Do you think we can build a community if we ourselves aren’t diverse? I would have to say absolutely not. As a Latina who has grown up in Berks County her entire life, I feel we must be knowledgeable about other cultures and we must learn about each other’s upbringing, beliefs, food and traditions. It’s the only way that we will be able to build a thriving community, working together no matter your race, color or origin.
Every culture has its own ideas, traditions and strengths to bring to the table. Only when we begin to understand each other’s culture, we then start to respect each other’s thoughts, and that is when meaningful change begins. For example, if you’re a Berks County native, you may be used to eating meat and potatoes for dinner, but if you’re Puerto Rican, Dominican or Colombian, you may pull more to rice and beans and plantain products; however, if Mexican you may pull more towards corn products such as tortillas. How is this important, you may ask? Let’s suppose you are organizing a festival where you want to draw more Spanish people to your event. Don’t you think it’s important to know these facts so that you can have vendors that will cater to Latinos?
While figuring out what other cultures like to eat is one of the important facts to learn, it’s also crucial to invite them to be involved in the process and the solution—that is what I call effective community building. Besides, it also holds them responsible for staying involved, making decisions and, of course, following through until the end. Understanding cultures will also help in preventing racial and ethnic concerns.
First, begin by figuring out why it is important to you to be involved in your community and then ask yourself if you know enough about other countries and traditions. This is a great start, and only then will you be on your way to becoming a great, true community builder.
By Rosa J Parra