Embracing diversity important for our future

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2000

Cultural diversity is more than just a &uot;buzzword&uot; these days. A national news magazine recently devoted an entire issue to exploring the different aspects of race in America. Its stories echoed a common thread: the divisions of &uot;race&uot; are constantly shifting and changing, as our society grows and blends, and the balance of power in the new society is shifting, too.

Reading through the pages Newsweek, it’s easy for Miss-Lou residents to feel detached from the larger issues … but that would be a mistake. How we deal with the age-old issue of race — or more precisely, the social divides created based on race — is a very real issue. And, in what seems like a contradiction, it is also a measure of our successes and failures, as individuals and as a community.

Our failures are obvious: one need look only to the most recent county and city elections to see how the politics of race plays out in Natchez.

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But our successes are just as obvious, and they hold untold opportunities for growth in the future. Look, for instance, at the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African-American Culture, which bills its museum as the only black history museum on a Main Street in the United States. And it may well be.

More important, though, the museum, which celebrates its first anniversary in its building on Main Street, is a testament to the vision of its creators; the tenacity and perseverance of the volunteers who manage and guide it; and the public officials — from the national to local level — who have worked to create opportunities for the museum to grow and flourish.

Now, the community is invited to take part, too. Just as we rallied to help renovate the former Margaret Martin School into a performing arts hall, community residents have the chance to adopt a room … even adopt a window … at the NAPAC museum and nurture its renovation and growth.

Similarly, the public is invited to take part in the sixth annual Forks-of-the-Road commemoration ceremonies on Saturday. The two-fold event will include a memorial parade and a lecture program in the afternoon which explores Natchez’s role in the Underground Railroad. Again a testament to vision and tenacity, the growing awareness of the importance of the Forks-of-the-Road site — as unpalatable as its place in history may be to both black and white people — is a sign of the growing awareness of the importance of embracing our shared history … even celebrating it.

&uot;Cultural diversity&uot; for us is more than just a politically correct phrase. It is an honest recognition of the rich, varied aspects of our heritage and how that history has shaped each of us today.

And, for the Miss-Lou, how we choose to embrace that diversity will set the course for the history we write in the future.