American author, poet, and activist Maya Angelou said, “In Diversity, there is beauty and there is strength.” This statement illustrates the power of bringing various perspectives and backgrounds together to solve the problems of today. Diversity can be a challenging topic to discuss, and with people more isolated than ever after the last two years, our differences are often seen as stark divisions and met with stiff resistance. Isolation is not a natural human state; the world’s largest problems are typically solved through collaboration. The world is diverse, and by connecting with one another, we can see and respect our differences, while bringing unique experiences to the table to solve our problems. Even within our rural communities, there is rich diversity.
The gap between “fear/hatred” and “acceptance/collaboration” is awareness. We often make assumptions on information surrounding diversity that is thought to be true, without considering the source or the motives behind the source. This can lead to judgement, development of biases, fear and even violence towards others.
The decision was made to create a series that aimed to represent and reflect the unique experiences, perspectives, and viewpoints of the people that live within the Shenandoah Valley community. This virtual diversity panel, entitled, “My Story Weaves Our Story” is meant to serve as a space for people from the minority groups within our community to make their voices heard and to give others the opportunity to learn from their perspectives. This series gives a human face to each community and allows us to hear directly from people, not from sensational headlines or politicized media
The first episode was released in late March, featuring five panelists from five different communities: African American community, Hispanic/Latinx community, LGBTQIA+ community, Asian community, and the Appalachian community. These five panelists were given a simple task: “Tell us about yourself. Your story. Your struggle. How you became the person you are today.” This was our introductory episode, serving to start the conversation. We realize that no single individual could be representative of the entire group. That is why we will delve further into the rich diversity within each community in subsequent episodes, currently being filmed!
Holding a discussion between various backgrounds brings not only understanding and collaboration, but studies have shown that diversity helps foster deeper critical thinking, more creativity and innovation! For example, Antonio et al. (2004) suggests that working in a diverse environment can trigger deeper cognitive thinking. collaborate and challenge ourselves to be open to hearing stories and different perspectives (yes…even when we don’t agree!) from others, we are able to create a solution that works for us all. Every human experience is different, and every story is different. It is when we come to the same table for discussion that we begin to weave those experiences together, truly creating, “Our Story.”
The diversity panel is now available on NPC’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/qj_b2SZnXqk. The podcast version is available on all major podcast venues and hosted on Podbean, at https://positivevibesfromthevalley.podbean.com/e/my-story-weaves-our-story-the-first-panel/, as part of the Positive Vibes from the Valley podcast.