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Appreciating cultural diversity

Appreciating cultural diversity

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On a six-week road trip from California to Washington, D.C. and back, our family was immersing ourselves in Native American culture and history. Our purpose was to teach the children about the love, beauty, and friendships that could result from efforts to promote racial amity.

We visited a beautiful Pow Wow in Rapid City, South Dakota, spent an evening in a tepee on the Rose Bud Reservation, were welcomed into a sweat lodge for prayers by a group of Sioux elders, and admired the Crazy Horse Memorial, so large that the Mount Rushmore sculpture is the size of the forehead of the Indian leader.

However, east of the Mississippi River, virtually all traces of that history had been erased. For the next two weeks, therefore, we shifted our emphasis to African-American cultural and historical sites. We learned about U.S. history from Jamestown onward and the stains of slavery and Jim Crow. The sites of the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta and the Tuskegee Institute were very moving.

As we neared home, I asked my sons, aged 7 and 11, what impressed them the most. Each one surprised me. David, the younger, said that the visit to the Soul Food Restaurant in D.C. was his favorite. The reason was because the people were so friendly and curious about us, since white families were a rare sight. He couldn’t recall such loving-kindness from strangers.

Michael said, “When it rained!” He was referring to our visit to the Second Mesa of the Hopi Indians in Arizona. We came upon a ceremonial Rainbow Dance. The rainbow occurs after a storm, of course, so the dance is thanking God for sending the needed rain before it came! He was impressed by that expression of faith.

After the dance, we were invited into the home of a local family for snacks and a warm discussion. We left the area to beautiful clear blue skies. About 20 minutes later, the sky behind us had turned black and, shortly thereafter, it began to rain. Three inches fell on the Four Corners area. The weather forecasters could not explain it since there was no weather front coming in to explain such a deluge. We all smiled knowingly.

Our journey touched on 24 states and countless historical sites. It led us into a lifetime of joy, awe, and appreciation of the cultural diversity of this country and, in later years, to the beauty of all humanity in other parts of the world, as well. Our family invites you to join the journey of love and appreciation of the garden of the human family.

James Haslip

Retired Educator

Member, Napa County Board of Trustees

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