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Five generations ago the Weise and Matthijetz families were immigrants.

It was 1854. I’m sure there were tearful goodbye’s as my Wendish German ancestors set sail to America to make their home in Serbin and Winchester. They set sail on the Ben Nevis. It wasn’t a ship, but a vessel. Freedom came at great cost - as it usually does. Cholera took the lives of 81 people on the voyage. Those who died were buried at sea. I’m sure they knew it wouldn’t be easy, but did they realized death would further rip our families apart? The sadness didn’t squash the dream to become American Citizens with religious freedom and a better life. Our ancestors learned the language while also holding on to Wendish and German for several generations. I only know "klein bisschen” - a little bit. I wish I knew more. As five generations have passed, less and less was spoken and thereby lost along the way. I dearly love singing German Christmas Carols and following the traditions of our race. Where would America be without those German noodles or bier? Prost!

It is so sad today when the word “race” is made out to be a bad word. Or when the word “immigrant” is depicted on TV to represent only one particular race.

We should all be proud of who we are, where we came from and the freedoms we enjoy as American Citizens.

Many of my Czech-American friends have a very similar story. I learned this as I watched the musical play “Heart of the Tin Trunk” at Festival Hill. I cried from the opening act because I truly felt what they went through. Although Czech is slightly different than German, our stories are very similar. It was a dream to be in America and to become an American Citizen. I love Czech polka music, and I think the language is so pretty when I hear it spoken by my niece, Marketa who has dual citizenship in the Czech Republic and America. I also love Kolache’s and Pivo. Be proud of who you are and keep your heritage alive.

To my African-American friends… Many of your ancestors didn’t choose to come here. They were brought here against their will. It came with a great cost as families were ripped it two. Your story is very different than those who chose to come here. You were not free then, but you are now. Even-so, you still struggle to be seen by who you are inside. It would be hard for anyone not to have a reaction when life seems unfair because of skin color. Soul food is as American as it can be. Who can resist fried chicken, black-eyed peas, corn bread, and collard greens. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of where you came from and where you are going.

To my Mexican-American friends… it seems your race is being singled out today by the mainstream media as “immigrants.” It’s a hard thing for me to hear because almost every friend I have is an immigrant or a descendant of an immigrant. We all have different journeys, but one thing in common. We are all American-Immigrants. Correction... We are all Americans. And just as we love those noodles, kolaches, and comfort foods, we also love our Mexican food. My favorite is carne guisada. No, my favorite is enchilada’s verde. No, my favorite is fajitas. No, my favorite is Margaritas and Cerveza! The food, the music, the culture is something to be very proud of. For those who are working toward legal citizenship, good for you! Generations from now, your great-grandchildren will be sharing their history and saying “It came with a cost, but it was worth it.”

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