Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla visited right here as soon as earlier than changing into Pope in 1969. A statue of Wojtyla, with arms outstretched, nonetheless casts a shadow over what’s now referred to as Pope Park, the place a large mural of Polish people dancers spans almost a whole metropolis block.
Elected Mayor Ghalib was born in Yemen and got here to the United States alone as a youth, with damaged English and little else. He is now 42 years outdated, works within the medical area and is finding out to grow to be a health care provider.
Hamtrac’s rise had clearly handed. The metropolis was burning. Many factories have been closed. Many second- and third-generation Polish Americans had moved to the Detroit suburbs and past over the previous 20 years. They have been largely changed by migrants from Yemen and Bangladesh, and locals say the Hamtrac is now a majority Muslim.
Hamtrac is a palimpsest – the place new immigrants transfer up the layers of tradition and society already in place. You can take pleasure in a scorching Yemeni by dishonest – a spicy bean stew – and flatbread for breakfast, and nonetheless a kielbasa or a pierogi for lunch. And Hammtrack is now rising again, one of many quickest rising cities in Michigan, census knowledge present. New immigrants are fixing dilapidated houses, opening shops and eating places, taking root. And what may very well be extra American than a dive into native politics?
“Tonight is a real example that the American dream is alive and well in the land of opportunity,” Ghalib informed the crowds who gathered to have a good time his resounding victory in early November. He defeated the incumbent, Karen Majewski, who had served within the place for 16 years.
There is just one Native American member on the brand new council: Amanda Jaczkowski, a lifelong Michigander. Her Polish American household has worshiped in the identical close by Catholic Church for 5 generations. He transformed to Islam in 2012.
“One of the big things that people are worried about is that we’re about to get rid of bars. We can’t get rid of bars,” Jaczkowski informed us. She and her fellow parishioners do not wish to eliminate bars, she says, as a result of Islam prohibits alcohol for followers of the religion, however nobody else.
“They’re not necessarily bad places that we ban because they [non-Muslims] They are not expected to live by the same rules we are expected to live under,” she mentioned of the bar and its patrons.
This concept was echoed by the mayor-elect.
“We are Muslims,” mentioned Ghalib, sitting within the council room at City Hall, the place he would quickly preside. “We’re proud of our beliefs and values. But we’re not going to try to impose them on others.”
Jaczkowski mentioned: “We are going to take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. And the Constitution of the United States includes the separation of church and state.”
The mayor-elect and his council promise to separate the mosque and the state. That is the regulation, they are saying, and so is their intention.
“I think it would be cool!” Mara Popovska informed us when she washed an aged consumer’s hair on the salon she had been driving on the town’s foremost road for many years. But Popovska’s husband desires to rise up and go away. “He no longer has friends of his own,” she informed us. “So, he doesn’t want to stay.”
“Who’s friends are you now?” mentioned his consumer, Theresa Smith. “I’m all dead!” Smith, a Polish American, was born in Hamtrac, has lived in the identical home for her total 85 years, and says she plans to die right here.
“Your whole life has changed and you have to go with it,” mentioned Smith, pinning a strand of moist, white hair as Popovska. “I mean, everyone can have something to complain about. We’re human.”
Popovska complains that her new neighbors are usually not as clear as she would love. “I clean every day, they just throw up!” he mentioned. But as a enterprise proprietor, he agrees that Main Street is a livelihood because the new immigrants arrived.
Smith says she welcomes the altering faces of her metropolis. “They came to town. They’re fixing up the houses beautifully,” he informed us. “When someone says something against them, I get angry. Because all our parents came from somewhere at one time.”
When Muslim immigrants first arrived in massive numbers a decade or two in the past, some locals didn’t just like the loudspeakers being performed from the roofs of mosques.
According to Jaczkowski, “it’s more than people who have walked off the hamtracks.”
The purpose is to make Hamtracks welcoming and protected for everybody, says Jaczkowski. For instance, there are not any plans for the council to have all girls round city cowl their hair, she volunteered. “There’s no reason for that!” he mentioned.
But there was some uneasiness when not a single Yemeni American girl attended the celebration of Ghalib’s victory late on the evening of the election.
“There were six girls working in my campaign, six women,” he mentioned. But none of them have been there.
“The result was announced late at night, you know, around 10 or 11,” he defined. “And part of the culture, women mostly don’t go out at night. And, you know, even when they do attend, there’s still some segregation at events.”
Jaszkowski was there that evening. “People need to understand that Yemeni women here don’t need savings,” she mentioned. “I messaged a group of my friends and said, ‘Would you like to be there?’ And they’re like, ‘No, we don’t want to be there.'”
Ghalib informed us, “I am not for or against it. I am with everyone’s right to do what they want. But they should not make it a government issue.” “They can do it in their homes, anywhere else in the street. I’m not against it. It doesn’t bother me.”
You can now not be in favor of hoisting the pleasure flag at City Hall and profitable the election at Hamtrac, Ghalib claims. The outgoing mayor, Mazewski, had a decisive vote in favor of hoisting the flag in the summertime.
Ghalib doesn’t need the difficulty to be introduced earlier than the Council once more. “It should not be discussed because it would be divisive, it would lead to division in the community,” he mentioned, earlier than admitting he by no means needed to be compelled to vote on the difficulty. It is price noting that the US navy doesn’t permit the pleasure flag to be flown on navy bases. And the City Council of Roseville, California voted to not fly the Pride Flag or different non-governmental flags at its metropolis corridor this summer time. And it seems that there are not any Muslims on the council in Roseville.
Lynn Blasey of Hamtrac’s Arts and Culture Commission supported the flag hoisting. She ran for metropolis council within the fall and was defeated. “We decided we wanted to do something for Pride besides just read an announcement at the City Council meeting earlier in the month,” she informed us. “Our goal was to let the LGBT community at Hamtrac know that they are not alone and that there are services available to help them.”
Blasey mentioned that regardless of her defeat, she would proceed to work with the council for the betterment of the group who had defeated her. “I think it was an important message to send to the community,” she says. “Politics doesn’t need to be strangled.”
Mayor-elect Ghalib is aware of his process will grow to be harder within the nationwide highlight on Hamtrac’s all-Muslim metropolis council. He’s making an attempt to cease it.
“People are like, ‘What do you think about this happening first? Council member Jaczkowski said. “I’m like, ‘Firsts are nice. And now now we have to show that it would not matter.'”