Celebrating Cultural Diversity

Amy Kobos – Health and Wellness Promoter, Fayetteville

Music is a universal language, and at the same time, unique to every group of people. You could be Haitian, Alaskan, African-American, Japanese, Eastern-European, or Middle-Eastern creating the music—or appreciating the music. Music is one way we can effectively communicate who we are as an individual or as a culture. It takes dedicated work and practice to connect and celebrate our diversity, and it is inevitable there will always be differences that challenge unity. An inclusive PTA that values diversity contributes to a healthy school climate for children. But how can we make it happen?

There are two subtle (and not-so-subtle) challenges to honoring and celebrating diversity: stereotyping and racism. According to Simple Psychology, stereotyping has a purpose: it helps us react rapidly to situations that have happened before. The disadvantage is when we tend to ignore the differences between individuals; therefore, we make false generalizations and assumptions. Stereotyping makes it “easy” to characterize a person or group, typically in a negative context from what one was led to believe. In music, we concentrate on and appreciate the individuality of the artist or band and we need to challenge ourselves to do the same in human-to-human interaction on an everyday basis.

Racism is the discrimination or prejudice based on race and is the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others, and often goes hand in hand with stereotyping. While racism has improved in the past 100 years, it’s still a widespread problem. There are three levels of racism: institutionalized, personally mediated racism (including microaggressions), and internalized racism.

Try one of these activities at your school to explore and celebrate your diversity:

Activity 1: Discussion.
Have a conversation about cultural diversity with your students. Ask them where they think they are as a society and why? What obstacles are they currently observing in society? Do they have a personal story to share? What needs to be changed? How are they personally going to help contribute in celebrating cultural diversity on a day-to-day basis?

Activity 2: Identity arts project.  
To emphasize the importance of cultural appreciation, mutual respect, and human connection amongst each other in the classroom, have the students prepare and present an artistic project that demonstrates their background and identity, their challenges, and where they are in the process. The project could be creative writing, visual arts, music, or more!

Activity 3: Narrative.
Challenge students to write descriptively about a time that they experienced stereotyping or racism. Describe the circumstances and how you felt. What did you do? In retrospect, is there anything you would do differently?

Activity 4: Cultural Nights.
Host a single event or multiple nights for the different groups that make your school special and unique. Music, dance, and foods can all be used as an opportunity to share your culture with other students and families, and provide an opportunity for you to learn from other families in your school. These can include a PTA meeting or academic information for parents!

Keep in mind that diversity should not be a reason to label people or cultures. Stereotyping and racism prevent people and/or cultures from the full potential of contributing to society in a positive way. This suppression stifles our communities’ ability to grow and evolve. Embracing diversity opens up a world full of possibility.” – Julie Palmer, Health Coach for RivalHealth

I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.” Booker T. Washington.