Yesterday I decided to go and check out the Latin festival at the waterfront park, in my neighborhood.  I was greeted by delicious smells and great music.  I love any opportunity to dance and so there I was, in the midst of a large crowd of people, some in beautiful, ornate, colorful, traditional outfits, everyone dancing to the samba, rumba, salsa and cha, cha, or just moving together to the beat.  I was one of few non Latin, non Spanish speaking people, but I could not have felt more of a sense of belonging. 

We were dancing in the conga line when I spotted a friend I had met about two years ago.  We hugged, and chatted about the things that have happened since we last met.   She was telling me of her plans to move to Miami in the next year and eventually back to Venezuela with her family.  Her parents were leaving soon, moving back.  I couldn’t help but look shocked; “Why?” I had to ask.  Two years ago, she had been so excited to have her parents move from New York to be close to her and her daughters.   What happened?  

We all know much has happened over the past two years.  Unfortunately some of it has led her parents and others to feel, that they have no place in this country.  A country of immigrants, but not “these immigrants”.  That was not the most unsettling part of the conversation.  She also shared with me that "her people" are discouraging one another from speaking Spanish these days, especially at the airports.  It brought back memories of feeling like that myself when I was a young girl, trying to hide that I was from another country.   She also expressed concern for the elementary students, she works with, who are non-english speaking.  The pressure and politics, which she feels are not helping  these students in integrating.  She mostly focuses on her contribution and stays out of all the politics, but it's not always easy to keep quiet she admitted.  I can’t even imagine the pressure students and teachers must be feeling theses days with all the Standardized tests students have to take.  When your job and your school’s grade depend on how well your students perform (students not only challenged by their lack of the English language but the many cultural differences that influence their understanding of text), how patient and understanding would you be?.  

Alfred Adler, one of many forward thinkers in the late 1800’s pointed out that our greatest need is for belonging.  Brene Brown, a renowned research professor and Ted Talk speaker has pointed out, how those of us who are functioning and happy, are also the ones who know they have love and belonging.  But when half or more of our community does not believe they belong or count in the same way as the other half does, who also believe that their right to belong supersedes all else, then we have a great divide.  if we cannot make a place for us all, then we are not the country we claim to be.  What’s more our own happiness will depend on the kind of community we are willing to build.  On that evening at the Latin festival, I felt  a sense of belonging, a connectedness you feel when you are with other people who are there to enjoy being.  Not being more or better, not latching on to mistrust and fear, not being against or for, just being together. It did not matter that I was not Latin or Spanish speaking.  I was welcomed and accepted.  

When we feel pushed down, we more often than not try to push other's down as well and this can become a vicious cycle.  If we can approach others, not as their superiors, and accept that being different is just that, then we have a community.  Any group which attempts to be exclusive is not a community, because for the mere fact that it excludes and is designed to divide, antagonize and overpower.  That scenario will almost always lead to a lose/lose result .  Let's go for a win/win!

“The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge for conquest.”  

— Alfred Adler


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