We are just one day away from the holiday weekend, hooray! Sort of. News of Omicron ripping through states across the U.S., including Georgia, is hard to read, accept, and live with, to say the least. I’m not sure how it’s impacted your plans, but I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.
Okay, let’s get started.
Need to get tested for COVID? Free testing sites around Atlanta have been seeing unprecedented crowds (something I witnessed as I drove down North Druid Hills Road the other day), and many pharmacies have run out of at-home tests. Thankfully, you can get tested at the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) on Shallowford Road. Call 770-446-0929 to make an appointment (you do need an appointment). Translation available in multiple languages including Spanish and Korean.
Driving up vaccination rates in immigrant communities: The drive to get folks vaccinated has a new level of urgency, given the explosion of the Omicron variant. Just 48% of Hispanic residents in Dekalb County have gotten their first dose, which is below the state and national average. One thing that has proven to help increase vaccination rates: providing tangible incentives. Daniela Racines with the Latino Community Fund - GA has been organizing vaccine events since last April and says, “I think it's harder now to get more new people getting vaccinated. But what I've noticed… is that incentives work. Our first dose numbers, including kids, rose when we offered $25-$50 gift cards in the past several events.” Read the latest 285 South story: Amid Omicron surge and a rainstorm, hundreds get vaccinated at Buford Highway event.
Child care tax payments ending, for now. Congress hasn’t been able to reach an agreement on the Build Back Better bill this year, which would have extended the monthly child tax credit payments into 2022. Legislators will try again in the new year, but even if they do reach an agreement in the next few weeks, it’s unlikely the payments would make it into people's bank accounts in January. Last week I wrote about how many immigrant families didn’t get the payments in the first place because they didn’t know about an enrollment option for families that don’t file taxes. If the bill does go through in the next month, families will have another chance to sign up to make sure they receive the monthly payments. I’ll keep you posted.
CPACS President Victoria Hyunh appointed to Presidential Commission: The White House has appointed Victoria Hyunh, Senior Vice President of CPACS, to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Located just off Buford Highway, CPACS is one of the oldest and largest immigrant serving organizations in the Southeast and has played a critical role in supporting low income communities with limited English proficiency.
She’ll be advising the President on how different sectors can work together to support Asian American communities. Read CPAC’s announcement here.
Building Voting Power in Muslim Communities: Immigrant centered and serving organizations across the state are gearing up for the 2022 elections. Paradise Afshar of the AJC highlights the work of Muslim organizers who are committed to increasing both representation and the number of Muslim voters in Georgia in her latest story. Azka Mahmoud of CAIR-GA said, “For American Muslims, and specifically for Muslim women, their voices are not included in policy matters…It is critical their voices are heard in the halls of power where decisions are made.” Read: Muslim women becoming politically active, encouraging others.
Growing up, Christmas was a day where there weren’t any presents in our family, but there were usually cousins around and there might be a trip to the movie theater or Blockbuster if we were lucky. Anything Christmasy around our house was simply by osmosis: a tin of caramel popcorn on the kitchen counter gifted from my dad’s corporate office, a holiday card from a neighbor on the fridge, candy canes from my teacher in my backpack.
Most of my Christmas Day memories are happy, though I can’t forget the feeling that I got every year as a kid - that our family was different because we didn’t celebrate it. Once, in an act of desperation, I decorated a house plant with a couple of red and green ball ornaments.
For better or worse, I now indulge myself and my kids with holiday decorations. My son Azad took the photo at the top - it's of the polar bear that is hanging out in our front yard.
If you’re the child of immigrants or migrated to the U.S. yourself, it’s probably an interesting or even odd experience. Maybe you have certain traditions you’ve created on this day when almost everything is shut. Maybe you celebrate Christmas, but not in the mainstream American way. Maybe you have to go to work. Whatever it is - I’d love to hear from you. You can write to me through my Facebook page - here.
Okay, that’s all for now.
Wishing you a weekend full of love and good health.
Top cover photo: Inflatable polar bear with a present on his snout, sitting in our front yard. Photo Credit: Azad Skene, age 7.