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Unity Through Diversity

Students Launch Hosea 4:6 Initiative

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. ‘Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children’” (NIV).

These are the words of Hosea 4:6, the verse that sparked something inside Tanaisha Coleman and David Quinones and laid the foundation upon which they have built the Hosea 4:6 Initiative.

In Quinones’ words, the initiative was formed “to bring about education and awareness of issues of diversity, racism, and racial reconciliation. The goal is to create educational opportunities to dialogue and connect with one another, to be able to look past differences, to be able to find what we have in common, and to use these commonalities to build a bridge.”

Quinones explained that when he arrived at Eastern, he felt that many students did not understand the backgrounds of people of other races. As he was angry and “upset with the way things were,” he realized the necessity of educating oneself and others about issues and experiences of racial diversity. One place Quinones sees this perishing from “lack of knowledge” evidenced is in reports of police brutality.

In a similar vein, Coleman spoke about her belief that the Eastern community simply does not talk about race often enough. Both Coleman and Quinones want to help people understand that diversity includes people of all races. Quinones recounted the time he asked six white students, “When you hear ‘diversity,’ when you hear ‘race,’ do you feel included?” and every student said “no.” Part of his aim is to help white students see how, along with students of other races, they fall underneath this “umbrella of diversity.”

Together Coleman and Quinones formed the Hosea 4:6 Initiative to start various conversations about racial diversity. To them, recognizing and appreciating this diversity is key. In this, they said their goal is not to shy away from difficult questions; in Coleman’s words, they would like people to “be more realistic in racial conversations.”

“We need to realize where our stereotypes come from,” Coleman said. “If we come to a place of realizing this, we can all come to the table.”

On Sat., Feb. 13, the group held a Multicultural Fest. They set up stations, each of which represented a different country. An estimated 50 participants explored various cultural elements, such as food and dance, as they traveled to different tables and different cultures. The initiative also had a discussion panel on diversity and Christian denominations on Thurs., Feb. 18.

The group has several other discussion panels planned this semester. Topics of conversation will include criminal justice, stereotypes and social groups. They are also preparing an interactive activity surrounding the question, “When you look at me, what do you see?” during which participants will have the opportunity to examine some of their assumptions about race.

Through facilitating these interactions, the Hosea 4:6 Initiative hopes to help people become more informed about other races, and consequently to learn how to better “engage with [people of] other races,” Quinones said. Coleman and Quinones emphasized that while people do not need to “walk on eggshells,” they need to be mindful and sensitive when discussing these issues. Coleman and Quinones maintain that it is often neither comfortable nor easy to speak about issues surrounding racism, but that it is important to “get people to step out of their comfort zones.”

But the positive result is getting to a place she describes as “cultural competence,” having sufficient knowledge about the experiences of those of other races.

In order to accomplish this on a personal level, Coleman and Quinones suggest befriending people of races different from our own and using the spaces created by these friendships to talk about racial diversity.

It is important to “learn how to see the difference[s] and not just write [them] off as weird or strange,” Coleman says, and “to see how that culture is doing something interesting.”

Through the Hosea 4:6 Initiative, Coleman and Quinones want to invite a celebration of racial diversity. Coleman believes that the Eastern community should seek to be “more open-minded and accepting of others,” should understand that “this [process] is going to take time,” and that it will be worth it if we are able to learn something we did not know before.

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