JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
The 628th Air Base Wing Equal Opportunity office hosted a Multicultural Diversity: Real Talk workshop at the Air Base Education Center here Sept. 19, 2017.
The workshop gave JB Charleston members the opportunity to develop stronger relationships with diverse colleagues. The workshop also improved cultural competency skills by engaging in reflective conversations, avoiding perpetuating stereotypes, exploring nuanced stories of diverse subjects and creating opportunities for critical thinking.
“My goal is to help people think about their stories and life experiences which have shaped their thoughts about themselves,” said Dr. Melissa Crum, Mosaic Education Network founder and diversity practitioner. “This helps us identify and realize the barriers we put up or have been taught to put up when interacting with different individuals.”
Crum helped the attendees understand their barriers and stereotypes by creating a chart containing identifiers describing themselves. Other ways to overcome barriers were explained with diversity Technology, Entertainment and Design Talks as well as interpreting a drawing depicting a World War II Japanese-American internment camp.
“I used to help coordinate diversity workshops here a few years ago. However, this one approaches the topic differently and in a way I think really helps you to understand and diffuse issues with diversity,” said Jessica Lewis, 437th Aerial Port Squadron unit program coordinator. “Listening to George Takei’s TED Talk and hearing him explain how, even after being imprisoned in an internment camp, there were still Japanese-Americans willingly joining and fighting for a country that imprisoned them. They hoped the system they believed in would prevail.”
Crum said these experiences, stories and identifiers help individuals recognize the power in themselves. Tobey Housey, 628th Air Base Wing Equal Opportunity director, was the reason Crum visited.
“I actually first saw her at the National Art Education Association Convention in New York City back in March,” said Housey. “And it was interesting to hear her speak because her background is art education. She had people looking at different art pieces and asked them what they saw. The participants gave all sorts of different answers, causing her to address controversial topics in a positive way. This helped us look at the blind spots we have for things or people causing us to discriminate or seclude, whether we know it or not.”
Housey said the event showed how people with different experiences, in a single workspace or environment and being open about it, allowed them to break down discrimination or blind spots in the group.
“The military is such a unique and interesting institution,” said Crum. “It has a mixture of all different types of backgrounds and yet, they all joined for similar purposes. I’ve never worked with military members before and it has been a great opportunity for me. This is something I would love to do for Joint Base Charleston again.”