This month I’ve had the privilege of talking with several different community members in local forums, from one-on-one conversations to city commissions, service and business groups, cultural groups, and at our India Center Table Tennis Club (ICC/TTC). While I heard perspectives from our community members who were Muslim, Hindu, Christian, immigrants from India, China, Mexico, Africa, the Middle East, or native Milpitas residents, two common themes were expressed: building
community and cultural understanding. These conversations speak to the imperative we have set for ourselves in Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) that we call a Culture of We. What I love about our MUSD and greater Milpitas community is that we are conversing about how to deepen our connections to one another so that we can realize the society we want for our children.
How do we overcome the barriers that prevent us from developing an authentic Culture of We within Milpitas? We need to connect with personal stories so that we can dispel myths about “the ther,” and develop empathy for the experiences that have made each of us unique. As we interact with our youth, and sometimes even one another, it is important for us to call attention to word that carry the pain of oppression. While we might soften that pain by calling the words examples of “bullying” or allowing them to remain in our conversation because they have become commonplace, we need to recognize their roots and educate so that we do not perpetuate their use.
Through shared experiences we can create cultural understanding. For example, when I visited our
ICC/TTC, I saw youth of Chinese, Indian, Latino, and European descent practicing together. These students practice every weekend, and throughout their time they have an opportunity to share interests, customs, and food. I spoke with members of one of our mosques who shared with me an effort they are embarking on called “Meet a Muslim.” Through café chats and sharing a meal together, ignorance is dispelled to make way for relationship and appreciation.
Throughout the upcoming school year, we will have many opportunities to share and connect so that together we can ensure that every student and every community member feels engaged and supported. In the meantime, take your family to one of the many cultural events that are happening
in our community, or take a moment to get to know the neighbor you pass by every day; it starts with a smile. If we are to value one another and recognize the dignity of each, we must cultivate an open mind and a listening heart, we must establish a Culture of We.