if Mayor Berry had to resign in March because she and her lover and bodyguard had embezzled $ 10,000, the message remains clear under her successor: Nashville welcomes diversity.

 

Diversity as a growth engine

The ex-mayor's “We are also pro economy” has a direct connection to the topic of diversity. In 2015, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce published a study on the economic contribution of Nashville's migrants on behalf of Welcoming America. The result was clear: the contribution of migrants to innovation, international trade, foreign direct investment, recruitment and global reach is rated very positively by the respondents. These underline the importance of immigration for the quality of life and economic strength of the region. "Nashville's efforts to welcome a growing immigrant population have resulted in tangible economic gains across all industries," the study said.

The region has long been shaped economically by the many universities and the health industry. Country music still has cultural and touristic radiance at best. And so country star Tim McGraw should actually sing one of his most famous lines about the new immigrants, and not about the old heroes of the local music scene: "Nashville wouldn't be Nashville without you."