Learning and sharing at CASA Cultural Lunches

Jun 11 2013

By Nashielly Stein

“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse gift will find a fitting place.” - Margaret Mead (Renowned American Cultural Anthropologist; 1901-1978)

I imagine a gorgeous end-product - probably colorful and textured - to the weaving that takes what Margaret Mead has said into consideration. Of course we’ll never fully see it like we would a textile object, but it’s there. We can feel it. We can see many of its manifestations, especially as the 7 billion people (whoa!) on this planet are interlinked more than ever. When you combine an open mind, the willingness to learn and share, and the ability to truly accept and appreciate, it can be a beautiful thing.

Something you may not know about and what I want to share with you today are the CASA Cultural Lunches that are taking place every other month. The aim is simple: to learn and to share. As child advocates, we are in a position where we can take what we learn and share it with our CASA kids. It is particularly important for children in foster care - whose identity can be easily lost along the multiple moves and changes - to establish a confident sense of self. CASA can help. We do this by continuously challenging ourselves to grow as individuals and by doing this we approach everything that we do with our better selves.

In February we took a tour of the George Washington Carver History Museum and Cultural Center. It is a wonderful cultural and historical center located in east central Austin and I - along with most of the people that attended the tour - had never been to it before. I had been to the Carver Library, sure, but I had never gone next door to learn about Austin’s rich African American history, to read about some of the earliest families, to see the legacy of Anderson High School prior to integration, to experience the interactive children’s exhibit, or to learn about the many programs and events offered. It was so enriching and informative. Some CASA volunteers are taking advantage of this gem and bringing their CASA kids on outings and visits. Pretty great stuff right there.

April was a Cultural Lunch at the CASA offices. Close to 20 volunteers and staff brought their lunches and settled in to watch an amazing TED Talks video about race and justice in this country. The 23-minute video is a talk by Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned.  He speaks on the power of identity, dismal facts about our current justice system, and eloquently makes remarks such as: “We have a system of justice in the US that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes.” Following the talk we had a great discussion among ourselves, connecting it back to the work that we do at CASA and looking toward a brighter future.

Here’s where I shamelessly plug the upcoming CASA Cultural Lunch entitled ‘The Power of Words: Understanding the Impact of Our Language.’ I’m really excited about this one since I have a thing for words. Guest speaker from UT-Austin, Smita Ruzicka, will be sharing with us at this interactive brown bag lunch about understanding and utilizing culturally inclusive language in our work and how language can be inclusive as well as divisive. It will be on Thursday, June 27th from 11:30 to 1pm at the CASA Training Room. If you’re a CASA volunteer, please join us! If you’re not a CASA volunteer, seriously think about becoming one.

Together we’ll venture forward, challenging ourselves and our growth as individuals, and continuing to help create a more culturally rich environment for our children.

Please email nashielly.victoria@casatravis.org to RSVP for the upcoming Cultural Lunch on June 27th.