Diversity

Ulimacho huvunacho is a Swahili saying. It means that what a person sows, they will reap. Swahili is an interesting language: it was adopted by many east Africans as a common second language before colonization by Europeans. However, both the Germans and the British, in order to facilitate trade and oppression, created laws causing Swahili to become the officially recognized language of trade and education, second only to English. This difficult colonial history notwithstanding, it has become an important symbol of trans African unity.

The Cradle of Humanity is in Africa—we are all Africans on a long enough calendar. It therefore seems fitting to use this language in a school which intentionally seeks to become a melting pot where truly diverse people can work together as equals. We will also explore phrases and sayings in different languages, and learn about how language affects humanity.

Many of Baltimore’s residents never leave their neighborhoods. That may sound like an exaggeration, (and, depending on how narrowly you define the neighborhoods, it may be) but the number of 16 year olds I’ve taught who have never been 10 miles from their houses is frightening. This leads young people to believe that their limited experience is the only true reality.  Unfortunately, few of the people they will meet who share that worldview have had much success in life. Giving students the opportunity to interact with people who have had different experiences increases their potential for interacting with the world.

Baltimore is very racially segregated, but relatively racially diverse. It is my ideal that the human makeup of the school -including students and staff- should be racially representative of the population of Baltimore. I also want to bring in guests of even more varied backgrounds to increase communication between groups. Exposure to people of different races, religions, orientations and creeds at a young age dispels stereotypes and fosters honest learning and caring between people. The fact that there will be college students doing internships on site is also part of meeting this goal. We will work hard, through a scrupulously horizontal system of organization in which each person gets a vote and each vote is equally important, to value all voices equally. Therefore, the college senior, interning as a research assistant, is an equal of the 16 year old student/ father, and also of the 60 year old office manager/ business teacher.

Generation gaps are an oft overlooked difference between people. A grandmother has a different background than her grandchildren: even if they grow up in the same home, she has experienced a different world than they have. She has a great deal to teach them, and they have a great deal to teach her. Lunch will be a special time to bridge this gap. The kitchen will be open to some guests at lunch time. Parents, grandparents, and community members will be encouraged to join us for lunch 4 out of 5 days a week. Of course, precautions will be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.

Every day at lunchtime, the babies will also join us in the kitchen. While rotating groups of students and staff prepare nutritious meals, everyone else will have time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. This will also be an informal opportunity for the teen parents to share information about their infants with the professional caregivers. This sharing should be two-way; the teens who live with the infants will know things about the infants’ experiences that the babies cannot yet articulate but that are important for the daytime caregivers to know. The adult caregivers will have a valuable opportunity to share important information about health, safety, and early learning strategies.

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