Living the dream Ceremony for citizenship pays homage to King’s life – Jan 23, 2014

Row by row, each person stood to say his or her name and country of origin.

Up. Name. Country. Down. Up. Name. Country. Down. Up Name. Country. Down.

Until it was Sydney MacFoy’s turn.

“I am Sydney ‘I have a dream’ MacFoy,” he said. Shaking a postcard-size American flag, he added, “This is not a funeral; it’s a celebration. I’m from Sierra Leone.”

MacFoy, 32, was one of 248 newly naturalized citizens who took the oath of allegiance Wednesday at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library during two special ceremonies in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Each ceremony is different,” said Lynuel Dennis, Memphis field office of U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Sometimes they come in and they’re exuberant. Sometimes they’re not.”

Dennis said several ceremonies are held each year, including those that take place in courtrooms.

MacFoy’s class of new Americans seemed procedural, until he spoke his name and demanded some excitement.

“Everybody was just a bit robotic, (and) I felt I needed to say something,” he explained after the ceremony. “Maybe people were nervous and overthinking, but it’s supposed to be a fun day.”

MacFoy celebrated finally becoming the last of his family to complete the naturalization process. He has been in the United States since he was 10 and attended school in the States. His father, sister and mother finished the process years ago. He procrastinated until realizing his green card was quickly approaching the expiration date.

To become a naturalized citizen, one must first be a permanent resident for five years. Then the person can submit an application. The process includes a background check of sorts to determine if the applicant is “a person of good and moral character,” proof of proficiency in the English language and passing a civics test.

Then the person takes the American citizenship oath during a ceremony like the one Wednesday. In it, new citizens renounce any allegiance to another country, promise to follow American laws and swear to bear arms when required.

Rosa Nigro Taquino of Starkville, Miss., moved from Sicily more than 15 years ago to attend the University of Missis- sippi for a semester. But she fell in love with her now-husband and started a family. Still, her homeland is her original home, she said.

“Now, I have two cool homes,” Taquino said. “America and Italy. I think they are the best ones.”

Keynote speaker Keenan McCloy, director of the library system, said her work offered a place for the naturalization process from the learning phase to the oath to the research needed to sustain an American life. At this stage, she told the group, their futures are open to many possibilities.

“As our city said this weekend: We can speak his works, we can live in his honor, or we can choose to be the dream,” she said. “You are now a part of that dream.”

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