I was sitting in a small coffee shop in old Knoxville called “old city Java”, and let me tell you this, I felt at home. I know it may sound weird especially because I have not even moved to my new city, and community. I have driven everywhere trying to discover this place, I have get lost, found my way back, used my GPS (whose name is “lupita”)so much that in a way she has become a great friend. I have visited all the Panera bread, Starbucks, some of the Mexican restaurants, meet all the wonderful but fake people who are trying to convince me to lease an apartment with them sharing my life’s story like they really care right? Went to very fancy luxurious apartments where I can be a roommate of three 20 year old undergraduate kids (it will be amazingly wrong for me to do this). I have coffee or lunch with dozens of people sharing the plan to organize our local community, and I have shared my new personal slogan: Organizers organize organizations, and “never do for others what they can do for themselves”. I have been amazed of my capacity to relate to people I have never talked and met before.
I finally found my place, it is near a neighborhood called 4th and Gill little north of downtown Knoxville. Most of the houses of this place are Victorian style and an average of 80 years old. The neighborhood is changing but in a very vintage-green-fair trade way. My new office is just one street away and is in the building of Unite Here where some of the unions have their office. I live among some the activist, advocators and organizers of this town. I found a small chalet, I will say it is from 1930’s, and I am pretty sure that if I jump too strong I will find myself in the foundations of the house. I have a couple of inclined floors; I cannot say how to deal with this specially because this very interesting floor is located where I will eventually have my breakfast table, but I found myself in a very difficult choice: if I place the chair at the top my food will slide down, but if I place myself at the bottom I am will become a great catcher. The filter of the air conditioner is on the floor in the middle of the hallway that leads to one of the 3 rooms of the house, and it looks like a bear trap, So I have decided that when you come to visit, if you do not bring a bottle of wine or a six pack, you will fall into the trap!! (sorry!!). I have 3 main rooms that are connected by doorways without doors and the only way to get to the bathroom is through the kitchen, and in a way it is good because after eating you have a direct way to deliver your necessities, but then when you come back you may be tempted to grab something else to eat. OH but wait!!! From the bathroom you have the only door to go out to the backyard, what a treat don’t you think? This is the first place I rent in the USA that does not have dishwasher, not that I care, but I am just saying. Just five minutes walking I arrive to the Three River Market a cooperatively-owned natural foods grocery store, and I have already bought my first natural food groceries for my “casita” (small house).
Last night I was asked a very interested question, something I have never been asked before; in a way it caught me unprepared to answer. A new friend and co-organizer said: “so are you a socialist?” According to Wikipedia: “Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and creates an unequal society”. So even though I did not think I knew what my answer exactly meant, what I truly believe is to be able to help those without a voice to have a voice, for the people to get a fair trade for their products, to create a community that will cherish diversity of cultures, races and lifestyles; where humanity can be celebrated as raw and imperfect, but worth to be part of it.
So why did I titled this small article as “The Miracle of Tennessee”, well let me tell you why: a couple nights back I was invited by my host family (Fran and Jim) to a concert in a place that used to be a Church, now converted as a place to promote folk music. While I was there listened to a man for the first time (John McCutcheon) who combined the words of a story teller and the music of the south, my heart felt at ease surrounded by many white haired people who were singing in unison all these wonderful songs who I have never heard before. So in the middle of the eastern side of the state and among these voices, for the first time I felt at home.