Knowing Who You Are… Building Connections with Others

Mar 13 2014

By Molly Latham

Saturday morning came too soon. As my alarm tried to coax me from the warmth and comfort of my bed, the rain against my window all but convinced me that my day was meant for cozying up with warm tea and a book.

But this was not the time for a lazy Saturday. I had work to do.

Friday evening and Saturday, during the weekend of March 7th-8th, CASA hosted Knowing Who You Are, a 1.5 day long workshop focused on exploring race and ethnicity and helping our youth build a healthy sense of self-identity. Over the course of the weekend, a diverse mixture of 16 CASA staff and volunteers came together to talk courageously and openly about race and ethnicity, understanding the unique history of American racial and ethnic relations, and empowering our youth to maintain their cultural roots.

My favorite aspect of Knowing Who You Are is the focus on personal journeys. The most important part about building on cultural competency is understanding that the lesson never ends – we never stop learning about how to better connect and relate to others. Our journeys are constantly ongoing and winding paths. 

When I worked with Child Protective Services, taking the Knowing Who You Are workshop was a mandatory part of training. At the time I took the training, I was in the midst of my own personal journey – I could competently talk about race relations using all of the terms I learned in school, but I didn’t have a full realization of myself.

And I’m still learning.

Growing up, I would wonder what it was about my skin color that made people see me as an “other.” It was curious as to why friends would label me as their “Mexican friend” instead of just their “funny friend” or their “kind friend” or even simply just - their friend. My skin color may play a part in my life experiences, but it has never defined the complete person that I am.

I found that learning about my heritage and talking openly and honestly about my background have been therapeutic. I found that the more I shared with others, the more I got in return. When folks connect with one another, they are able to build relationships with one another. The more we know about ourselves - the more that we help others understand us.

I felt empowered leaving the training this weekend. I felt as though I was surrounded by 15 allies and 15 people who better knew themselves and each other. Moreover, I felt hope for the children and youth we have been called to serve. They deserve to have their cultural identities protected, respected, and preserved and we have the privilege of meeting that need.