Some Thoughts on Diversity

Posted on June 11, 2011

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The third annual World Folk Festival at Lynn Heritage State Park kicks off today. [Now postponed to Sunday June 26 because of rain] To this observer, that is an impressive accomplishment that bodes well for Lynn. Everyone who had a hand in organizing the event should be proud. They’ve stuck with it for 3 years in row despite all the obstacles that come with planning and executing such an inclusive celebration. This year, the weather doesn’t seem to be cooperating, but they’ve got the parking!

I must confess, I get envious and proud at the same time when I see “2nd East Lynn Community Association Annual Clean Sweep” or realize that Arts After Hours is coming up on its 2nd year of providing innovative and imaginative programs, stepping into the void left by the demise of Third Thursdays. Anyone for a second consecutive At-large City Councillor debate?

“A main goal of these events is to bring the community together to celebrate the common thread between all cultures – that is, we all celebrate and express ourselves through the arts,” says Jocelyn Almy-Testa, partner in Arts After Hours and owner of the The Little Gallery Under the Stairs.

I’m a believer in celebrating diversity. Monocultures are not self-sustaining, needing infusions of chemicals and other artificial means to grow homogenous perfect specimens. I like difference. I like having a choice, seeing an unfamiliar dish and sampling it.

Another reaction to diversity is misunderstanding and resentment. There are forces that resist it because it threatens them in the pocketbook, their livelihoods and their sense of entitlement. The world has gone flat, meaning that a lot more people of different nationalities and ethnicities have access to tools that empower them, put them on a level playing field with us Americans.

When I started writing this I was struck by the juxtaposition of two events reported in the Lynn Item: The World Folk Festival and the 5 hour standoff on Wayne St. between police and home invaders. In the home invasion story, the last names of all the witnesses revealed the multicultural makeup of the neighborhood. The police department negotiator’s name was Tito Kim, and even the 3 perpetrators seemed to be a multicultural group.

Both events triggered thoughts about diversity in not only me, but in many others who read the stories and left comments: the celebration of difference that is the Folk Festival and the friction and misunderstanding that living in close quarters with other human beings who are different, sensitive and hope-deficient can engender. Or to put it another way, the forces that move Lynn forward and those that keep it where it is.

There are those who think diversity is good and those who want to run as far away from it as possible. Some also who may have mixed feelings and just want to feel safe in their own neighborhood. Me, I like diversity, but I also want to feel safe.

So it is good to see the 2nd and 3rd annual in titles of events that move Lynn forward.

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Posted in: Diversity