A message from Busboys and Poets Founder, Andy Shallal

Happy Fourth of July.

My family moved to this country in 1966 when I was 10. I know the decision to pull up roots from our homeland in Iraq and replant them in a place that was unfamiliar was not an easy one. Like so many immigrants, my parents came here seeking a better life for themselves and for their children. I am grateful that I have benefited so much from what this country had to offer. America is my home.

ANDY FAMILYThe ’60s were tumultuous times in America. The remnants of Jim Crow, Governor Wallace’s racist rants, the marches against the war, the assassinations of Dr. King and the riots that followed, the Vietnam War and Nixon’s resignation. Out of all that came out real progress in the areas of human and civil rights, women rights, LGBTQ rights, disability rights, and the environmental movement. We are a better country today than the one my family came to back in 1966.

On this 4th of July, I want to reflect on how grateful I am to have the privilege to call myself an American and remind myself of the values this country aspires to. I will not stand by and watch those values being tossed aside and replaced with unfettered greed, wanton ignorance, and childish arrogance. I cannot stand aside and allow a handful of people destroy the progress of the last 50 years. I cannot stand aside on this 4th of July and allow them to define what it means to be an American. I will not sit idly while children are herded into cages at our borders. This is not the America I know and not the one I came to love.

You know, us immigrants, we don’t just get things done but we are also the canaries in the coal mine and we can smell fascism before most people who are born here. Many of us left our home countries because of despots and dictators that made it intolerable for us to live there. What we are witnessing today in America is eerily familiar.

So on this Independence day, I will brush off the cynicism. I will continue to fight, continue to speak up, continue to march and write letters to elected officials, and continue to call out the injustice. This experiment, we call America is too important to concede.

Andy Shallal
Founder, Busboys and Poets

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