When I worked for United Way, there was a panel discussion focused on new Americans, from different African countries. A pivotal moment for me was when a professor on the panel, I think he was from Ghana, said, “African Americans have a responsibility to new Africans Americans, to reach out to them and to help them.” And I was like, “Wow. I thought that y’all didn’t want to have anything to do with us, basically.” So that was a mental shift for me. My struggle, one of them, seeing specifically Somalian people and people from different cultures, I need to reach out and say hi. At one time I was volunteering, doing ESL for Somali women, because I had this awkward feeling, walking around, I didn’t know if I was going to do something wrong, or offend them. So for me it was a first step towards breaking that wall. That centers around my identity, my Afrocentric, Pan-African responsibility.
Larger than that, it could be done for different sides of town. It could be an open house to rotate around to different neighborhoods, and invite people in.
Each neighborhood is in it’s own silo. I feel like there’s a lot of pride in individual communities and individual neighborhoods, but people don’t go outside of that. So when I think about people who work downtown, and live in Dublin… they don’t ever come down to the city. Some people say that, especially executives, they say, “Outside of work I’m never down there.” Or is you’re from the west side you might not going to the east side, because you have no reason to. Nothing you need is there. I just wish there was more communication and interaction between the different sides of town. Especially as new communities are coming in, new immigrants… It would be more valuable for everyone, coming together and having a place where they feel comfortable and safe. So people can start to build those relationships and not just stay in their own segmented areas. But that’s hard. Sometimes people just want to be where they’re comfortable, and if there’s similarity with others, it makes them feel that way.
I’m in the salsa community. It’s really diverse. People from all walks of life are there. Being a dancer and an instructor, has given me the opportunity to have friendships and interactions with people I wouldn’t normally know. People from different cultures and different countries. For that little moment, you’re dancing and you’re communicating without saying a word. And that’s really cool.
I wish the different theatre circles would communicate with each other a little more. When I started acting in Columbus, it was all black theater. And that was totally different, a whole other sector of theatre, and there was really no going in between. So there’s a black theatre community, and there’s a larger, mainstream, white-oriented theatre community, and I’m involved in both of those.
And there’s a young, black, professional type of crowd that does artsy things like poetry and spoken word, being aware of what’s going on in the community from the Afrocentric point of view. I’m also part of the non-profit world, from a career that I had working at United Way. People that are thinking about philanthropy and giving back to the community. Those are my big circles, and then outside of that there’s my family.