Originally written for Generation 42 Global Reformers July 4th Prayer Service
As we gather together virtually for the July 4th celebration, my first thought is to ask for the blessing of our Creator who has placed us all on this precious planet. Our faith leads us to a shared hope for a future where we can harmonize, not homogenize, at the intersection of race, ethnicity, religion, generation, and gender represented in this country. That hope was not a conscious one growing up in British Bermuda as the only Jewish little girl on the island. But I’m honored to now be recognized as a Diversity & Inclusion Trailblazer by Forbes Magazine. And I’m both honored and astounded to be an Award-winning author of 15 books on cultural diversity and the founder of the American Diversity Report where I’ve served as editor for 15 years.
I’m astounded because my early dream was to be a ballerina, forever in pink ballet slippers. But God had other plans for me. Perhaps that’s why, even as a youngster, I was surrounded by diverse cultures and appreciated their artistic expressions. Continue reading July 4th Prayer – by Deborah Levine→
As my radio theater play, UNTOLD: Stories of a World War II Liberator, is in preparation for broadcast, I am reminded of the 1st time that I agreed to serve on the local Holocaust Remembrance Day Committee was painful, even after almost seventy years since the end of World War II. I agreed to assist in promoting the event beyond our Jewish community and I agreed to participate in the reading of the names of the victims. And I resigned myself to being an usher at the event, not my favorite thing. What I didn’t bargain for was a seat on the stage when I offhandedly shared that I was helping in memory of my father who was a U. S. military intelligence officer during World War II. Aaron Levine was an army translator of German and French. And by the way, he was a liberator of a labor camp.
Working from home is a new norm, but it isn’t a new concept, just an increasingly necessary one. Computers have pointed us in that direction for almost 50 years. When my mother insisted that I take the first computer programming elective offered at my high school during the 1960s, I thought she was nuts. I was focused on learning Russian and preparing for a catastrophic moment in the Cold War. But Mom informed me in her soft sweet voice that computers were the change shaping the future and she was commanding, not suggesting. And if that weren’t weird enough, she insisted that I take a typing class to ramp up my keyboard speed.
Is Women’s History Month still relevant today? Is the need for sisterhood activism over as some say? We look back at the first group to advocate for women’s right to vote nationally and see that it was ultimately successful. The Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention was held long ago in1848. But the words of its organizer Elizabeth Cady Stanton still hold true and yet are still controversial, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”
Women’s History Month has often focused on gender equality in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and the lack thereof. The issues that result in low numbers begin early in life and continue into higher education. By the time students reach college, women are significantly underrepresented in STEM majors. Only around 19% of computer and information science majors are women. And only 38% of women who major in computers end up working work in computer fields.
The debate over Black History Month is not new, but it intensified when the Oscar nominees were all Caucasian and earned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Provoked an outcry, it raised questions about the existence of Black Entertainment Television awards (BET) and whether it hurt rather than helped African Americans in Hollywood.
“Either we want to have segregation or integration. And if we don’t want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards, where you’re only awarded if you’re black. If it were the other way around, we would be up in arms. It’s a double standard, ” said actress Stacey Dash in Variety. .
The controversy also involves Black History Month. My conversations with friends showed considerable ambivalence. Some felt that limiting the recognition of African Americans to one month was not helpful. Recognition and respect should be awarded throughout the year. Further, they felt that Black History should be seen as American History. Luronda Jennings, a member of Chattanooga’s Lean In – Women GroundBreakers, expressed her views. “Although Black History awareness is extremely valuable, I feel that once the entire human race respects and embraces American history and the uniqueness of all individuals, we will begin to move forward with positive change.” Another member of the group, Tina Player, shared similar thoughts, “Black should be recognized every day and not focused on one month of the year. We as a people are important and each of us has a story to tell.”
Hopes for a time when Black History Month will be obsolete were joined by a down-to-earth perspective. Voicing concern that young people learn little about Black History in school, they were reluctant to reject events marking Black History Month. Too few youngsters know about prominent African Americans beyond The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
If there was no Black History Month, would there would be any recognition at all? Current censorship of race-related history suggest that instead of becoming more comfortable together as some claim, we’ll enter a culture war. Casting us adrift from our culturally diverse roots to achieve a more perfect union has never worked.. I have always said that attempts to “Homogenize NOT Harmonize” only alienates and creates more discomfort and conflict, not less. Perhaps the best solution is to use the tools of Black History Month to advocate for more visibility and equity.
Editor-in-Chief Deborah Levine of the American Diversity Report has now been named Silver Ambassador as a humanitarian supporter for promoting culture of the Books for Peace International Award.
Dear Noblewoman Ms. Levine,
I feel embarrassed to write to you because our small prize can never be as great as your culture, as your immense soul, as your immense heart, as your wonderful and immense literary capacity.
You enclose the essence of the Woman, the Friend, the Artist, the Poetess, the Woman of today with the ethical and moral values of other times. You are a unique woman.
THANK YOU FOR EXISTING, thank you for accepting our recognition.
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Editor’s Note: This was the introductory presentation at the 2021 Diversity Town Hall in partnership with the Gary W. Rollins College of Business /U. of TN at Chattanooga (Moderator Dr. Gail Dawson) and the American Diversity Report.
I appreciate both the eagerness and anxiety about the future of the diverse workplace and I’m often asked to predict what that future will look like. Predicting the future requires looking at the past – at the history of the diversity field and how it developed. I’ll get personal here and go back to New York City 40 years ago. I had just graduated college with a degree in anthropology based on cultural structuralism along with the science of storytelling. I was excited about getting a job, but was considered esoteric and irrelevant. And female. No one would hire me. Still hopeful, I went to an employment agency in Manhattan. As soon as I walked in the door, the office manager insisted that I sit at the all-women’s table and take a typing test. I said no and moved to sit at the all-men’s table where they were interviewed for executive positions. The manager said no. I insisted, he physically blocked me. I insisted again, he threatened to call the police.