Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nashville Amnesty Chapter Hosts Fourth Annual Human Rights Conference

Amnesty International is known worldwide for its ability to help "prisoners of conscience"-people imprisoned for speaking their mind or exercising other basic rights. It does this by encouraging members to write letters which force leaders to confront the abuses perpetrated in their country. Often this will result in the prisoners' successful release.

The Nashville chapter of Amnesty International holds an annual conference where people are invited to hear about various human rights issues throughout the day, including its main area of focus: prisoners of conscience. This year promises to be a great event, beginning with registration and brunch in the morning and leading into workshops at noon, on Sept 21st.

There will be several workshops throughout the day, including a presentation on immigrant rights, poverty and unemployment, prisoners of conscience and Amnesty International's letter writing campaigns, and alternatives to the death penalty.

"We have a fantastic array of topics and great speakers for each," says Julie Brinker, community relations officer for the Nashville Church of Scientology and co-organizer of the Nashville chapter of Amnesty International. Brinker says the chapter is inviting other human rights organizations to set up information booths outside of the main event hall.

This will be the first statewide conference held in Tennessee, with other chapters traveling from Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville. A contingency from the regional office in Atlanta, Georgia will help host it.

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 3 million supporters, members and activists in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. It is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion, and funded mainly by membership and public donations. Amnesty International's vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

The event will be Sept 21st, 2013 from 10am-3pm with a free brunch and workshops throughout the day. It will be held in the community room at Belmont United Methodist Church. For more information, email amnestynashville ( @ ) gmail dot com.

Religion Communicators Council Confirms Remziya Suleyman to Keynote Annual Convention

The Religion Communicators Council (RCC) is the longest running interfaith communications organization in the country. As such, it holds a commitment to communicating truth and instilling faith values. So it is only fitting that for its opening address, a Muslim woman will give her perspective on the interrelation of religions and the role of religious communication in public advocacy.

Remziya Suleyman has agreed to speak at the RCC convention and deliver the opening address. A native of Kurdistan, Suleyman has called the United States her home since 1991. She holds a Masters in Public Administration and certificate in Nonprofit Management from Tennessee State University. She is known for her political activism on immigration issues, interfaith organizing, and her work in the Kurdish community to raise awareness on the Kurdish genocide. She has spoken to diverse audiences on Kurdistan and its people, her own experience as a refugee and a Muslim woman, and on life in her community after September 11.

Suleyman's organizing and advocacy was highlighted in the recent New York Times article "The 9/11 Decade: Young Muslims Coming of Age." In 2012, she was voted one of the top inspirational Muslim women in the United States by MBMuslima's 40 under 40. Recently, she was named one of "13 Tennessee Newsmakers to Watch in 2013 by the Tennessean, "13 Progressive Faith Leaders to Watch in 2013" by the Center for American Progress and highlighted by the Nashville Scene in their 2013 People Issue. She is the former Policy Coordinator for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and currently is Director of Policy and Administration for the American Center for Outreach.

"She is perfect for the opening address," says Rev. Brian Fesler who chairs the planning committee for the 2014 convention, "She is a woman of faith who is always on the front lines, communicating what she believes with integrity and conviction."

The April 2014 conference will celebrate the 85th anniversary of the RCC. It is open to members and others involved in religious communication on a professional or academic level.

The Religion Communicators Council, founded in 1929, is an interfaith association of religion communicators at work in print and electronic communication, marketing and in public relations. Members of the RCC come from many different religions and backgrounds including Baha'i, Baptist, Jewish, Methodist, Mormon, Muslim and Scientology among others.

For more information, visit

Church of Scientology Community News: Celebrate Nashville Festival

The Nashville Church of Scientology supports the good works of others. Today's highlight: the Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival on October 5, 2013.

Since 1995, Nashville has celebrated the diversity of the people who live and work in the city through a cultural exchange known as Celebrate Nashville. The festival is scheduled for October 5, 2013 and will take place at Centennial Park.

"In a city where one in six residents is foreign-born, the Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival is not only one of Nashville's favorite and most vibrant festivals, but also a celebration and reminder of what makes Nashville a great place to live," according to

The festival was formerly known as the Celebration of Cultures and began at Scarritt Bennett Center, a conference, retreat, and education center in Nashville. As the festival grew, Scarritt Bennett formed a partnership with Metro Parks and began holding the annual event at Centennial Park. Last year, the festival drew more than 40,000 people.

In 2012, Scarritt Bennett passed the torch to Metro Parks to solely run the festival. It was then that the name changed from Celebration of Cultures to Celebrate Nashville.

For more information about the festival, or to get involved, visit

Drug-Free South Kicking Abuse to the Curb

“I won’t stop until drugs are out of Tennessee,” says Anne Vallieres, who works with Drug-Free South as an educator. Drug-Free South (DFS) began delivering lectures to students in and around Tennessee since 2009 on the truth about drugs, and in just that time, the group has enlightened over 15,000 students across 30 counties.

Vallieres has booked seminars through October where she and her husband, Marc, will travel across the state to bring kids true data on drugs. Murfreesboro, Smyrna and Clarksville are just some of the places that will have the opportunity to receive this invaluable seminar.

The Foundation for a Drug-Free World is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that provides youth and adults with factual information about drugs so they can make informed decisions and live drug-free. The organization gives away a “Truth About Drugs” booklet, an informational pamphlet that details short- and long-term effects of drugs, common street names and myths that a dealer might use to make a sale. The Foundation offers educational materials free of charge to educators and anyone who wants to learn more about drugs.

For more information, visit

Church of Scientology Community News: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic leaders in Nashville make it a point to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month each year. According to, “The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15.”

An online resource for Latinas, Las Fabulosas, encourages Hispanic families to begin the celebrations right at home by starting with a family tree to discover interesting information about heritage, and hopefully get a history lesson along the way. The website also encourages families to host a fiesta in their neighborhood to have neighbors and friends join in the celebration.

The official kick-off for festivities in Nashville will be on September 19th at 5:30pm at Belmont University. The program will include the reading of a proclamation from the Nashville Mayor’s Office for Hispanic Heritage Month, culinary dishes from Hispanic countries and live music.

Also on September 19th, the Nashville Jazz Orchestra will perform at Vanderbilt University in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month at the Blair School of Music.

Conexión Américas will be honoring Hispanic Heritage Month with its annual celebration at the Cannery Ballroom on September 28th at 6pm. The event will include a ceremony to honor young Latino writers from local high schools for their winning entries in the annual “My Hispanic Roots, My American Dream” essay contest. This will be followed by a fiesta at 7pm with live music, authentic Hispanic food and other entertainment.

The Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is planning to host its 9th Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration and Business and Community Excellence Awards on October 15th to close out the month’s celebrations, at the Waller Law Office in the Nashville City Center building.


Drug-Free South is working to eradicate the demand for drugs in Tennessee and so establish health and happiness for all citizens.

When she began working with Drug-Free South, Ann Vallieres had no concept of how far she could take her message. “I wanted to help my own county because I had heard of the drug problems, but once I started I actually realized I had to help students everywhere.”

Vallieres now takes this message to students all across Tennessee and has been providing seminars along with her husband since 2009.

Drug-Free South is a chapter of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, based in Los Angeles, California, which provides educational tools to help students learn the truth about drugs. The Foundation provides a booklet which covers common street names of drugs, short and long term effects as well as myths that a dealer might say to make the sale. It also provides an in-depth documentary of former users telling their story and an entire educational curriculum to help students understand what drugs really are.

“Students come up to me and thank me for giving them this information,” says Vallieres, “many have told me horrifying stories about what they have seen and they are so thankful that I am telling them the truth about drugs.”

Drug-Free South has visited 30 counties in Tennessee and has plans to visit the rest. Before the year is over, they will see students in Murfreesboro, Clarksville, Smyrna, Fairview, Wilson County and many more.

For more information or to schedule a seminar, visit 

Tennessee Human Rights Day Event Planning Committee Seeks Participant Agencies

Human Rights Day is celebrated each year in Tennessee on December 10th.

A committee composed of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, Metro Human Relations Commission, Church of Scientology, United Nations Association and others has begun meeting in preparation of the event and is now reaching out to additional organizations to contribute to the planning process.

“We’re involving organizations who work on domestic violence issues and human trafficking,” says committee chair Rev. Brian Fesler. “These are huge problems, right here at home in Tennessee.”

The event centers around the Human Rights Lifetime Achievement awards and the Rising Advocate Award. The Rising Advocate award is given to individuals who show great promise in the field of human rights, whereas the Lifetime Achievement goes to those who have worked for human rights the majority of their career.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information or to become involved with this year’s celebration, visit

Artlightenment 5th Annual Festival to Take Place this Fall

Visual artist Robyn Morshead decided to create an art show in 2009 with a special purpose: elevate the artist to elevate the culture. 

She has continued moving visual art to the foreground in the city of music through the Artlightenment festival, now in its fifth consecutive year. It was expanded in 2011 to include film about art, artists and the art of existence, which encouraged further collaboration between the worlds of filmmakers and visual artists of all kinds.

The festival will take place November 14-16 at the Church of Scientology and Celebrity Centre in Nashville. Rev. Brian Fesler who pastors the church says, “It’s part of our mission to assist the artists in society. Artists have the power to uplift the culture, and society depends on their creativity.” 

In 2012 the film “Miracles on Honey Bee Hill” by Bob Pondillo won the Artlightenment award for Best Film. Pondillo won many other awards of the evening including Best Sound Design, Costume and Editing. “Molly and the Kids” by Raeanne Rubenstein won the overall Audience Choice award and was a resounding favorite. Carla Christina Contreras won the Audience Award for Best Actor or Actress. Holly Carmichael won the Best of Show Art prize.

The Artlightenment show also featured special presentations by successful artists. Filmmakers Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett traveled from Los Angeles to give a talk called “The Art of Making a Successful Film.” Marlene Rose, an internationally known glass artist, spoke about and showed her documentary film “From Fire.” 

Morshead could hardly contain her excitement, “I really want all filmmakers and artists to learn and advance their careers and connections and to gain a new audience for their films and art.” Acceptable art submissions include paintings, mixed-media, photographs, sculptures and film. All submissions should be suitable for general audiences. Prospective participants may submit their film or artwork online at

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tennessee Human Rights Day Event Planning Committee Seeking Members

The committee planning Tennessee’s Human Rights Day celebration is looking for additional input and help in the planning process and is reaching out to like-minded organizations.

Human Rights Day is celebrated each year in Tennessee on December 10th. A committee composed of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, Metro Human Relations Commission, Church of Scientology, United Nations Association and others has begun meeting in preparation of the event and is now reaching out to organizations to contribute to the planning process.

“We have a great event every year,” says committee chair Rev. Brian Fesler, “and this year we are looking to involve more organizations, broaden the scope of the event.”

The day begins with a reception leading into a formal program which will feature key Tennessean speakers and awardees.

The celebration centers around the Human Rights Lifetime Achievement awards and the Rising Advocate Award. The Rising Advocate award is given to individuals who show great promise in the field of human rights, whereas the Lifetime Achievement goes to those who have worked for human rights the majority of their career.

To participate in the planning or to have a booth the day of, visit

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Church of Scientology Community News: Mayor’s 5K Challenge

The Nashville Church of Scientology supports the good works of others. Today’s highlight: the Nashville Mayor’s 5K Challenge.

After learning that Nashville ranked among the unhealthiest cities in America, the Mayor’s Office of Nashville has issued a challenge to its residents to get healthy. The challenge: walk or run a 5K on November 17th. The walk/run will begin at Public Square Park, outside the historic Metro Courthouse. The course routes will take participants through the streets of Downtown Nashville. Activities on the Public Square will begin at noon.

There will be a free eight-week training program to help walkers and runners prepare for the challenge, no matter the fitness level.

Because the Mayor wants everyone to participate, the walk/run will be free of charge. Metro Transit Authority will even waive the fee for anyone needing public transport to the event.

Advanced registration online is highly recommended but not required. On-site registration will be available at the event on Nov. 17, so walk-ups are welcome. The 5K is open to all ages and fitness levels. To register, or for more information, visit