Welcome to Orchard's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Blog. Below is the most recent blog, “Learning and Growing: Appropriation vs Appreciation" by Lisa Pryor.
When congressman John Lewis passed away, we celebrated his life and legacy by sharing some of his thoughts and insights. We highlighted a few quotes he shared during his life including this one: “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. To do something.”
About a month and a half ago, our community rallied around this sentiment and shared concern in regard to an element that was to be placed on our natural playground. Thank you for being active in helping us with the accountability needed to stay true to who we are and who we want to be. These are the types of questions and concerns that will help us continue to grow and develop as a community.
Therefore, we will be clear with our intentions to not be a community that engages in cultural appropriation. This means we will not adopt nor co-opt cultural identity markers associated with or originating in minority communities. We will continue to participate in cultural appreciation, meaning we will honor and respect other cultures and their practices, with permission, as a way to gain more knowledge and understanding. We will study different cultures and customs as a way to pay respect to those who walk a different path than we do in service of enhancing our empathy and love.
Bottom line: we will not be placing a tipi (teepee) on any playground.
One might ask, “Is this necessary?” Yes. Yes, it is. “Does this really matter that much?” Yes. Yes, it does. The main reason is because, too often, minority communities have their cultures and rituals stripped of their sacred aspects. Those same communities watch as their cultural identities are watered down and sold for consumption by the masses, without any recognition of origin, and certainly with no profit for that specific community. This can be seen in aspects of cultures other than Indigenous peoples, as well. There has been much debate around certain hair styles, clothing choices, musicians, and the list goes on. In addition, I will assert that it also sends mixed messages. Indigenous peoples have been referred to as savages, seen as the “bad guys” in westerns and games of cowboys and Indians, but offer a really cool “hang out” spot by way of the tipi? What happens when the tipi has been disassociated with Indigenous peoples all together because there is no education around the origin and purpose of such a structure? Some might call this stealing.
Let’s be clear, there will be times in which we will make mistakes. No one is perfect and perfection is not reality. Perfection is not the goal. The goal is progress, and progress is achieved through continued conversation and education. Staying curious and having the courage to call people into conversations to educate one another from love, this is the goal.
By focusing on celebrating all cultures in the most appropriate and respectful manner, we can continue to strive toward creating a community in which our individual identities are valued and respected, and our uniqueness makes us stronger. A community where we all belong. A former student and Orchard alumni had this to say about the difference between fitting in and belonging: “fitting in is like having to be a certain shape to fit the hole, but belonging is like a bag with just a bunch of blocks.”
Here is to creating a giant bag to not only accept but celebrate and appreciate everyone’s block!
If you would like to learn more about the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, here are some fantastic resources:
Thank you for leaning into these important discussions with us.
Lisa L. Pryor