Posts Tagged ‘diversity consultant’

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion Through Bluegrass Music!

Out gay bluegrass artist Sam Gleaves (photo credit Susi Lawson, from samgleaves.com)

Please check out all the links in this blog!

Bluegrass Music – is considered a form of American roots music with its own roots in English, Irish and Scottish traditional music. … Inspired by immigrants from the British Isles (particularly the Scots-Irish immigrants of Appalachia), as well as the music of rural African-Americans, jazz, and blues.

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As a business oriented diversity consultant, most of my work is within the workplace setting. However, I am always pleased to discover and support activities in all areas of life that promote diversity and inclusion of all people. We need to see increased diversity and inclusion across all aspects of daily life – work, sports, education, politics and indeed in the arts including music.

One wonderful expression of diversity in music is the upcoming second annual “Shout and Shine: A Celebration of Diversity in Bluegrass” being held in Raleigh, NC on Tuesday evening September 26, 2017. (Link to complete details.) Each artist and production member was carefully chosen to celebrate diversity within the bluegrass and roots community. These diverse musical artists include:

African-American Bluegrass Band “The Ebony Hillbillies” (photo courtesy pinecone.org)


• Tyler Williams Band, whose lead singer was born with cerebral palsy and was blind from an early age
• Sam Gleaves, an openly gay musician from rural Virginia (link to a very touching song “Ain’t We Brothers.”)
• The Ebony Hillbillies, a prominent African-American string band
• The Otsuka & Watanabe Brothers’ Japanese Jam which shows how Bluegrass music is now appreciated worldwide.

So how did this innovate celebration come to be? It was born in 2016 as a direct response to North Carolina’s oppressive HB2 “bathroom bill” which discriminated and stigmatized our state’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) citizens. (see my blog about the effects of HB2.) There were a variety of performance artist’s reactions to HB2 from several boycotts to Cyndi Lauper who came to town and specifically engaged with the community on this issue (See my blog – “Don’t Boycott Us, Cyndi Lauper-rize Us” about her proactive actions.)

It is now fantastic to see another organization, “The Bluegrass Situation,” making this positive move of involving its entire community to oppose discrimination and fight for a fully inclusive society where all people are welcomed and valued.

Please do come out on Tuesday night September 26 to support a diverse community and to enjoy some outstanding and diverse Bluegrass music!

Islamophobia – a current growing US diversity issue

NC Council of Churches Governing Board and Staff are proud to stand with the banner showing us as united against racism and Islamophobia

NC Council of Churches Governing Board and Staff are proud to stand with the banner showing us as united against racism and Islamophobia

As a diversity consultant, I strive to stay up to date on current trends and issues in the diversity and inclusion field. One of the tough issues growing within our country is Islamophobia. My definition of Islamophobia is, “an irrational fear or hatred of Muslim people based on unfamiliarity or stereotyping.” FYI, Webster’s Dictionary defines stereotyping as “forming a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion.” Unfortunately, many people are judging the world’s one billion Muslims based on the actions of a very small radical visible few.

I was actually starting to plan this blog over two weeks ago, before the horrific massacre at the Pulse Bar in Orlando, which makes this entry now even more timely.

Why is Islamophobia or any phobia or fear of a group of people problematic? When we cannot all respect each other and work together within our society, we cannot be as productive as a nation as we can, and at its worst, hate and violence occurs.

I am currently on the board of the North Carolina Council of Churches, which represents 17 denominations and several independent congregations. We work to build respect and understanding across denomination and religion lines to impact our state for the good of all our residents. At our quarterly board meeting on June 7, we had a guest presenter, Manzoor Cheema from MERI – the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia.

Manzoor share several interesting (and some disturbing) information:

• Islam is not a new religion in the United States. Muslims have been present in our country since the 1830s, including Africans brought over in the slave trade (many forced to renounce their religion by their owners)
• Given that a large number of Muslim are “people of color,” racism and islamophobia are connected and intertwined.
• Myths about Islam, like that it is inherently violent, are widely propagated based on the actions of a very small minority.
• There has been a tripling of the attack rate on mosques and Muslims since Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim statements
• There are a disproportionate ratio Muslims incarcerated and expelled from school. And this statement does is not meant to imply that Muslim commit more crimes, but instead to point our the inherent bias in our justice system.
• Most Muslims do not hate women, Jews, Christians and LGBT people. For example, the MERI organization has partnered with the Jewish Voice for Peace as well as Methodist and Quaker organizations. Manzoor also mentioned addressing discrimination against LGBT people several times during his presentation.

I close with a three recommendations:Mosque photoI close with a three recommendations:

1. Visit a local mosque or attend a Muslim sponsored event.
2. Do research on Islam including viewing resources on the MERI website.
3. Connect with an actual Muslim person and ask them to tell you about their beliefs instead of listening to what other parties are saying about them.

Later this summer I hope to blog about Islam in the workplace, and the LGBT issue within Islam, but for now please do read this excellent and provocative piece reacting to the Orlando massacre by Salma Mirza, a queer-identified Muslim organizer of MERI.

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