In 2002, the United Nations declared May 21 the “World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.” (http://www.un.org/en/events/culturaldiversityday/)
On May 20, 2016, Central Penn College will celebrate its third annual Festival of Nations. (http://www.centralpenn.edu/festivalofnations)
The United Nations added the words “Dialogue and Development” to the concept of “Cultural Diversity” in naming this Day because they knew that simply recognizing the existence of cultural diversity is not enough. According to Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization):
“In a diverse world, the destruction of cultures is a crime, and uniformity is a dead-end: our aim must be to enhance, in one movement, the diversity that enriches us and the human rights that bring us together” (2016).
Ms. Bokova is saying that all cultures are valuable and should be preserved and celebrated. Understanding cultures other than one’s own requires dialogue (interaction) with members of other cultures. Through this dialogue, we can all experience positive development (growth, progress) in our societies and hopefully within ourselves as well.
When I think about “cultural diversity” in a society, I think about the United States of America. Although there are many countries in which multiple cultures exist, the United States, as part of its collective identity as a country, has welcomed people from other countries and cultures and encouraged them to express and preserve their cultural heritage.
Unlike most other countries, we are a nation almost entirely of immigrants and their descendants. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 2% of the U.S. population identifies as either American Indian or Alaska Native—so 98% of Americans have ancestors from another place of origin (2014).
Among the Library staff, we have quite a range of different cultures and places of origin represented. My background is similar to many East Coast natives—ancestors from several Western European countries. My family’s largest connection now to our cultural heritage is our New Year’s Day dinner of pork and sauerkraut, which began as a German and then became a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.
In contrast, the mother of our Director was born and raised in Colombia, South America. Several of our student workers were born in other countries, including Haiti, Jamaica, and Liberia, and they later emigrated here with their families. I enjoy learning about their cultures and seeing (and smelling!) the food that they bring in to eat.
On Friday, May 20, Central Penn is offering a great opportunity to experience other cultures and perhaps reconnect with your own—the third annual Festival of Nations will be held on campus. It will include performances, games, activities, and food vendors representing many different nations and their cultures. Come out and celebrate with us!
Bokova, I. (2016). Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/world-day-for-cultural-diversity-for-dialogue-and-development-2015
U.S. Census Bureau. (2014). Quick facts: United States. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/00