I grew up in Chicago, Illinois where finding people who look like you was just a stone toss away. I attended a culturally diverse high school, belonged to social and educational groups and I developed friends from many different ethnic backgrounds. Many of us are still connected and friends today. Its been hard to imagine my own daughter growing up without some of those same experiences that I believed helped to shape me into the woman that I am. Fast forward thirty something years later. My twenty month old daughter is now growing up in a city and state where 2% of the population is African-American and 88% of the state is White according to the 2013 census. I have to admit, it has been difficult for my husband and I to raise her in a community that lacks many resources for cultural diversity. Since she was six weeks old we have exposed her to early development activities at the local library, mommy groups and social groups. Typically, we are the only family of color participating and understandably so, we grew very tired of this reality.
From my own experience, personal identity derives from many sources but mainly comes through ones interaction with others through religion, faith and experiences you have as a child. Furthermore, it is extremely important that all children see themselves reflected positively in their community. It is important as parents that we provide a meaningful balance so that children can learn outside of the home and see the world through a different lens of seeing.
A few of my friends often tease me that I’m always talking about diversity this…and black people that…and change this… But the reality is that even though we have chosen to live in a state that is 88 percent white, it does not mean that inclusion and diversity is not a necessity to create a well-balanced community for our kids. I believe that diversity and inclusion only strengthens you as a person and opens the door to radically changing some predisposed ideas that many of us grow up learning. As loving parents you have a responsibility to help your children learn about cultural respect and inclusion. Here’s why:
Diversity in play groups can enhance and strengthen your child’s social learning. Diversity in play groups can foster an increased understanding and self-awareness. Diversity in play groups can bridge the gap between cultural boundaries. Diversity in play groups facilities a healthy growth for your child that can only be taught and learned through interaction with people who do not look like them.
You can imagine my happiness when I learned of a new play group in North/Northeast Portland, Oregon that targets diverse children. Nikki Brown Clown is a one amazing “One Woman Show.” If you haven’t heard of her…just Google her. She brings the art of “child’s play”, early childhood literacy, music, dance, diversity and fun all together for one incredible fun hour.
What I really enjoy about this play group is that she unapologetically incorporates African-American Literature, music and dance into her play group. This is something I personally believe is missing in the Portland/Oregon community. I have spent the past 20 months attending a variety of children activities in Portland and I can truly say, this is the first time that I have experienced this much diversity in any of the kids groups. Children of color grow up learning to adapt, participate and assimilate into a society that is predominately white. When you bridge learning with openness to other cultures, tolerance and diversity you give your children an invaluable tool that will go with them throughout their entire lives. This is what Nikki Brown Clown offers each week to her play group.
Additionally, she has partnered with a fabulous nonprofit called “UpLife” in Northeast Portland.
We are overjoyed here at Urban Mommy to participate and spread the good news about Nikki Brown Clown and the awesome work she is doing in Portland, Oregon to bring laughter, fun and Diversity to all children. We salute you Nikki Brown Clown and recognize you as our Business to support/hidden jewels in the community this month.