Monday, September 9, 2013

Destination: Inspiration

When I was growing up, my grandmother knew everything. If I ever had a question, whether it be how to divide simple numbers (which she taught me in first grade), a philosophical question about how God may have created the universe, or what the ancient Egyptians believed happened to their dead in the afterlife, she not only had an answer, but she also had a deeper question. She liked thinking and knowing. Her curiosity was insatiable and infectious. She spent every free moment of her day reading or teaching her grandchildren about something that she knew. Listening to her speak about any topic made me want to bury my life in a bookshelf until I knew everything, just like she did.

She killed herself on November 30th, 2009.

The cure for depression was the one thing she never knew. I lost more than just the greatest teacher of my life that winter. I lost a friend, a role model and a wonderful counselor. I doubt I spoke a full sentence or left my room for a week. It was almost a year before I laughed laughed heartily again, but once I could bear the thought, I looked back on our conversations with gratitude. She was a light to all of those around her.

She taught and took great joy in teaching. It is because of her that I am where I am now. I hope, someday, to be just like my grandmother Adair. I want to learn, and I want to share all I learn with the next generation. My ultimate desire is to be able to look back at my life and be able to say that I inspired someone. I want to be able to say I made someone a better person. I want to
know that I was a genuine, substantial, positive influence on somebody’s life like my grandmother had for been me. 

It is because of this goal that became involved in PVCC’s DiversityInc program. While I was at PVCC, I worked with my friends toward the goal of becoming, and helping others to become, their best selves. We lead and facilitated a class called COM101, our own brand of diversity and inclusiveness training. I witnessed people learn, change, and grow during our one credit course. More importantly though, I tasted the overwhelming satisfaction of helping to spark inspiration. At the end of our two weekends together, I felt as if I had known those students for years, and my fellow facilitators a lifetime or more. The only sadness that I felt in that moment was the fact that I could not tell my grandmother of all these great things I was a part of, and how many people I knew I could help. I couldn’t tell her that it was all for her.

I plan on being an English teacher in a high school or community college, and facilitating growth at any opportunity. English, specifically poetry and creative writing have always been passions of mine. I hope that I can share that passion with some of the next creative minds, so that they might find some of the joy that I have discovered. More than that, I hope to help young people find something that they can be passionate about.

My grandmother taught me that just working hard is working stupid. She said that work was something people did when they couldn’t find what they loved to do, because when a person loves to do something, it seldom feels like work. I believe I have found what I love to do, and I do not plan on “working” a single day
of my career. I have never experienced a day in our program that felt like work, even when I was running on four or less hours of sleep. The feeling I get from it makes me want to dedicate my life to teaching and inspiring others. My life will be lived to serve other people, and I will do it all in loving memory of the woman who inspired me to do so. The planet is a bit darker without her, but she showed me how to shine my light. Now, the most important thing I can do is pass the torch. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hipster Racism - Its totally not what you think it is...

So first off what the hell am I talking about... What is Hipster Racism?

Hipster racism, a term coined around 2006 in an article by Carmen Van Kerckhove, is described as the use of irony and satire to mask racism. It is the use of blatantly racist comments in an attempt to be controversial and edgy. Its irony is established in a somewhat post-racial belief that blatant expressions of genuine racism are no longer taken seriously and are an outdated way of thinking, thereby making the use of such overt expressions satiric. In some cases, hipster racism can be seen as the appropriation of cultural artifacts by hipsters.

 Despite its ironic intent and context, hipster racism still appears to perpetuate prejudicial racial ideologies. The difference between more harsh forms of prejudice is that this style of speech seems appropriate and relevant ingrained in the belief that it does no real harm. Those who exhibit hipster racist tendencies are often excused from their behaviour on the grounds that they appeared to be "only joking".

 So the problem is that we as a society tend to think we are past the idea of racism as a society, and as such we have the ability to make fun of anything dealing with racism. So its cool hip and ironic to, have a black faced hip hop party. This happens and the idea is to "kill the whiteness inside themselves". It also happens to discard the power of their own white privilege by mocking the hip-hop industry, and further entire black culture for the sake of the all mighty "irony".

This also happens in the horrible and blatant misappropriation of native culture, the wearing of a native headdress, or Urban Outfitters just totally jacking both Navajo, Aboriginal, and African tribal prints without giving any recognition or compensation.

 The idea is one feels like one is beyond racism. Either because it doesn't exist, or because one in their infinite wisdom is somehow is beyond the idea that racism (or for that matter sexism, classism, etc) And as such or having achieved this elite beyond status, that that person has the ability to do or say whatever they want now that they are equal to MLK. Even though they haven't done shit, understand little since they claim to already know it. Not only do they spread racism, sexism, classism etc... They also conveniently give away the power of the privilege in that they are some how past or beyond the issue. So they check out of having to do anything about these issue.

But even more sadly check out of the issue of understanding exactly who the heck they are as people and what they stand for.... They are neither cool nor uncool, in that they are hesitant to commit to anything, and thusly are an empty aphmoism of an idea of "self" or whatever wont get rejected by they cool friends.

 And as they saying goes if you don't stand for something you will fall for anything.

 Its not IRONIC to be a dick, its just being a dick Or better yet...

I would listen to these ladies tell it much better than I did...


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Change Agent Abroad - From Bosnia to the USA to Vietnam!

Hello ya'll! My name is Nera Mustedanagic and I am making this blog about my trip to Vietnam. I apologize in advance for bad spelling and grammar, I'll do my best not to make too many mistakes. And this is my first blog so don't judge. :P
I was gonna start the blog as soon as i arrived, but I was too tired and busy with other things. I am a couple of days behind, but I will try to sum up the past few days I missed.

I started my journey to Vietnam on June 14th, I flew from Phoenix to LA, then from LA to Korea and finally made it to Vietnam on Saturday June 15th. Not much too tell about Saturday, I arrived at the hotel, unpacked, took a shower and went to bed. THE END!

The fun starts on Sunday, June 16th...

Woke up at 5:30 am, got ready, went to breakfast ( which was more like really really early lunch ) they had noodles , rice , soup and the only thing that was breakfast like were eggs. After breakfast me and my roommate Shannon went out exploring. We asked for a map of the city  at the front desk, because why not ? Maps are super  easy to read and use . NOOOT  ! We got lost after 10 minutes of walking which I didn't mind , it really turned into an adventure . With people honking at us left and right , shouting and trying to sell little souvenirs. Finally we asked for directions and were headed towards a shopping  area when suddenly a woman from a restaurant stops us and asks us where we were going. We told her and shes said : „No, no these shops no good. My sister owns a market , very cheap, I go call her now to get you .“ So we sat down and waited for her sister. When her sister arrived she took us to the market, which looked a lot like the markets in Bosnia ( Vietnamese pijaca :P ).  We arrived there and immediately  women from the shops started walking up to us trying to get us to go to their stores. I was sold ! Got a custom made dress for $45 , shoes for $25 some souvenirs  and a $2 pedicure . I won´t bore you  with the details , but all I have to say is that women are very very friendly , and one even slapped my ass a couple of times. Who could blame her . After the exhausting shopping tour we went back to the hotel and I took a 6 hour nap. When I woke up we went for dinner. Vietnam at night is probably one of the prettiest places I've been too . Lanterns glowing everywhere tourists around us , and good people trying to make a living.  We went to a restaurant and I got crispy fried noodles. (I wouldn't  recommend it unless you like eating Styrofoam ), but the watermelon juice was delicious. After dinner we walked around the town  square where all the shops are and if you like shopping like me , you should really wear a blindfold  because I stopped at every single store to check it out. As I was walking this woman comes up to me  tries to sell me a $1 helicopter like toy. She followed me for a whole block until i finally got it . I gave her $20 , and she gives me fist full of DONG (Vietnamese currency) and says pick your change. So I did, she counted it out after me and smiled and said OK. I went back to my hotel room and passed out.
Sorry about the blurry picture! I will get better ones i promise :)

Monday, June 17th..

Another really early lunch (breakfast) . After breakfast we finally went to the university  ! Which was amazing. It didn't look like much, but the way they greeted us brought tears  to my eyes. They had a special show for us which was probably on of  The cutest things I ever saw.

Welcome to Vietnam

College president
I felt so welcome and I knew that I made the right decision by coming here.  We meet our students, some teachers,  the principal and the president of the university.

After some words of friendship and a tour of the school my group and I went back to the hotel for lunch. 
Eating a chilli!
Drinking a coctail called Pussy foot! True story! :D
After lunch  Shannon and I went back to the market to see if our things were ready. They weren't but we didn't mind. We went to another lady who did our nails the day earlier and got massages.

Funny lady!

My Vietnamese sister :D
Haha love her face!
Things got pretty crazy , I won´t tell you  too much but this woman named Phoe ended up using my bra as headphones. Love her ! I love all the women at the market , they are incredibly nice and sweet.  They even gave us a ride back to our hotel where our group was waiting for us to go back to the university.
When we went back we were assigned 2 students each. I got 2 young guys who were very smart and super nice.  We started with some introductions and I asked them some basic questions . After that they took  us outside to play games. We played the  Vietnamese version of „ Marco Polo“  where you have to "beeee" like a sheep. Then we had a bicycle contest and finally they thought us a bamboo dance.

All I have to say is that I had a blast, the first day at the college. After we were done we got a cab back to to out hotel and went to dinner to a restaurant  called Mango Mango , the food was really good but a bit overpriced. After dinner I got a cab back to the hotel . I didn't want to walk around  that night because I was to tiered . I got to my hotel  and went straight to bed.

I will put more pictures up of that day later! :)

Tuesday, June 18th..

This morning I woke up  earlier than usual. I went and took a shower  and by the time I got ready it was already time to go to the college and I had to skip breakfast . Which I didn't mind . I wasn't that hungry anyways.  We arrived at the school around 8, and started with some basic English phrases. The hard part was saying them in  Vietnamese, but my students  did their best to explain it to me. After some exercise  we got a break  and one of my students  asked me if I want to go get a drink with him. I said yes and we went into a little cafe just by the school. His classmates  kept giggling  and staring at us  which was really funny to me .  And when we went back to the classroom  everyone was shouting and giggling at us. I felt a little embarrassed  and it was like we were in middle school . But it was cute. After everyone calmed down we played pictionary  for a couple of hours and explained  to them more words and phrases. We got another break for lunch, we got back to our hotel , ate and were back at the University at 2 pm.
When we got back to the university, we were in for a treat! VIETNAMESE COOKING CLASS!!! YAAAAYYY!!! :) Since pictures are worth more than words, I will just show you what we did! Enjoy!

Homemade noodles.


Inspecting the spices! YOU PASS!!! :) 
I will add more pictures later, when I get them from friends. 

After the amazing meal, we went back to our hotel room and I started writing my super awesome blog!  I hope you enjoy it so far, there will be more stuff tomorrow!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Movements: DiversityInc and its parallels to Christianity

Talking about how movements get started. We agreed that the most important part in the beginning is having people on all levels who are more concerned with the movement than their place in it. These people ought to have a place or a space where they can meet regularly and reaffirm each other, as well as bring new people in to introduce to their ideas. These members can use this place as a home base or “launch point” from which to venture out into the world, and share their ideas. This is how Diversity Inc has been structured, and as we were talking, it occurred to me that there is another fairly well known movement that is structured the same way: Christianity.

In our conversation, we realized that our little group of friends had developed a ministry in some sense of the word. We don’t all have the same theological ideas, and discussions of G_d rarely come up in the classroom, but we are united in our idea that everyone deserves to be and feel loved and accepted for who they are. We have our space where we come together, reaffirm those beliefs, then we go out into the world, try to spread those ideas, and create that change in our world. That's why we call ourselves “change agents”.

As with most friendly conversations held in good humor, we decided to see how far we could stretch this metaphor, even into our leadership, personnel, friends and roles. This is what we came up with:

We started with Rowdy, the person who first had the idea of DiversityInc, and thought at first that he would be our metaphorical Jesus, but that fell apart, and we decided that he was more akin to Paul. Being a “rock star” musician isn’t quite like persecuting inclusive people, but it can be seen as a radical difference from where we see Rowdy today. He is certainly a role model for all of us, and an advisor as we work on spreading our program and philosophy to other campuses, like how Paul wrote letters to churches all over his region, advising, commending and rebuking them as needed.

If Rowdy was our Paul, then Serb would probably be our Peter. His role for our classroom is that of a necessary disciplinarian, reminding us of what our culture should be when we stray off track. That said, he is more mindful of rules than Rowdy, and the two sometimes have different ideas about what the most important thing for us is. Serb is the rulekeeper, and we love him for it.

Ramzi would be our John the Beloved, a person whose primary purpose seems to be to spread love and joy as far as he can, and to show others how to do the same. He is DiversityInc's energy guy, the motor that takes us forward. He is the excitement!

Michelle was our Mary Magdeline, who after her conversion became one of the most notable leaders of the Christian movement. She like Mary Magdeline is the heart of our group. She takes the time to care for us, and was the first person to see the opportunity and was one of the best witnesses.

Rory would be our metaphorical “Virgin Mary”, who provided the inspiration for the whole movement, being that she made up MOSAIC, and eventually empowered Rowdy to carry the message to the masses. She was where the idea was "birthed" as well. 

The discussion got to be uncomfortable kind of humorous when we started talking about our “elevator speeches” and how similar it was to witnessing to people about christianity.
My friends’ story was about how he got his life back, mine was about finding direction and passion for my chosen path. More so it was about finding a purpose and direction as well as something to care about and believe in, the opportunity of inclusion.

The list went on, but after almost an hour we still had yet to come up with a “Jesus” character for our Diversity Inc movement. Then, in a flash of inspiration, we thought of Mike Ho. Mike worked in Student Life when Diversity Inc started, he had been absent some time due to unforeseen circumstances, and we are still awaiting his safe return. When my friend and I came to that realization, we realized that for the sake of this metaphor, he would be the perfect Jesus. He also is the person that empowered Rowdy to take the message to the people, so he happened to be the perfect inspiration as well. 

We just hope that when he gets back he approves of what we’ve been doing.  

Both of "him."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Women's Rights in Other Cultures

    Women's rights in Saudi Arabia, which are defined by Islamic religion and tribal custom, have raised many controversial issues in the past years. Much attention has been drawn to the plight of women in Saudi Arabia thanks to both social media campaigns waged in order to attain greater rights, and by King Abdullah's efforts to impose more conservative religious elements by incrementally allowing women more rights. The article "Saudi women: Pampered or oppressed?" by Rima Maktabi and Schams Elwazer, explains how Saudi women have different perspectives about the role religion plays in mediating women’s embodiment in their country.

    This article highlights the stories and perspectives of three Saudi women about women's rights in their country. The first story is about a woman who served seven months in jail for disobeying her father. The second story is about a woman and her 'guardian' that were forced to sign a legal pledge stating that she would never drive again - since women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the third story is about a woman who is "in favor of the controversial system" who claims Saudi women are "lucky to be pampered and looked after". These women live in a country founded on a patriarchal religious system derived from the Qur'an and the teachings of Muhammad. Unfortunately for all Saudi women, there is vast variation of interpretation of these teachings that often leads to controversy. In an attempt to enforce such teachings, Islamic Law suggests that all females must have a male guardian, typically a father or husband. The guardian has duties to, and rights over, the woman in many aspects of civic life; all in all, males have ownership over the woman through guardianship. Although the government has taken steps to reduce the power guardians have over some aspects of women's lives, many officials in practice still demand to see proof of permission.

    As ironic as it may seem, many Saudi women "[do] not call for a change in the law, but rather for better awareness". The woman from the first story who was imprisoned for disobeying her father, said that the Islamic law is "very fair" and that "if not for the law, [she] would not have been able to escape the difficult situation [she] was in" with her father. The second woman in the story who forcefully pledged not to drive anymore, rejects the idea of having a 'guardian' because she is a 47-year-old woman, who claims she should be her my own guardian. But the third women opposes these views and is even supportive of guardianship. She "argues that Saudi women are lucky to be looked after and that guardianship reinforces the family as a foundation of society." Other women who are also in support would defend male guardianship as providing protection and love for women. A man who was interviewed for this article says that, as men, they simply "want to lessen...burdens on the women". Saudi women supportive of traditional gender roles argue that any changes to these laws would oppose Muslim values, and that they already have a high degree of independence as is.

    That being said, this is a very complex issue. As with most diversity topics its not a question that should be able to answered with a quick or flippant response. The issue must be looked at through the prism of the culture, and we should try to get a better understanding of how and why things are done in a certain area, as well as what is the best way to proceed with all parties at the table.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Django, Still Chained?

Django, still chained

"Django Unchained is a great movie... just make sure not to see it with your black friends." When I heard this, I was dumbfounded. I couldn't help but ask myself; why would I want to see a movie if I have to exclude people from going to see it with me?

Quentin Tarantino's new film, Django Unchained, has received both critical acclaim and racial criticism. As a film and media studies student and DiversityInc change agent, I decided it was time to see what all the hype was about and watched the movie. Two hours and 45 minutes later, I felt befuddled. Here was a film that was artfully made, but like many other mainstream films, perpetuated racial stereotypes. No doubt, Tarantino has successfully crafted his own universe in which he makes his own rules and rewrites history, and for that I applaud his creativity. However, especially in this film, I feel that his creativity has come at the cost of contributing to the ever so prevalent racial stereotypes in American film.

Black racial stereotypes can be dated back to the first feature film, D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915). The film takes place post-Civil War during the Reconstruction period. In this film, black characters were shown in only two ways: the vengeful brute and the faithful servant. Also, it is worth mentioning this film was promoting a white supremacist agenda by portraying the Ku Klux Klan as the heroes. This film stands in an awkward place within film history; Birth of a Nation is monumental for displaying camera and editing techniques still used by filmmakers today, yet it is overtly racist.

Although Birth of a Nation was made close to 100 hundred years ago, we are still seeing the SAME racial stereotypes in Django Unchained. This film takes place two years prior to the Civil War. Looking at Jamie Foxx's character, Django, he is a former slave out seeking revenge by killing anything and everything that gets in his way of getting his wife back. The other black male character is Stephen, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Stephen is the ride or die servant to Monsieur Candie (Leonard DiCaprio). When watching the film, I couldn't help but notice both characters' qualities were eerily similar to the ones seen in Birth of a Nation. Obviously, Django Unchained has a drastically different plot and purpose from Birth of a Nation, but isn't it interesting that almost a century later, Hollywood still has not developed different representations of black men in film?

Usually, I enjoy Tarantino's revenge seeking plots like in Kill Bill Volumes I & II (2003, 2004) and Inglourious Basterds (2009) that show the triumph of the underdog. But, in Django much of the scenes didn't have me cheering. Rather, I was left silent in my seat with my stomach turning, especially in the incident involving dogs. In this scene, Django was so lost in his quest for vengeance that he did not blink an eye when witnessing the cruelties and violence put upon a slave in Candyland. Yes, I understand that his purpose was to go unnoticed in order to save his wife, but how is it his white counterpart was depicted as more upset than Django? Shouldn't his white counterpart have been equally stoic? In the purpose of portraying Django as a badass, Tarantino sacrificed a big part of making a character likeable to an audience: a soul. The character of Django isn't out on a selfless mission to fight against the injustices of slavery; he is only killing off whites to get back his wife. What was great about Tarantino rewriting history in Inglourious Basterds is that Jewish U.S. soldiers rallied together to kill off Nazi leaders for the better good of everyone. The rewritten history in Django is missing this valuable element for there were not any efforts made to avenge the injustices made against other black characters in the film.

Ultimately, I don't think Django is unchained. The limited black representations in the film do not stray far from a film that was made almost 100 years ago. I feel that this film had potential to be something innovative in the Hollywood circuit, but it fell flat. Now am I saying a person is racist for liking Django Unchained? Is Quentin Tarantino racist for making a film portraying black characters in this way? My answer to both questions is no. As in the case of everyone, even filmmakers can be unaware of their biases and it therefore may be reflected in their work. Additionally, it is not only blacks who are at risk of stereotypes in film. Consider the representations of Asian martial artists, savage Native Americans, white trash, or Middle Eastern terrorists in the films you watch. Of course movies are made for entertainment, but if we do not watch critically, there can be consequences. As a change agent, I feel it is my responsibility to bring awareness to topics such as this in our mission towards diversity and inclusion appreciation. Personally, I can't wait for the day Hollywood produces a blockbuster that really "unchains" the stereotypes.

-Michelle D.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Anti Joke, and how it can counteract Stereotypical Jokes

So I became aware of the anti-joke within the last few months, because of an internet meme named anti-joke chicken. Anti-humor has existed well before the rise of the internet and even the meme. While anti humor is used with a joke set up followed by a non-punchline. This break up of typical joke patterning is a classic form of ironic humor. The most classic anti-joke is the chicken and the road:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To get to the other side.

The new version is:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: Because chickens are very absent-minded creatures. the chances are the chicken saw some form of bug or other edible life form from across the road and decided to venture over in that direction. If the road was not there, the chicken would most likely have still crossed that same expanse of ground, regardless of potential consequences.

This rise of the anti joke is due to the fact that we can predict the plot of traditional comedy all too well. So by not trying to hit the obvious answer, and instead actually answering the question with a logical well thought-out answer, the anti-joke hits its humorous mark in that its wholly unexpected. The anti-joke's intent is to be non-funny, which makes them hilarious.

Due to jokes patterning in the past there would be no humor in an anti-joke, because in the past a typical joke were supported by clever use of language, pun, or perceived wit. We have become so used to these patterns that the use of a straight logical answer is in itself, humorous.

Now how does this relate to "Inclusive Activism?" Many anti-jokes are in-fact perfect foils to patterns seen in racist jokes. You brace for the impact of a judgmental hurtful statement given the anti-jokes perceived stereotypical set up, but the follow through is something unexpected and is a harmless logic based answer.

This shows though that racism and stereotypes do exist, and proves we are affected by them. It allows us an opportunity to prove that people who state, "I don't see color" or we live in a post racial society the chance to see that they do in-fact live in a world affected by stereotypes. It also can show how we can in our minds leap to a stereotype, when presented in a specific pattern.

Also perhaps I think this can be an opportunity to counter-act those that might tell harmful stereotypical jokes how the world may not be seen in this same light. It can show that the world can simply be viewed as a place where we are all in fact humans, and we deal with the same issues and troubles.

Some examples of anti-jokes that deal with race and show us all as people are:

Q: Have you seen Steve Wonders' new house?
A: Its really nice.

Q: What is white at the top and all other colors at the bottom?
A: American Society

Q: How did the Mexican get into the USA?
A: Legally on a student visa

Q: What do you call a drunk minority
A: A Cab

Q: What do you call a black man flying an airplane
A: A Pilot

A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam walk into a bar...
The bartender says, "What is this some kinda joke? Muslim's don't drink alcohol!"

Q: How many Jews does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: It normally only takes one person to screw in a lightbulb

Q: Why did the blond get fired from the M&M factory?
A: Repeated absences and poor work performance

A dyslexic man walks into a bar, ordered a beer,
and no one is aware of his affection.

A Priest, a minster, and a rabbi all walk into a bar.
Most bars serve people of all religions.

Q: What do you call a minority on a bike?
A: A hard working individual who found a steady income who has earned enough money to buy a bicycle of their own which he rides to and from his job because he is healthy, doesn't like to waste money on gas and doesn't like the pollution cars put into the air.

Q: What did the hispanic, rabbi, and asian all have in common.
A: As it turns out they all prefer cantaloupe.

These are examples of anti-jokes that when used strategically can reenforce the idea that we are all people, that stereotypes affect us all in our daily lives, and that we in fact are all just people living our day to day lives the best we can. I hope these jokes, although they start off in rough fashions, that they can be used to bridge gaps that keep people from thinking they are different from one another, and that we in fact are all people who deserve a fair shake and to all be included.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Change Agents DiversityInc v2.o

Over the past two exhausting weeks, we have managed to do what was once originally unthinkable. We have presented the MOSAIC (Maximizing Our Strengths as an Inclusive Community) workshop once again. And it’s amazing how important that word AGAIN is.

We are finally ready for a new group of change agents. It’s funny to be one of the few people in the room who was present for the struggles of “DiversityInc: Promoting Inclusiveness and Equity” v1.o. To know how much it meant to everyone that their struggles, fights, and resistance was not for nothing. It got us to where we are now, in the present… period. It’s also refreshing and rather amusing to see a new group of students who are tentative and a bit uncertain wonder about what the blue hell they have signed up for. All they really know and see is the passion and unfailing perseverance I funnel into this initiative.

It’s encouraging too, because as the leader and innovator, I can sit back and wonder…. Can we do it again? Will it mean as much? Can we continue to shift paradigms? It’s crazy to think of the difficulty of each obstacle we had to overcome, and how we even made it through everything last time. But it’s that… I don’t know, struggle to overcome that feeling of having to be successful in the face of adversity. That’s what made completing the task so critically important and so terrifically worth it to us all. It galvanized us. We were stirred to be the best; the challenge incited our desire to stimulate the best in each and every one of us.

Last year, DiversityInc’s pilot year was filled with troubles, broken promises, scholarship awards that seemingly faded before our very eyes, class changes, unforeseen schedule shifts, personal breakdowns, and a myriad of other unforeseen complexities and complications. But it was that push back, that struggle to finish no matter what, and that feeling of this HAS to succeed. If only to prove that we were up to the challenge. To show that this program, these ideas, and the notion that we are all important, and different, and those differences are the secret recipe to the single best dish ever imagined. That is what mattered. The idea that was so simple, that is its simplicity was revolutionary. Isn’t it just… cool, that we’re all different?

But as I look forward, I see such an opportunity in the Change Agents of the second generation. I know we made it better, it won’t be the struggle it was last time this go around. But I only hope we can make it mean as much. I hope we can bond as a group, and take that challenge to strive to be the best. Strive and struggle and fight and push each and every one of ourselves and those we encounter to be our absolute truest and very best selves. I want this thing we do in DiversityInc – this role that we fill once we accept the mantle of Change Agent – to have the same effect and impact it did upon the first Change Agents.

Many times I am seen as this person who is so out there, so idealistic, without doubt, and as a champion of causes. But I’m not. As a matter of fact, I personally, am no one special at all. If I were really someone who was great, I would wholly understand this “movement” that we have created. I could teach someone else how to do it and show the world, and attempt to be the spark to set the fire. And I would allow that fire to consume the world in its embrace of a culture of inclusion. But really, I’m not exceptional. I just try to do the best I can. I hope I can matter, and matter to someone and make a difference in his or her life. And at the end of the day, I hope to share that desire to each and everyone I interact with. That’s what I hope to teach them.

Somehow it worked last year. Can it happen again? Can we make it happen again? Are we 2.o?

I don’t know, but I’m putting all of my chips in. I have no reservations, and no hesitation. I encourage and hope you all to do the same.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Adventure to Indonesia

Viewing the many wonders of the world has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. This past summer, I visited Indonesia for 28 days. Traveling alone, I only knew two people living in Jakarta (the capital). Having been born and living my whole life in the United States, by going to Indonesia, I was bound to be placed into a culture much different then the one I knew so well.

Now the hardest part of the trip was that I did not speak Indonesian, and most people there do not speak English. Language barriers are different, but they people may overcome them. When I went to the malls, restaurants, or small sidewalk shops, the people would always accept my not knowing the language. Never becoming frustrated, these individuals would go out of their way to help me. Whether it was to find a specific item, location, or just getting the price straight, they sought to be friendly, even to an outsider. Taxi-cab drivers would always be tolerant of me not knowing exactly how to get where I was going. To my surprise, no driver took a longer route to make the fare higher or even shorted me on any negotiated price.

I lived on my own there, renting an apartment in the northern part of the city, called Pluit locally. A nice thing about the apartment tower was that there was a food court, laundry service, internet cafes, a convenience store, and many other services that I did not utilize. While staying at the apartments, I did not meet anyone who spoke English, except for the contact I already had, thankfully, they were living in the same complex. But I was often on my own during the trip. However, on more than one occasion a local would come up to me and try to find out who I was, where I was from, what brought me to Indonesia, and how I was liking the country so far. To me, it seemed that no person felt as though they were going out of their way to help me, and often expected nothing in return, even tolerating my “tidak bahasa Indonesia” (no Indonesian language).

Having a lack of Indonesian vocabulary in my language arsenal surprisingly had little impact on my ability to travel throughout the country and purchase food and other items. One time, I set off to go to a small exhibit on Indonesian musical history. The taxi driver I had did not know where the building was located, so he found the phone number to the exhibit, called them, and found the best route there from our current location; at no additional charge to me. At my apartment tower, there was a food court. Before I left for a daily adventure, I would always eat a meal at the same restaurant. Myself and the clerk fell into a daily ritual. I would walk into the shop, they would get a plate and put some white rice on it. I would point at what I wanted, sometimes they would point at something they thought I would enjoy, and they would get it, while telling me what it was called. Then they would tell me the price, or punch it into a calculator if my numbers were slow that day, and I would pay. To end, we would exchange ʻterimah kasihʼsʼ (thank youʼs) and repeat it again the next day. A few of my friends in the tower actually said that the clerk was much nicer to me than they were to others. I found this  odd, but I thought that maybe it was because I was a regular customer at that store and they were helping me with my Indonesian.

Some days, I would wander around aimlessly on my own, just to get a feel and city, and would usually stumble upon something I found interesting or enjoyed seeing. During these days, while I donʼt believe I broke any laws, I know I broke plenty of security protocols and restrictions, unintentionally of course. The exact details I wonʼt get into, but security guards and police officers treated with me with great leniency. Which is thankful, since I had seen some officers lightly hit kids, teens, or young adults with some sort of cloth baton thing (it didnʼt do any harm, more just to keep on the guard for protection, since they donʼt carry firearms). Instead, they would just make sure that I realized that I couldnʼt do what I was doing, and would point me in the right direction. Half the time afterwards, they would ask me what I had seen during my time here. Dring my trip, I did not meet one unfriendly Indonesian. Indeed most of them were incredibly helpful people who made my travels much more enjoyable.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Requiem and Response

Requiem and Response

My name is Serbnoor Singh Brar, most of my friends and families know me as Serb. I am a Sikh, a Change Agent who has received a year’s worth of Diversity training, and also a college student living in Phoenix, Arizona attending Arizona State University. On August 5th, Wade Michael Page arrived at the Oak Creek Sikh Gurdwara, and opened fire with his 9mm semi-automatic handgun hunting members of the congregation who were there getting ready for services that Sunday morning. The attack resulting in six dead, including the gunman, and three wounded. Among the wounded was Brian Murphy, a police first-responder that was ambushed on the scene.
Attacks against Sikhs are not a new thing, especially in my state of Arizona. There have been three separate incidences ending in death: On September 15th, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot five times and killed outside his gas station, on September 25th, 2003, Sukhvir Singh was stabbed to death in Tempe, and on August 4th, 2008, Inderjit Singh Jassal was spontaneously killed by a man who walked into the convenience store that he was working at.

There is one thing that I can express as a member of the Sikh community, we are
exceptionally good at our initial response yet lacking in what comes after. The easiest way to demonstrate this is through the recent handling of the Oak Creek attack. In almost every news report, there were images of the shooting, and a local Sikh leader denouncing the violence and praying for the fast recovery of those that were injured, which is the perfect first comment.

However, the follow up is where we fail. For most people, the follow up for these types of events is usually some comment on gun control, and a continual fight on that issue. As a Change Agent, I have learned that education is one of the most powerful weapons available in our quest for diversity appreciation; and my community has severely failed at educating others about our faith, instead continually expressing sorrow about everything that befalls us. We had the opportunity to alter the discourse after this horrible event. We did not capitalize, instead being content with keeping our heads down. Yet, pain still rains on the community of Oak Creek, with one of the members of the Oak Street Gurdwara found dead at his store just ten days after the shooting at the Gurdwara.

Much of this stems from the image of a Sikh, specifically a Sikh male and the turban that they wear. There are actually five parts to a Sikh identity known as the five K’s: uncut hair (Kesh), a comb (Kanga), a knife (Kirpan), underwear (Kachera), and a steel bracelet (Kara). Because of our uncut hair, the turban became our symbol due to our need to maintain an orderly and tidy appearance. In fact, that is why we are also mandated to carry a comb with us as well as to make sure that we wear underwear. The knife is meant to remind us that our faith exists to serve and protect society and finally the steel bracelet is meant to remind us of our connection with God as we are a Monotheistic faith. Every religion is designed as a response to the environment that they were created for, so Sikhism was designed to combat the divisiveness of both the caste system in India as well as the oppressive Muslim empire that had become based in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century. As a result, much of Sikhism focuses on creating equality for all as well as strengthening the society that we live in. One of the ways that we do this is our practice of langar, which is our community kitchen and meal area. If you were to visit a Sikh temple, we are not allowed to turn you away, no matter what your status and we also make sure that there is plenty of food available in our langar areas for anyone who requires a meal. There are many other facets of Sikhism, and feel free to ask me any more questions if you’re curious, as that is what us Sikhs need to do. As a community, we cannot continue to simply respond to horrific acts with condemnation.

Education is the answer; and we must begin now, before more of these events occur due tomisunderstandings and perceived hate.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Views on Religion and your own code of Ethics.

Describe your own person religion or personal code of ethics you choose to live by...

What religion or other ethical guide are you most interested in aside from you own? Why? What about it do you feel or see as appealing?

Given that people have so many different religions, viewpoints, and ethics how is it possible to hope and expect people to get along?

Why within the prism of understanding in the world is it important to be open and accepting to other people?

Is there much in the way of Interfaith movements from what you have seen?

Do you think Interfaith Interactions are important and have value? Why?

What can you do to role model inclusiveness within your own religion or ethical viewpoint for the rest of the world?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why in your own words does being inclusive matter?

Please blog on the following topic, why does inclusiveness matter in this day and age?

How can you model inclusiveness as students for your peers?

How can you model inclusiveness for your instructors?

Who in your life would you like to challenge to be more inclusive?
(this can be a specific person but if it is a specific person replace them with the name Pat or Casey *a gender neutral name*) Or it can be a group of people.

Who in your life have you been less than inclusive with, and how can you embrace them better?
(this can be a specific person but if it is a specific person replace them with the name Pat or Casey *a gender neutral name*) Or it can be a group of people.

What are you going to do to make your personal space more immediately more inclusive to all people? And once you start doing it how would you explain it to a totally new person how you manage it?
This will end up being your own personal of inclusive activism.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Once you have completed MOSAIC

After you complete MOSAIC (Maximizing Our Strengths as An Inclusive Community) IIIA and IIIB. Please answer the following questions.

Has MOSAIC helped change your worldview or perspective on the world? How will you apply these concepts in the future?

What tools do you think are most helpful that you learned about in MOSAIC that will help you include others in the future?

What was one of the most insightful things you learned being a part of MOSAIC?

Can you see yourself leading these discussions for your peers? If so which piece of the program would you like to help facilitate and why?

How is your understanding of people and their perspectives different now?

If you were able to pick one piece of the entire experience as your absolute favorite what would it be?