The Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Awareness conference in Chicago left me with awe. True awe, the jaw-dropping, mind-blowing "wow," so bear with me as I struggle to articulate the experience into a blog entry. First off to hear words like "evaluation" and "holographic" in the same sentence was certainly a new experience. These are the people that care more about the stories and "soft" qualitative evidence as the statistical quantitative data. There were large representations of native Hawaiians and New Zealand Maori people along with several American Indian tribes. The conference began with three of these tribes singing their equivalent to the national anthem and then the representatives of the visiting tribes bringing gifts to the local tribes to thank them for letting them be on their land. It was incredible to see the intentionality in these tribe members of not only thanking them for hosting, but acknowledging the land that we were standing upon. That in itself made me know this conference was going to be a game-changer.
The next 2.5 days were spent listening to speakers from many different communities of color and researchers and graduate students talking about how they had implemented culturally responsive practices in their cultural contexts and/or work. A main lesson I learned during the Sistema fellowship of tailoring your program to the community was discussed in almost every presentation. After breaking down epistemology (ways of knowing), I want to take that concept one step further: value your community. Knowledge is only the beginning. Knowledge means nothing if one doesn't use it to respond in a culturally responsive way, which requires valuing the culture(s) of the people one is working with...
Continue reading on my personal blog.
Sara Zanussi, Sistema Fellow '13