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Advocating for cultural diversity.

SO…

  • My school is pretty diverse (at least that’s the information on the school’s webpage), but we do tend to forget how to celebrate this diversity. American schools tend to celebrate American culture – but what exactly is that? Currently, there is no religion or race of majority (>50%). Think about how diverse is America, the longer we live the “prominent American culture” loses its meaning.

To start off, answer these questions:

Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”

Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”

So I started off with interviewing students from my school. Since some answers are really personal, it’s all anonymous. I asked about different things to get the feel of what they think about being so far away from home.

Here are some answers:

What do you miss the most from home?

  • My dog, my family and food (both homemade and a good takeout). I also miss the sense of belonging.
  • I miss getting every reference and every joke (since English is my second language). I miss my family and the warm weather.
  • I miss my friends and the culture. I miss being able to choose to be around people or alone. Just generally I miss being there and feeling like it’s “my place.”

How do you celebrate your culture?

  • I spend a lot of time with people from a similar background, and we try to meet on special occasions. I try not to forget my heritage, but it’s a lot easier at home.
  • I started Asian affinity group and go to diversity conferences. Still, I don’t think I am doing enough.

How do you think our school celebrates cultural diversity.

  • Obviously, we have a world fest (one day after the MLK day when people bring posters about their countries), but other than this I don’t think we do that. I don’t even like world fest because it seems fake, it’s just an hour when everyone realizes I am from a different country, but the next day no one cares.
  • I think we at least try to celebrate the racial diversity, but we don’t do a great job honoring different cultures.

Overall I interviewed six people, my interviews were obviously longer but I realized that many answer overlap, and overall we should try doing a better job in celebrating different cultures.

So after talking to our school diversity director, v-ce headmaster and school Rev. I gave an announcement during assembly in front of the whole school – (soooooo stressful) –

Hi, for my final project in online advocacy class I would like to do something to encourage the appreciation of cultural diversity at Taft. After talking to some students, I came up with an idea to create a form for people who are interested in a school-wide celebration of a holiday/cultural or religious celebration important for them.

You don’t need to be from someplace far away to celebrate your or your friend’s culture!

By soliciting students’ opinions, the faculty and staff may facilitate cultural celebrations easier, from altering the dining hall menu, inputting information on the electronic screens in school, to arranging morning meetings or any special events.

(More food, more parties, more diverse speakers, and less confusion because you had no idea that today is actually a pretty important day (yay!))

And this is how the survey looks like:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSffwxp1fjofOw_TwuHoKNbFMH7BX7W2qjh894NyS18ecI317A/viewform?usp=sf_link

I got many responses and set up a meeting to show the results. We had many meaningful conversations; some students said how eye-opening was listening to others’ stories -they never thought about their privilege of being a majority culturally.

So yes. The school administration will most likely implement (at least in some ways) some of the following celebrations next year:

  • Chinese New Year
  • Holi
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Black History Month
  • Nepalese New Year
  • Ramadan
  • LGBT History Month
  • Mardi-Grass
  • Diwali

So next time remember to appreciate your friend’s culture not just by ordering Chinese takeout on Friday 😉

Thanks!

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COMMENTS: 4
  1. April 27, 2018 by Shealyn.Kennedy

    I really liked the way that you held an actual meeting to talk about the results of your survey. I think that even though surveys can be impactful, it is more effective to have a synthesis meeting and be able to share opinions to others rather than just the person behind the survey. Great job with this project!

    • April 29, 2018 by Osi Bialunska

      Thanks for your comment, Shealyn! The meeting was extremally inspirational and I’m really happy I did it!

  2. April 29, 2018 by Alexandra.Weinsten

    Hi Osi! Coming from Nobles (a very similar NEPSAC school), I think we experience many of these same issues; however, we do celebrate some of those holidays. I think that honoring the culture of the all the students is a very important aspect to the diversity of a school. I am so impressed that you spoke in assembly about this issue, and also it is really cool that you held a meeting afterwards. I hope that that these events get implemented next year, and that with your work, cultural diversity will start/continue to be honored in an important way.

    • April 29, 2018 by Osi Bialunska

      Hi Alexandra, I heard really good things about Nobles, but you are right, this is definitely a specific type of school. I think my school is particularly not active in some of those fields and it’s difficult for people coming from schools such as Rumsey hall ( a middle school close by) which celebrates at least some of these holidays. I am really looking forward to next year, hopefully something will change 🙂

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