Torch Community’s annual Diversity and Inclusion event took place on March 11th and this year featured Minnesota Rising’s Learning Lab Series Our Story, Our Future. After an initial mix of networking and good food, Diane Tran kicked off the evening by showing a TED Talk video of Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian immigrant who moved to the United States. Adichie told many revealing and sometimes humorous stories of how people would assume her background and experiences based on what they knew or thought they knew of her culture. When she moved to the United States to attend college, for example, her American roommate was surprised she knew English so well despite it being the official language of Nigeria and she showed her a Mariah Carey CD when she asked to hear her “tribal music.” After spending time in the United States Adichie spoke of her first visit to Mexico. She was surprised to see people in Guadalajara living normal lives rather than the caricature of Mexican immigrants as social parasites popularized in much of the American media at the time. Her point was that everyone has a story and stories must be heard from all sides to understand people or groups. Further, in order to appreciate a story, it must first be told.
The evening progressed on to a series of engaging small group discussions facilitated by the Minnesota Rising planning committee. After each discussion, people were asked to move on to a different table to interact with new people to hear or tell their stories. One activity asked everyone to share their story with a partner in 30 seconds as in a commercial. Deciding what to leave in and take out is difficult. This helped inspired a lively discussion on the role social media plays in telling stories. Some shared that social media allows so many to share stories instantly while others agreeing but feeling that social media also condensed stories into fragmented Tweets of trivial information. Once again, the importance of stories being told rang throughout the discussion. This was a great segue into another discussion on how stories help to define and communicate who we are. People design their own story and how to share it. Others need the access to experience it and make the effort to take it in.
Another part of the evening’s discussion asked attendees to describe how Minnesota’s story is created and where it can be appreciated. Museums, public TV and radio documentaries, and social media were mentioned. This exercise brought a real recognition of the variety of different ways that people can tell stories and the importance of making sure that some are not left out.
The evening closed by having everyone write down then share what they learned and how they wanted to improve their storytelling or story listening. Some recalled the danger in a single story message from the opening video while others talked about the rhetorical power of stories. To best tell Minnesota’s stories, some vowed to put themselves in new or uncomfortable situations to hear the stories of others or simply ask more questions then listen. Though Minnesota has a diversity of stories that stretch across a variety of backgrounds, these stories only exist to the extent that they are shared and appreciated.
About Torch Community: Our mission is to create meaningful networks by connecting young professionals with people, organizations and experiences that impact our community. Our events are held throughout the year and center on our values of Arts, Diversity & Inclusion, Career & Leadership, Social Responsibility, and Health &Wellness. Visit us at www.torchcommunity.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to learn about our current board openings.
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