“Just smile at people, look at them, look them in the eye, say hello. Just those little things, if a lot of people did them could make a huge difference.”
Diversity in Boulder: a Call to Action! is a community conversation happening Thursday, August 11th , from 6:30-7:30 pm at the TREExOFFICE at 1750 13th Street in downtown Boulder.
The panelists will address questions such as: What happens if the border crosses you instead of you crossing the border, separating you and your family members one from the other? What is it to be born in Boulder and always asked which country you’re from, and what is it like to finally get to a safe place and people fear you might be a terrorist?
Salam Hindawi and Nikhil Mankekar are two of the featured speakers. Hindawi is a Syrian refugee and CU master’s human geography student. He had fled Syria to Turkey where he applied and was accepted by CU Boulder. He says he has had a positive experience living in Boulder.
“Almost everyone I have met is more or less interested in hearing first-hand stories from people coming from war zones like me. I get a variety of reactions when I tell them I’m from that country. Some people are shocked and some people would be happy for me, but almost everyone wants to know something about what’s going on there.”
Nikhil Mankekar who was born and raised in Boulder, is a City of Boulder Human Relations Commissioner. He is the first Indian American and Sikh American to serve on any city commission. He says growing up in Boulder, he was often asked which country he was from.
“They will ask you that. It’s interesting being one of the few natives then you have people who have just moved to town asking you where you’re from and that kind of thing. But at the same time you know, this is my home town and this is my community and it’s why I’m on this commission and why I’m doing what I’m doing for the city. Instead of taking maybe negative experiences and moving away like a lot of people I know have done, I want to be transformative for my community and stay to make a difference.”
Mankekar says that creating an inclusive community for people of all backgrounds was his mission on the Human Relations Commission.
“Once I got onto this commission with the city I wanted to really take things to a bigger level. So rather than looking at specific incidents and things happening and seeing how I could intervene and help, I wanted to elevate and be transformative of the whole city, so now I have this platform and I’m in this leadership position I began reaching out to advises the city council on policy, par has been working on a welcoming inclusive community plan.”
One of the strategies is a Community Perceptions Assessment. “That’s going to assess how welcoming and included and safe, difficult to reach populations feel in the community. Based on that input and data we also will be coming up with solutions that the city can implement.”
Mankekar says beyond city-wide policies and strategies, individuals can do their bit to make the city more inclusive and welcoming of diverse populations.
“It’s going to be a cumulative effect of a lot of small actions that add up to that whole. It could be as simple as just smile at people, look at them, look them in the eye, say hello. Just those little things, if a lot of people did them could make a huge difference.”
Other speakers include: Maputo Mensah, a Ghanaian musician and dancer, Ray Ramirez with the Native American Rights Fund and Laura Soto, a Latina immigration rights activist.
The event is co-produced by BMoCA and EcoArts Connections as part of DESIGNxBOULDER and is part of One Action: Art + Immigration.