Immigrant Community Struggles After Nashville Flood

The Ibrahim family watches as workers pull out wet carpet from their Millwood Manor apartment.

The Ibrahim family watches as workers pull out wet carpet from their Millwood Manor apartment.

Immigrant advocates in Nashville are worried about some neighborhoods recovering from the flood. Residents in working class areas off of Murfreesboro Road don’t speak English well and are unsure where to turn after floodwaters forced them out of their homes.

Millwood Manor apartments are home to a large community of Arabic speakers. Mill Creek flooded many first floor apartments of the 200 unit complex. 36-year old Wahed Labib and his wife, Madda, are from Egypt and have lived here for two-and-a-half years. Standing on their small patio, they watch their two young children ride bikes, and they feel lost.

“We like this country, but sometimes we feel…we feel alone. No help, you know? Like now.”

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition is trying to help immigrants who are affected by the floodwaters. Ramzyia Suleyman has visited Millwood everyday. She says some residents aren’t willing to leave their homes, even though they lost everything.

“Many don’t want to go to shelters because they’re like, well, we have to get to work in the morning and this is where people come to pick us up. We’ve lost everything, and if we go to a shelter we might not go to work, we’re gonna lose our job and we can’t afford to do that right now.”

Glenview Elementary school teacher Suzie Brackeen knew families at the Millwood apartments would not know where to turn. She and a few other teachers pooled their money and came to the complex on Monday.

“When we heard that the Millwood bridge was out and we knew that we families back here, we pretty much put two and two together and figured out that they would need some help so we threw together what we could – bought some water and some eat-a-snacks and some fruit and came out and passed out things. We’re still assessing, you know, what can we ask the community to help us with?”

It’s easy to tell what the families need. Mattresses, sofas, clothes, and lumps of wet carpet sit outside drying in the hot sun. Brackeen waves at a student she recognizes from Glenview.

“Hey! How are you? Is this your apartment?”

The young girl in a pink t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops waves back with a big smile. Her mother, Randa Ibrahim, doesn’t wear the same expression. She trembles as she rattles off a list of what they lost.

“My kids’ clothes, shoes, my t.v. and our computer. Furniture, like that, see? Everything.”

A bed frame, a lamp, and a few bags are all the family has left. They sit in the back of a friends’ blue pick up truck waiting to be stored.

Before leaving, Brackeen asks Ibrahim and her family what else she can do.

Brackeen: “Let us know if there’s anything you need. You say the kids don’t have backpacks?”

Ibrahim says all their schools supplies – paper, pencils, folders, backpacks – are gone.

Brackeen: “Well, we’ll take care of that, we’ll see that they get what they need. Okay?”

The Ibrahim’s are leaving Millwood for higher ground.

Meanwhile, city officials visited the complex on Wednesday, and the Red Cross is delivering meals and shuttling families back and forth to shelter.
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