The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition celebrated the opening of its new Antioch office with a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday night.
The 7,000-square-foot building, nestled in the heart of Davidson County’s immigrant and refugee community, stands as a monument to a tenacious movement, TIRRC Executive Director Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus said to those gathered in a Zoom call.
“This building is a testament to the resiliency of our movement,” Sherman-Nikolaus said. “Over the last four years, our members powerfully resisted attacks on our communities and continued working to make sure their families were healthy, safe and fed during the pandemic, and now we’ve emerged stronger than ever. Our new permanent home sends a strong message that Tennessee is our home, and we are here to stay.”
The building was funded by the Tennessee is Home capital campaign launched by the group in 2019. TIRRC started the campaign as it outgrew its previous location at the Casa Azafràn community center on Nolensville Pike.
Hamp Price, a spokesperson for TIRRC, said they recognized at the time that the need from the community was also growing, requiring a much larger space that could grow with it.
The new space is designed to give the community a place to gather, host events and attend workshops, leadership training, English classes and much more.
It even has a soccer pitch and a playground for youth in the area to safely get outside and play with their friends.
There are several private meeting areas, classrooms, a legal center, an upstairs office for staff and a large event area and kitchen just below it. The bathrooms have a shower for people traveling through the area to organized actions or protests for immigrant and refugee rights.
The areas are designed for flexible usage, with plenty of tables and chairs, as well as areas to sit down and relax on the patio.
Sherman-Nikolaus said 11 artists were commissioned for 13 works of art that decorate the exterior and interior of the building.
The main entrance, which features a vibrant mural across the entire face of the building, was painted by Antioch native Nathan Brown.
Brown grew up in the area, Sherman-Nikolaus said, and has since painted all around the country, but it was his first time painting a building in his hometown.
The new permanent home of TIRRC was a long time coming.
When the capital campaign began in 2019, Sherman-Nikolaus said the organization, and the immigrant and refugee rights movement in general, was facing a difficult fight against immigration laws, restrictions and travel bans imposed by the Trump administration.
Recent years have been a dark time for the movement, Sherman-Nikolaus said, but the new building — a permanent, vibrant structure with “Welcome Home” emblazoned on its street-facing side — stands as a symbol to show that the movement is here to stay.
Sherman-Nikolaus and other current and former members of the TIRRC team gave a virtual tour of the building to those on the call Thursday, which included immigrant community members as well as donors to the capital campaign.
Those who attended and sent in their address were sent envelopes that each held a ribbon for viewers to cut along with TIRRC team members leading the ceremony.
The ceremony also included speakers from the local immigrant community who have worked with TIRRC in the past and who helped to see the capital campaign to fruition.
Currently, the building is open only by appointment, Sherman-Nikolaus said, but outdoor areas, aside from the under-construction soccer pitch, are available to the community. The pitch is currently awaiting nets to make sure no balls fly into the road, she said.
And in the meantime, the capital campaign is ongoing due to cost increases on construction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sherman-Nikolaus said.
With $2.6 million raised since it began, the organization still needs $275,000 to pay down the rest of the construction debt.
Sherman-Nikolaus said the goal is to finish out the capital campaign by the end of the year and to begin 2022 debt-free as a result.
The organization has a donation page on its website at https://www.tnimmigrant.org/donate. That’s the easiest way to donate, Sherman-Nikolaus said.
Checks can also be mailed or brought to the building at 3310 Ezell Road.
Once it’s safe, Sherman-Nikolaus said members of the community will be welcome inside the building to use its indoor facilities.
Before then, TIRRC is offering some virtual glimpses inside, including through a video released Friday documenting the campaign and revealing the facilities.
A June 6 event is also scheduled to offer members of the community a virtual tour and to reveal when the building may fully open.