Tj Host

Wedding Ideas & Inspiration

Appalachian State University Diversity Celebration 2011

Diversity means, personally to me, accepting
cultural differences. Commonality. Layers. Interesting. Individual. Everyone. Embracing the differences around us. Culture. Togetherness. Diversity means difference. It belongs to
all of us. I have come to believe that diversity is everything
within us and everything around us. So it’s an exercise in accepting our fellow beings.
The world needs each of us. I consider that one of our responsiblities, I think. I remember
ten years ago, Amy Hathcock, who was a graduate assistant in the Equity Office, and I was
her supervisor, and she came up to me one day and said “King, I want to have a diversity
celebration.” I said, “Well, what do you mean?” And she said, “It will just evolve. It will
be performers and presenters and a crowd and food.” And I said, “Hathcock, who would be
the groups? Who would be the people? Who would be involved?” And she said, “Well, King, everybody.
Diversity is everybody.” I mainly think about how it began, that it
was in two rooms and a hallway and that it’s grown to take over the whole Student Union.
So we went from the first year having about 200 people to, I think, we have around 3,000
individuals per year. That says a lot to me about how important a diversity celebration
is to the community and to the university. If you’ve never been to the Diversity Celebration,
you walk into the Student Union that day, you’re going to see a lot of activity. You’re
going to see a lot of music, you’re going to see a lot of different people, dance, music,
art. There’s going to be crafts. There’s going
to be an opportunity to taste foods that you might not have tasted before. You’re going to see educational workshops,
you’re going to see dance workshops. Activity everywhere. You could hear African drums, you could hear
bagpipes, you could hear bluegrass all at the same time coming from different directions,
so you’re almost surrounded by sound. Basically you’re going to see a microcosm
of what our planet looks like. Having the 10th anniversary of the Diversity
Celebration, to me, that says that Appalachian is committed to not only diversity, but about
education and educating individuals about diversity. This is the 10th anniversary of the Diversity
Celebration and I think what that says to me is that our community and our campus keeps
growing and as people join our state and as they join the University and move to Boone,
they continue to be accepted and invited to our community. So, I think what that says
about Appalachian is that we’re a campus that values diversity, that values inclusion and
we’re interested in supporting all North Carolinians, all students and all community members. To be able to sustain ten years of a celebration
like this, I think is really unique. To have faculty and students and staff come together
to really put this on every year is also a unique component of this celebration. I think
it does show the importance that we’re placing on the idea of diversity and being able to
literally bring together entertainment and activity for our students and our faculty
and staff and, of course, the local community. That the celebration has gone on for ten years – and
I think will go on for many more – says that we as a community seek gathering places
and I think the Diversity Celebration is one of the key bridges between the community-at-large
and the University community. We’re hoping to make the Diversity Celebration
an event that all folks that live in this community can identify with and can feel like
it’s a part of them. This is an opportunity for the community to
come onto campus. It’s an event that’s a lot of fun and it’s also an educational event.
I think it’s very important for the community to see that and to understand Appalachian
and to recognize that we are neighbors and that invitation is open to come onto campus. Some of the small ways that we do that is
we’re bringing more local artisans and more local musicians and local storytellers to
participate in the Diversity Celebration because, again, these local stories, this local history
is a part of what makes our community so diverse and so vibrant. It gives individuals an opportunity
to come and celebrate and appreciate differences or, on the same note, they have an opportunity
to learn how people that they think are so different from themselves aren’t that different,
after all. I think it’s a really valuable celebration or event because it brings people
together, people that may not have ever thought that they would meet someone that’s so different
or that’s so much alike. I see the Diversity Celebration sustaining
itself, allowing people beyond the campus to continue to participate and to see that
grow with our community. Diversity Celebration can mean a lot of things to a lot of different
people, but at the core of it is really embracing the differences of our cultures. The fact is that we’ve got a diverse community
at Appalachian; we have a diverse community in Boone and as we have our community expand
and new people come in, it’s important to reassess who makes up our community and the
Diversity Celebration is a way to sort of express that. As we’re an evolving community,
every year the Celebration needs to reflect diversity that comes in. Diversity is more important every day because
the world is getting smaller every day. It’s the world we live in and if you don’t accept
diversity you’re putting yourself in a box and you’re really cutting yourself off. By
opening yourself up to diversity, you open yourself up to a whole new world, new areas
for yourself to explore as well as for our campus to grow in. It’s reality. We’re here.
I think knowledge is important and knowing about the people around you is important. I believe one of the main reasons it’s so
important to continue the Celebration is that it brings the world to the mountain. The world
that we are sending students away to, that we are preparing students to enter, doesn’t
look like Appalachian. There is a lot of diversity in the world and
usually when the students leave here, they’re going to go into situations where they have
to work with and interact with people from other cultures, so if we can prepare them
here and prepare them for the experiences that they will have out in the real world,
I think you’re giving them a jump start. One experience that sticks out in my mind
about the Diversity Celebration was a few years ago at the Brazilian capoeira performance.
In that room that day there were lots of different people, but everyone was sharing the moment,
everyone was sharing that culture. That was something you could feel in the room. So,
to me, the Diversity Celebration is something, again, where we can share culture and we can
feel it belongs to us. One of the most common observations is “This
is so much more than I thought!” And that, I think, connotes real success, that the Celebration
is truly a feast for all the senses and there truly is something for everyone and that diversity
really is so much more than we thought. If people take that away, I think the Celebration
is doing its work.

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