CAIR-Chicago Staff Attorney Kevin Vodak speaks on “Welcome to Shelbyville” panel

By Rameya Shanmugavelayutham, Communications Intern

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CAIR-Chicago Staff Attorney Kevin Vodak spoke alongside three other panelists following a recent screening of “Welcome to Shelbyville.” The panel included Hussein Affey, Founder of Somaliland Communities of Chicago, David Lubell, Executive Director of Welcoming America, and Kim Snyder, the director of the film.  The panel sought to engage community members in a discussion regarding the problems some Americans have in adjusting to and interacting with new immigrant populations.

The movie that inspired the discussion was screened at the Chicago Cultural Center on 78 E. Washington Street. It takes place in a town in Shelbyville, Tennessee during the period of time immediately following President Obama’s election. The film examines the integration of the flourishing Latino population and more recently the immigration of numerous Somali refugees of the Muslim faith, in a town historically dominated by white and African American residents. The film also highlights the efforts of Welcome Tennessee, the prototype for other campaigns initiated by Welcoming America. These campaigns seek to unite a community grappling with rapidly changing demographics.

“The film focuses on raising awareness of the U.S. being a multi-cultural society and revealing how biased views are grounded in ignorance,” Vodak noted.

While the backdrop of this particular film is Shelbyville, Tennessee, Vodak believes that similar issues are prevalent in Chicago, citing turbulence many Muslims have faced from non-Islamic individuals who have narrow-minded views of American culture.

Vodak contributed to the panel by sharing the experiences of Muslim communities in Chicago.

“We have begun the conversation,” Vodak stated, “but this is just part one of an on-going discussion.”

For more information on upcoming screenings of “Welcome to Shelbyville” please visit: www.pbs.org/independentlens/welcome-to-shelbyville/getinvolved.html

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