Living a Life Mosaic: Diversity in Riverwest

by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle

“Riverwest is diverse.” We hear it and say it all the time, but what does it mean? People! In real life, what does it mean? We have a neighborhood packed with distinct groups of various racial, ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, and religious backgrounds. We like to think that we are tolerant of differences. Some of us have finally jumped out of the “melting pot.” Realizing an individual doesn’t have to blend…realizing that displaying pride in one’s own heritage does not necessarily imply feeling superior to others. These enlightened/endarkened individuals have abandoned the negative, self-diminishing idea of a melting pot, to embrace what I call a life mosaic: unique pieces crafted together both by circumstance and choice…creating an enriching whole. And Riverwest is a mosaic of life. Huh! Guess what? We’ve come a long way, baby, but we’ve still got more road to tread. Neighbor, there is something that keeps us apart. We exist side by side, but with well-defined borders between us. Quite like the grout that separates each individual tile. More than not, we aren’t engaging with one another. How many punk rockers go to a hip hop show? How many black folks do you see hanging out in the bars on Center Street? How many soul sisters are willing to be seen at Mad Planet dancing to ’80s music…even though they love Duran Duran? How many non-white people broke bread with you at the spaghetti fundraiser the other night? Trust me. I’m not condemning any group. I’ve got my own issues. Each of us has our own set of prejudices. Most of us strive to be open-minded. But ask yourself, how often do you make a conscious choice to share in a “different experience?” Yeah. There are some who have crossed the lines. I know a few black and Latino folks who vote green and eat green. A few white folks with nappy dreds. A few blacks that speak fluent Spanish. A few darker folk loving lighter folk and making mixed babies that might be tempted to check the “other” box on the question of race…creating new “categories.” And yeah, right now I bet a few of you are thinking, “ohhh, but we’re all ONE big human family…I’m color blind.” Honey, take the rose-colored glasses off! That’s a dream. Attainable? No. And I don’t think it should be. Explain? Frankly, I need my own identity. I don’t want to blend or fade into the mass. At the same time, I need to have access to other persuasions…flavors…tongues. Without feeling like or being considered a “sellout.” Variety makes life enriching. Who out there believes that one denies his/her own by sharing in another group’s unique cultural riches? You’re wrong. It’s through this type of exchange that people can gain the understanding and respect for other “groups.” This is a real step beyond obligatory tolerance. Most of us are conditioned to stick to “our own.” The comfortable. The familiar. Tolerance has helped to create our Riverwest Mosaic. Engagement and sincere social exchange can take our ‘hood to the next level. Let’s move among each other…truly interact. And as far as my own personal question…” Why are there so few African Americans at our neighborhood meetings and functions?” A wise friend clued me in. I am in the best position to bring “my own” to the table. Me and my brown self has that responsibility and challenge. I’m down for the struggle. Who’s with me? The View is hungry for conversation…I want your feedback…please bless me with your letters, insights, and concerns. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 1 – January 2002