Belonging, the 10th documentary in NPT’s Next Door Neighbors series, premieres Tuesday, May 30, at 9:30 p.m. In this edition of Next Door Neighbors, we examine the lives of several Middle Tennesseans who grapple with what it means to belong, to be foreign-born and still fit into American culture. How do experiences of acceptance and rejection shape our worldview and define our quality of life? From Syrian Americans living in Murfreesboro to a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient originally from Mexico, Belonging shares the experiences of immigrants in a world where rules and attitudes are constantly changing.
The first story is that of Mazen Alkhiyami, who came to Middle Tennessee four decades ago as a college student and has made his home here. “I am proud to be Syrian and Muslim and American at the same time,” Alkhiyami says in the documentary. “I woke up to this world in this country, I came here when I was 18. My kids are from here. I’m from here. I plan to be here for the rest my life.”
Syrian immigrant Abdou Kattih is founder and president of Murfreesboro Muslim Youth, a community service organization. He came to the U.S. to join his parents in Chattanooga, then moved to Middle Tennessee to work as a pharmacist. His story is among those told in the second segment of Belonging.
Beginning in 2011, the civil war in Syria led to a refugee crisis with civilians fleeing the fight between government forces, various rebel factions and ISIS fighters. By the end of 2016, there were nearly 5 million registered Syrian refugees, 18,000 of whom were resettled in the U.S., with fewer than 400 coming to Tennessee. “No Syrian is unaffected by this conflict, but I wanted to tell the story through a different lens,” said Belonging’s producer Shawn Anfinson.
Finally, Karla is a woman in her mid-20s who grew up much as any American child would. After being brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a child, she attended kindergarten in Nashville and went through the Metro Nashville public school system. Karla grew up with friends who were all Nashville-born. “They were all American; so I felt like I was one of them,” Karla says in Belonging. It was only when she began applying to colleges that she learned she was an undocumented immigrant. She now finds herself in a precarious situation despite 2012’s DACA policy.
NPT’s Next Door Neighbors: Belonging is made possible by the generous support of The Nissan Foundation.
Additional broadcast times for Next Door Neighbors: Belonging are below; the documentary will also be available for online viewing at ndn.wnpt.org/documentaries.
- Thursday, June 1, at 9:30 a.m. on NPT2
- Friday, June 2, at 2:30 p.m. on NPT2
For our full programming schedule, please go to wnpt.org/schedule.