There is nothing that unites us quite like culture. Food, music and dance are the languages of love that bond the totality of humanity. One has to be an extreme curmudgeon or have severe anti-social tendencies to disparage the unique aspects of cultures that are abundant in this world. Culture is what gives humanity panache and originality; without culture, we would be a sea of bland monotone existence. Food is best when food is diverse, imagine if you ate the same food every day without the benefit of spice and seasoning—imagine eating porridge for the rest of your life without salt or sugar. Horrible right? That is what humanity would be like if we all spoke, acted, and thought the same way.
I write on a regular basis to disavow labels such as black, white, yellow and the endless ways constructs are erected by nefarious men who had the intention of splintering society. The matrix of injustice is powered by disunion; hate is the water that nurtures this system of greed for the few and scarcity for the masses. Hatred shatters humanity into cauldrons of labels and “us versus them” dogmas. The weakness of this system of iniquity is unity; the minute people realize that their struggles are the same as their neighbors and stop giving their hands and their spirits to demagogues who love to divide us is the minute struggles will ebb into the distant.
Inherently we understand this; that is why so many of us venture outside of our zones of comfort to explore new cultures. Foodies, travelers and dance clubs are nothing more than conduits for us to connect with others who are not like us and in the process live life with an abundance of experiences. A life is not lived unless we live a life connected to others. Stay connected! This is the motto of the day hence forth; the only way to overcome injustice and to make progress towards peace on earth is to stay connected to others who are not like us.
Stay connected! This is a refrain that Duan Ruff repeated often during an interview I conducted with him and his wife Renika Ruff yesterday afternoon. The Ghion Cast will be made available soon of this interview, but I say this without an ounce of hyperbole that the interview with Duan and Renika was one of the most profound conversations I’ve had in my life as a journalist and an observer of human interactions. Duan, an assistant director of the “Black” Student Center, and his wife Renika who is a yoga instructor and a student of human motivations, blew me away as they talked about the notion of togetherness and how we can overcome injustice through self-reliance and connectedness.
During my conversation with Duan and Renika, I learned something that really made an impact on my outlook about what I choose to focus on going forward. Duan noted that spirit literally means “breath” and that our spirits are a composite of what we breath in and we have the ability to impact others based on what we choose to breath unto others. Renika echoed and amplified this message as the power duo imparted knowledge that is rarely found in our broken mainstream media outlets. “We can’t heal this world if we are eating, breathing and thinking illness” Renika noted, “our minds are the soil and what we think is the water that nourishes our spirits”. Change can’t come without if change does not arrive within first. Profound indeed.
The change that we have been waiting for is first found within. We heal inside our spirits then extend that healing outward. The only way to bend the arc of history is to connect with others and stop seeing those who don’t think, act, or walk like us as abstract adversaries we have to conquer. Nothing overcomes hatred and the ills of this world—of which there are plenty—like a warm hello and a handshake. When we pause and learn someone’s name and take the time to hear their stories, it’s like a hammer that chips away at the walls that ghettoize too many into prisons of animus. We are one people who came from one source; both faith and science affirm this whether your ideology is based on a big bang or a Big God.
Let us recommit to connecting with others and do so not only on the 5th of May but every day going forward. We should not need parties and drinks to celebrate our cultures and embrace the diversity of humanity. The same way we love to dance and celebrate heritages of this world is the same way we should dance and celebrate cultures on a daily basis. If we are honor the sacrifice of Martin Luther King, let us do so each day and not just on January 20th. If we are Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, let us commit to embracing “white” culture when it’s not March 17th. If we are Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, let us embrace Mexican culture when it’s not May 5th. We should not need a day to love the diversity of this world—we should celebrate each other 365 days a year.
Today is thus a day to celebrate our Mexican brothers and sisters who are an integral part of America’s tapestry the same way the Irish, Italians, Ethiopians* (link), Japanese, Filipino and Indians are. Culture connects us and unites US as one people. We don’t need politicians to make America great again; America is great and will be the greater when we realize that the source of our strength is the diversity and distinction that is found in the culture of America’s 300,000,000 citizens and residents. There is only one way to overcome this system of inequality and iniquity, its weakness is love and unity. Stay connected and one day we will stay injustice. #StayConnectedStayInjustice
None is greater than the other; we are all the greater when we love and work together.
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.