Reel Impact: Mapping Heritage and Diversity at Reel Works!

What does heritage, culture, and diaspora mean to you? What aspects of your heritage or family history have impacted who you are? How can we celebrate cultural difference in an inclusive, positive way? Over the course of a two-week workshop series, Reel Impact students created a 8 x 10 foot map of their ethnic origins and reflected on these questions. Over 20 students participated, marking locations on the map such as Guyana, Puerto Rico, Poland, Senegal, China, the Philippines, Mexico, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, and, of course, the USA.

We discovered that cultural identities are fluid–each of us has been affected by globalization, cultural exchange, and movements of people across nations, oceans, and continents. Especially in NYC, a city where first and second generation immigrants make up a majority of the population, many of us personally understand the importance of holding dear multiple ethnic identities at once. To celebrate being American is also to celebrate being Haitian, Polish, Irish, Chinese, of African descent, and other diasporic communities that we are a part of.

When asked what culture or heritage means to him, Brownsville Lab ’15 student, Jeff Cantave, shared that it means “good food, overcoming, tradition, revolution, and dancing.” Roshanna Paul (Spring Lab 2013) and Julie Greenidge (Fall Lab 2014) agreed that good food is pretty important in the way they connect with their culture–Roshanna and Julie, who developed a friendship during Fall Lab 2014, also happen to share Guyanese heritage! As the facilitator for both workshops, I enjoyed seeing students such as Roshanna and Julie connect with each other based on shared ancestries. Learning about where students and staff are from gave me a better understanding of how Reel Works doubles as a local and global community. In sharing our global identities with respect, acceptance and gratitude, we can affirm our similarities and celebrate our difference.

-ANGEL EVANS

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