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Archive for the ‘diversity’ tag

Connecting across a big world: Uniting cultures through entertainment

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How would you define diversity? It seems like a simple question, and I’m sure will provide a straightforward answer if you looked it up. But can one sentence or two really describe the vast diversity in the world today? How do we wrap our heads around the idea of multiple cultures? Considering the huge realm of cultural experience, understanding diversity becomes a daunting task.

However, it is not something worth ignoring. In our busy lives it can be hard to see the world from a perspective other than our own. Often we find ourselves interested in other cultures and wanting to know about them, but not always having the time or resources to do so. Then, all of a sudden, we see something like the disaster in Haiti and everything looks different. Our eyes open up to what is out there in the rest of the world, and we see ways in which we can interact and be helpful. Our response to needs around the world, when we are made aware of them, is outstanding. Being aware of diversity, even in the most unhappy times, can bring about positive things.

This weekend, Colorado State University is hosting the first annual Uhuru Film Festival, offering a chance to peer into different cultures and hopefully become engaged with them. This festival embodies diversity in all forms. Breaking traditional boundaries of film festival genre, the UFF presents a variety of art including documentary, fictional narratives, and shorts. Music and books are also being promoted, demonstrating that cultural expression is created through multiple mediums. And though the UFF features African artists, do not expect a one-sided view of the African experience. A political activist couple returning from exile, a taxicab driver, an American seeking her heritage, and an Elvis impersonator are just a few of the characters that will be followed in the course of these films. In every way, the UFF shows us the diversity of human experience. Displaying them all in one weekend offers us a powerful way of learning about others and their lives.

I have always found film to be a powerful medium for both entertainment and education. The ability of a director to tell a story, so that the experience of the characters becomes so completely clear and relevant, has always inspired me in some way. But these stories are so real, and are so telling of a cultural experience, they really speak for themselves. Like a big news story from around the world, these tales reach out and ask us to open our eyes to the experience of another.

To kick things off for the UFF, Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o will be reading from his latest novel Wizard of the Crow at the Reader’s Cove Bookstore this Thursday. It is a great opportunity to meet a world renowned author and hear a touching tale of cultural experience.

 Described as a “global epic from Africa,” this novel deals with the rise of globalization, and how we are all living in a world that is getting bigger and bigger. Thiong’o understands that globalization potentially causes divisions in different cultures, a result of many factors including the simple fact of population growth. At the same time, however, technology has made it possible to reach across the globe in seconds, allowing us to be a part of other cultures quite easily. This gives us a chance to be involved in the lives of others.

“We are all connected,” Thiong’o said, “we are each other’s keeper no matter where we are or come from.”

The many events presented by the UFF will certainly show us a new and powerful way of looking at other cultures. Once we learn about different experiences, we can see the many ways in which we can participate in dialogue, involve ourselves in aid, and ultimately make our vast and diverse world seem a little smaller.

Details on the Uhuru Film Festival:
When: Friday, February 5-Sunday, February 7, 10:00am-9:00pm (film times vary)
Where: Lory Student Center, Colorado State University
Safari yote (entire event):$35.00 General public $25.00 Students
Siku moja (one day):$13.00 General Public $8.00 Students
Moja Pass (single film):$5.00 General public $3.00 Students
Full Schedule of Films can be found here at

Details on the Ngugi wa Thiong’o reading

When: Thursday, February 4, 6:30pm
Where: Reader’s Cove Bookstore, 1001 E. Harmony Rd.
Cost: Free
Books are now available at the bookstore. Purchase before copies run out and get your book signed after the book reading.

The Politics of Open and Shut: Immigrant Tales.

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There is much talk in globalization circles that we are moving closer and closer to the eradication of the nation-state and the rise of a global society and world system. It would be easy to say that those who propose such ideas are fantasists, yet there is no doubt that the world faces global issues, on a global scale, with no easy global solutions at hand. Many of these global issues have been wrought by the movements of people, their belongings, their cultures, their food and their homes. It’s funny what kinds of cultural diversity we celebrate and which ones we deem catastrophic. The Politics of Open and Shut.

Last year, as I tended to my garden at the University Village, my Indian neighbor was educating me on what he was growing in his plot. I asked him where he got the seeds to grow the spices and vegetables fundamental to his native cuisine. He said, “oh you know, my friend’s cousin sent them from India and we all shared them around.” He then told me how to cook them, what they are used with in the cuisine of Goa where he was from and later that afternoon, I went home and wrote my Indian colleague in New Zealand to learn some more. The Politics of OPEN.

This weekend, my colleague shared a story with me about a scholar who had lived in the Village for several years with his family (3 children, one an infant), and who at the end of his stay had tried to return to his home in Gaza, only to arrive in Egypt to find he did not have appropriate documentation and the border was closed under current circumstances. The family was then sent to Austria who did not know what to do and sent them to Jordan where they remain in a refugee camp and hope to return home one day. The Politics of SHUT.

Seeds travel. Stories travel. Images travel. People travel. Homes travel and sometimes unravel. My thesis research was conducted on the border of Arizona and Mexico, in a small town called Douglas on the US side and Agua Prieta on the Mexican side. Every day I would conduct fieldwork at the local high school, the soup kitchen and the post office (amongst other places). I watched people come across that border to get their mail, do their shopping, get something to eat and go to school. Then I saw them go home. My friends would tell me of the tunnel that ran under the border where drugs ran both ways. Holes you could drive a truck through. Packages of food and clothes left by charitable folks on either side for those who risk their lives to cross. They would also tell me of shootings in the alleys and disappearances; always calm, always matter of fact. This is what it means to live on the border, they would say. Borders. Outer edges. Lines. La Frontera…where you walk the line between life and death, figuratively and literally.

I would get on a bus to travel back to Tempe to see my advisor. “Make sure you carry your documents”, she would say. See, I’m an immigrant too. At Bisbee, or before, the bus would stop for a siren. Armed men would get on the bus, we would all produce our tickets and our papers; those of us who had them, that is. Every time, 3 or 4 people would leave the bus and get into a van, arms handcuffed behind their backs. I would watch them from my window as we drove away. Me, with my white face, shaking like a leaf.

Immigrant tales. They are as diverse as the people from whose tongues they roll. I admire people who have a clear position on immigration because my immigrant life has no clear position. That’s what makes discussing immigration difficult. But on Tuesday, April 21, at 7pm at the Lincoln Center, we hope to try and hear diverse voices on this most human and global of topics — the Politics of Open and Shut. Frank Sharry, of America’s Voice,  a nonprofit communications organization dedicated to winning immigration reform and previously of the National Immigration Forum of Washington DC, one of the nation’s leading immigration policy organizations will engage our community in a lively dialogue on fresh perspectives on immigration as the 5th presenter in Beet Street’s Thought Leader series. Frank Sharry, himself, while pro-immigration reform, is the first to admit there is no easy answer to the country’s immigration challenges and he is accustomed to his views being contested. Described by some as a common sense voice of reason and by others as a controversial radical, we hope you will join us to entertain your brain and make up your own mind about this extraordinary speaker and topic. For more information about Frank Sharry and other Finding Home events, visit Beet Street.

We would love to hear what you think of the event afterwards! Just post a comment below…:)

With thanks to Omar Omar, dlemieux, nathangibbs and _fleMma_ for their wonderful images!

Home is where they understand you.

Kirsten Broadfoot

Sustaining Creative Communities!

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How do we sustain creativity? How do we sustain community? These questions are increasingly being asked nationally and internationally as some first world countries struggle to compete in traditional markets and many nations hope for a magical catalyst for urban regeneration. In New Zealand, Australia, Canada and to some extent Europe, these questions are increasingly salient as their populations become more multiculturally diverse. In some ways, then, the questions of sustaining creativity as well as community are intricately tied to a much larger commitment to sustaining diversity. This is not a insignificant shift in thinking as many of our modern nation states and indeed cities, have been founded on a form of ‘homogenizing’ in order to accomplish solidarity.

Jon Hawkes, a cultural analyst in Australia has done some important work on exactly these issues for public planning and policy in the 21st century. In his book, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture’s Essential Role in Public Planning, he examines the importance and interconnectedness of 4 pillars of community sustainability, namely — environmental responsibility, economic health, social equity and cultural vitality. Hawkes argues that we often focus on the economic health of sustaining communities to the exclusion of the others and we fail to recognize the fundamental importance of cultural vitality to community planning.  Furthermore, Hawkes argues that a community’s vitality and quality of life is directly correlated to the vitality and quality of its cultural engagement, expression, dialogue and celebration.

As a result, connecting cultural and communal sustainability, as we have also discussed with Tom Borrup, lies in fostering respectful partnerships and exchanges between multiple and diverse community stakeholders such as government, business and arts organizations. For many communities seeking a path to sustainability, this means re-imagining the connections between creative industries that ” focus on creating unique property, content or design that did not previously exist” and other economic industry drivers such as retail, real estate and financial services, as well as manufacturing. In a creative community economy, these industry sectors interlock as they focus on creating and deploying intellectual property and creative products such as books, music etc as well as creative services such as advertising and architecture across diverse sectors. There are also the live performance experiences which drive cultural tourism and which are central to community vitality as well. But more than that, it means, as seen in Gateshead and in Perth, a dedication to equity, responsibility and vitality for all community members to ensure their collective wellbeing.

As we enter this month of Finding Home and our collective stories of immigration, it is important to remember where we have come from, what we have brought with us, how to hold onto our cultural stories and practices, and then how to weave them in a way that recognizes all histories/herstories equally and which represents and equally engages, celebrates and expresses them culturally. This is no mean feat for communities and nations grounded in homogeneity. However, our multicultural nature and world now require us to rethink our ways of being together so that we all may live in a home built together. We have some wonderful opportunities for this kind of dialogue in Northern Colorado this next month and hope to hear from many of you at these events!

With thanks to carf, massdistraction and kimberlyfaye for their beautiful art!

Wherever you go, there you are!

Kirsten Broadfoot

Curiosity and Creativity: The Hidden Gems of Communities

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Last week when I interviewed Tom Borrup and he discussed the impact of globalization as well as the ways in which all communities have often untapped and obscured pockets of creativity, I was reminded of the ways in which my own community manages to surprise me on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Recently I read a research brief by Maria Rosario Jackson on the impacts on arts on communities. Sometimes we think that the creativity of a community lives in artist neighborhoods, amateur arts practices and companies, even audience participation in downtown venues and events; but in fact, creativity lives and runs through not only these events but some more ‘mundane’ places and practices as well. For both Tom Borrup and Maria Rosario Jackson, these pockets of everyday cultural creativity are reservoirs for the creative spirit and presence of multicultural diversity in ‘our homes’.  They can be festivals, gatherings, community celebrations, informal but recurrent gatherings in parks and community centers, church based artistic activities — anything that maintains and invents group traditions. As Maria Rosario Jackson puts it, these are ” often important aspects of communities that go overlooked and are missed only when they are gone.”

These simpler forms of community arts and creativity provide important grounding devices for newcomers as well — they communicate home, help build social capital and individual as well as collective efficacy in terms of making a home for one’s family. They also socialize newcomers into dimensions of work and the working life of the community, mitigate crime and improve public safety. I remember living in Japan and even in the early hours of the morning, there were always lights on in houses, people out in the streets talking and walking. You were never alone. Someone was always watching for you. You were always safe.

When we first moved to Fort Collins, we lived in Colorado State University Village where many international families make their homes. The same sense of community prevails there also. Residents attend multicultural events, celebrating all their diverse cultures; children learn new games and ways of working with diverse others and languages; residents share belongings, food, toys, children run around all day between the buildings, in and out of homes, gardens and communal spaces. Everyone shares in the responsibility of the community.

This weekend I went to the International Children’s Carnival and as always, I am amazed at the diversity of people present. Sometimes when I attend these events, I can barely believe that this is the Fort Collins in which I live. The rich tapestry of peoples, languages and performances that surrounds me at these events ground myself and my family in what we consider ‘our world home’ and remind us of the often unseen gems of our community. Over the course of April, we encourage you to take some detours in your everyday life and walk some less familiar paths, sharing in some diverse celebrations of art, crafts, narrative, architecture and performance. Just this week alone, the Traveling Heritage Quilt Project presences itself in our community, there is our usual First Friday Gallery Walk on the 3rd, the Fort Collins Museum and Open Stage Theatre present “The Move to Fort Collins – Local History Stories of Immigration” and we celebrate the first open house of the Museo de las Tres Colonias this Saturday. Finally, OpenStage Theatre & Company begins their season of Anon(ymous) which will run over the course of this month.

Remember…Wherever you go, there you are!

With thanks to strollerdos and Ana Carol Mendes for their wonderful images!

Kirsten Broadfoot