Artifact D

Kurdish Community Literacy in Nashville
“You can go to the bakery and get Kurdish fresh bread from the oven every
morning. You can go the Kurdish store to buy a CD. You can go to the mosque if you
want to. You can go to all these different restaurants and have Kurdish meal” (Little
Kurdistan). Nashville is recognized by Kurdish communities surround North America,
for strong culture presents and traditional Kurdish heritage. Since Nashville has the
largest Kurdish community in the U.S, it would be really helpful for us to better
understand this city through the understanding of Kurdish communities. As teachers
working in Nashville, we many encounter many Kurdish students.
In this article, I will describe the Kurdish community from what I saw during
the field trip. And then focus on how the community literacy can be helpful for the
ELL teachers to dealing with students from Kurdish background. Through the
observation of food, language and religion, I will design certain ways to let the
teachers become much more involved in the community based on the community
literacies I saw.
Observing the Kurdish Community
In the Azadi International Food Market & Bakery, a female customer told me
that she was really fascinated when she found that there is a store that selling Kurdish
bread, since it really needs to spend them a lot of time to bake at home (See Appendix
1). She told me that, “A lot of Kurdish people, especially on my age, who are married
and trying to live with the Kurdish food like to buy bread here.” (See Appendix 2)
“Food is such a huge aspect of Kurdish family.”
After Kurds moved to Nashville, the older generations and the youth
encountered with many challenges. Older generations tend to be culturally and
linguistically isolated from the new environment. They need to work really hard to
support the family. Unless the children, they do not have the opportunity to learn
English from the school and most of them are uneducated in their homeland. They
learn English from their work. They still use Kurdish language at home and regard
Kurds as who they are. For the Kurdish youth, they have to face the barriers of
learning the language, adapting into the new culture, finding friends and blending into
the American life. A common concern of Kurdish families is that their children may
forget their mother tongue, by virtue of the fact that their surroundings compel them
to speak the language that is most dominant. So most of the families choose to let the
children speak Kurdish at home. The dual identity challenge the children a lot, since
they have to balance the customs that their parents have at home with American lives
at school, work and with friends (Kurdish Youth).
For the Kurds, food and religion are really important for them to maintain
their identity. I find Kurdish teas, rich, religious accessories and all kinds special
foods in the international stores (See Appendix 3). I also saw The Salahadeen Center
for Muslim prayer (See Appendix 4). They even have their own salon and mid-eastern
clothing stores (See Appendix 5). All of these together established a vibrant
community in Nashville, which they refer it as ‘little Kurdistan’. (Little Kurdish)
How can Community Literacy Help Teachers
First, the community literacy enables teachers to draw on the resources of the
“funds of knowledge” of the child’s world outside the context of the classroom (Moll,
1992). Each exchange with relatives, friends, and neighbors entails not only many
practical activities, but constantly provides contexts in which earning can occur—
contexts, for example, where children have ample opportunities to participate in
activities with people they trust (Moll & Greenberg, 1990). The Salahadeen Center of
Nashville is the first mosque in North America (See Appendix 4, SCN History).
Besides the international markets around the community, I find that the Salahadeen is
like a center of the whole community. I find it interesting that the biggest room face
the front door is named as Men (See Appendix 6). It seems like only men can enter
into that room to pray. I saw children playing in the porch with their mothers, none of
them entered into the men room. I also took a picture of the Ramadan prayer times
(See Appendix 7). It shows that Kurds do 5 prayers everyday, and they call them fajr,
sunrise, dhuhr, asr, maghrib and isha, which means dawn, sunrise, midday, afternoon,
evening and night-time. I saw men, women and children all gathered here and I
believe the Salahadeen must play an important role in the Kurds lives in Nashville. As
a teacher, I would like to ask my Kurdish students if I can enter the Salahadeen and
watch the prayer there, since I am a not Muslim. If I can do that, I will engage in their
prayer to better understand their religion. In the Salahadeen, I can get to know the
family and the whole community of the Kurds better, which can help me to build a
good relationship with the students’ family. Although I did gather information, it also
provides me a opportunity “to foster a relationship of trust with the families” (Allen,
Second, through the approaching with the community, “teachers can better
understand the life worlds of their students and to build more meaningful
relationships with them” (Jiménez, 2007). On the front door of the Mazi International
Market, I saw an advertisement about the 2nd Annual Kurdish Arts Festival (See
Appendix 8). Instead of writing in Kurdish or bilingual languages, the whole
advertisement is written in English. I consider that this is their way to introduce
people from other background in Nashville to engage in their community life and to
show them Kurdish culture. As a teacher, I will encourage the students from other
background in my classroom to join in the festival with the Kurdish students together.
During the festival, the Kurdish students can show the students and I about their
tradition music, arts and dances. While we have fun together, the festival can also
abridge the distance between different cultures and help us to know each other better.
I can ask them questions like, ”Why do Kurdish people wear such costumes? Do you
have such festivals in your homeland? What is the meaning of this festival?” From the
interview of a customer, I knew that Kurdish people like to dance hand-in-hand and
sing songs together. He also told me that, ”We have old views say, if you have a
house and do not have guests. That is not a house. ” From my talking with him, I find
that most Kurds in Nashville consider guests as family members. As a teacher, I also
would like to do some house visiting to the Kurdish students’ family.
The Barriers to Learn Kurdish Community and Designations of Future
This is my first time to do researches like this. And I think it is really helpful
for the ELL learners to get to know the community. The great barrier for me is that
before I go for the field trip, I did not know which community we are heading to.
Because I knew nothing about the Kurdish culture and history, it made me really
confused when I was interviewing them. And the accent of the Kurds is a little hard
for me to follow. I think next time it’s better for us to choose the community first and
try to do some background investigation about the community before we go for the
trip. Secondly, this field trip only allowed us to talk with the adults of the community.
I am looking forward for the school trips to meet with students from different
background and learn about how they concern their lives in Nashville.
For the future activities, I would like to go into the Salahadeen Center to see
what the Muslim do in the mosque. Kurds are very pious to their religion and they
have certain rules for the women, which I am also very interested in. As a teacher, I
will gather all the students’ parents and let the Kurdish parents to introduce their
culture and costume. Through the introduction, families can better understand each
other and show their respect to the minority students. I will also organize the students
to change their family lives for one day. They can experience the different lifestyles
by themselves, which can benefit native American students and also help Kurdish
students to better adapt the American lifestyle.
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4
Appendix 5
Appendix 6
Appendix 7
Appendix 8
Allen, J. (2007). Engaging Families Creating welcoming schools: A practical guide
to home-school partnerships with diverse families. New York: Teachers
College Press and International Reading Association.
Jiménez, R., Smith, P., & Teague, B. (2009). Transnational and Community
Literacies for Teachers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 53(1), pp.
Kurdish Youth and Identity in America (2012). Retrieved September 14, 2013,
Little Kurdistan (Date Unknown). Retrieved September 8, 2013, from
Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for
teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and
classrooms. Theory into practice, 31(2), 132-141.
Moll, L.C., & Greenberg, J. (1990). Creating zones of possibilities: Combining
social contexts for instruction. In L.C Moll (Ed.), Vygotsky and education (pp.
319-348). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press
SCN History (2012). Retrieved September 15, 2013, from