When I was a small child, my parents moved me several times between my birthplace of Minneapolis Minnesota and my Moms birthplace of Detroit Michigan. Both my sister and I were babies; we have no recollection of this, and I do not recall hearing anything about the different races of people, yet I do recall very distinctly that Detroit was made up of ‘different’ people than where I lived in Minnesota. I was aware of this because Grandma used to go to different markets/store/places for different items. The Italians owned the produce market, the Polish owned the meat market, the Greeks owned the bakery and many black families owned some of her favorite eating establishments. My Mom, her parents and many of their friends, neighbors and community were made up of darker people* than the people I saw back at home.
I remember my Moms sense of pride as she spoke of her city, of Motown, of Belle Isle and of many of the unique things that made Detroit, Detroit. I recall my Grandparents boasting of boxing legend, Joe Louis, and singers Smokie Robinson and Diana Ross among the legions of greats that emerged from their city. This early exposure to many first generation and ethnic cultures from around the world made an indelible impression on me that became part of the foundation of my interest in studying cultures.
When I was in elementary school, I met a Mexican girl and our young friendship was also an early eye opener to the window of diversity as she invited me to stay at their home, eat their food and partake in their cultural traditions. Fast-forward, I started college as a teen and had little to no support from family because they were homeless and during the midday breaks, I did not have money to buy lunch (I did not have money to pack a lunch either) so I stayed to myself for the most part. A young exchange student from Pakistan noticed me and started sharing her lunch with me (frequently) and we quickly became friends; the exposure to her mother’s cooking ignited a love of exploring international foods and a desire to know more, taste more and experience the world more, was now a central focus of my life. At twenty, I met a man from Norway who belonged to an International club on the university campus. We dated, then married and I was brought into the fold of his friends that were people from Tanzania, Nicaragua, Finland, and Columbia. Learning his language, food and traditions were an incredibly great chapter in my life. As the years passed, I noticed myself looking to find the ‘ones’ who were ‘different’ the ones who might be alone in a sea of sameness; this heightened awareness brought me to meet people from Cuba, Ethiopia, Romania, India, England, Jamaica and more recently Armenia.
During my life, I have chosen positions that served the underserved; from being a court appointed special advocate, to being a foster/adoption parent trainer, to the summer youth employment program and working with girls with barriers at girl scout camp – all these experiences have opened my eyes to the possibility that lies in each of us. I fostered a black daughter and then adopted her when she became an orphan and ward of the state; through adopting her, we became a family of color and it made us beam with pride!
My life, my photos, my travels, my experiences, and my real history are my diversity statement.
I cannot imagine a life without these faces, these hearts, and these souls. They are my family, my friends and community. The smiles, the love of life and family are the things that attracted us to each other, but it was our common values that kept us together. This common decency of doing the right thing, of being honest, of being hardworking and forward focused on a brighter future. I cannot imagine a life without diversity of religion, color, locations, beliefs, food, traditions, and art. *Through DNA testing we have learned we are Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and Jewish.