Last weekend I got to see Poliwood through my younger cousin’s eyes. It was her first trip on a plane alone— traveling from the confines of her teenage life/parental control to the big city…alright, small city but equally fabulous!
Do you ever have those moments when you stop yourself and say “huh, I feel very grown up right now”?
Well, that is how the wife and I felt flying my younger cousin down for a weekend of family fun. My cousin is growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, like I did. Although, I love the vineyards, beaches, and shopping…the diversity in our neck of the woods is barely visible, so I find the ‘burbs barely liveable. Which is why I wanted her to come to a city where the diversity is abundant and intellectualism honored—such is Poliwood!
As she spread out her college brochures on our coffee table I was astonished to see how little had changed in campus advertising. My wife put it best “if you don’t see yourself reflected…at ALL in the brochure, then you don’t want to go there”. At first I scoffed, but she was right. If the marketing team wasn’t culturally competent enough to realize that people of color go to college too, what would their classes look like and how would her campus experience be?
Growing up as part of the “only one” club has its hurdles just like anything else, but college should be a time of expansion— of your world and your mind. Needless to say, we began doing a lot of brochure purging over the weekend.
As we continued on our D.C. tour/ cultural expansion I noticed something very different from my last trip around the Mall…all of the diverse families. It was truly a sight to see, young brown and black children staring up at Lincoln while their parents recite his “emancipation speech”. Crowds of black families heading over to the newly unveiled Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial—it was such a powerful site. Then my wife’s comments struck me, “if you don’t see yourself reflected at all… then don’t go”.
I have lived in D.C. for over a decade and I used to marvel at all the stereotypical mid-western white suburban families clad in fanny packs and clunky sneakers touring their nation’s capitol. It was indeed “their” Nation’s Capital. Everywhere they looked they could see themselves reflected back at them. From the occupant of the White House to the portraits in the U.S. Capitol, to the monuments on the Mall… Was there any wonder then why families of color didn’t visit? They weren’t present in the very fabric of this country…whom their ancestors built!
So, as we stood and stared at the mountain from which Martin Luther King Jr. is carved surrounded by the diversity and acceptance he preached about, with Lincoln over his shoulder and Jefferson at his feet, I felt my eyes water. Although, his presence on the Mall will become a symbol of the “only one” club the millions of families that will come to visit him will feel like they are finally visible. With each visit…his dream is honored!