Do you ever wonder just how to achieve community inclusion? It’s so, so simple. Wait until to read how simple it is!
In small town after small town, I keep asking myself where is the inclusion?
Last week, I met with one of my favorite organizations, Talent Maker City, a new makers space in southern Oregon.
On this afternoon I visited a group of students who had just finished making their skateboards and were test riding them at the skatepark.
I will be featuring more of their work in another blog post. I just love how they create programs that tie in with educational curriculum of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math), business incubation and art camps. This team of four amazing innovative leaders works closely with the city government to create super easy ways to build inclusion into their mission and their business structure.
As I talked with the executive director, Ryan Wilcoxson, I was struck by how easy inclusion can be.
Started by four people; an artist, a educator, a mayor and a recovery tech-head turned furniture maker, their business model includes breaking barriers of inclusion. They demonstrated that you don’t have to make community, you just have to give every group an opportunity to participate.
Quick regional data:
Much like other rural regions, Talent has a growing hispanic community. Studies have shown that this is fastest growing population in rural communities. “In rural and small town areas the Hispanic population increased by 46% between 2000 and 2010. In fact, more than half of all rural and small town population growth in the last decade is attributable to Hispanics.” And yet, Hispanic communities, much like other communities of color in white communities, have little representation in community programs, businesses and opportunities.
So, what did Talent Maker City do?
To help parents feel comfortable with the program, Talent Maker City offers bilingual registration. That way, when parents come to register they can ask questions, find out about the classes and feel their children will be taken care of in a fun, engaging environment.
“Really, it’s that simple?” I asked
Ryan responded, “Yeah, it’s that simple. We also have translator on site in case it’s needed, but it’s the bilingual registration that makes the difference.”
This is the first year of their summer camps and the response has been terrific. When one student’s bus didn’t arrive, he skated to his workshop on a board he’d made during the school year.
“We’ve purposely built the maker’s space in town,” Ryan told me. It’s central and create a hub for people.
Ah, a hub. What a nice way to think about creating community.
If it’s this easy, why don’t more communities have greater inclusion?
Last year while in Mississippi, a professor asked me to speak to her social studies class about the racism I’d witnessed in the Delta. While I was speaking, one young black (self-described) woman raised her hand. “Ms. Campbell,” she said. “We don’t have racism here.”
I must admit. I was taken aback. I had directly witnessed racist behavior. I looked at the teacher, a 50+ year old black professor. She raised her eyebrow as if to say, “See, Carolyn, they don’t see what’s right in front of them.” I took a breath. “Really?” I asked “Is there anyone else who feels this way?” An overwhelming majority, both black and white raised their hands.
One young man, spoke. “What we have here is an issue with race relations.”
“Tell me more”, I said.
“Our generation is different than our parents. We share the same music, the same interests. In our age group we don’t experience racism.”
I hear this again and again from young people throughout the country. When I spoke with a high school class in Florida, many students reiterated what others had said. “We want the old guard to step aside. We need to let them see that our generation sees the world through a different lens.”
Ah, now to help the old folks let the new folks lead the way.
Stay tuned as I find ways that other organizations and communities are breaking barriers to inclusion.
To check out their website, go to TalentMakerCity.