Thinking About Diversity

During my visit to Tyee Park Elementary School in Washington State at the end of January, a student asked a striking question that makes me think about diversity. I had finished reading my new book “The Granddaughter Necklace” that’s inspired by stories I gathered about the women in my African American family. This book also includes a story about one of my Irish ancestors. Two of the characters in the book are depicted leaving home. My grandmother Mildred left her home in West Virginia at an early age to live with a relative further south and my ancestor Frances left Ireland to start a new life in the United States. After I’d finished reading, a boy in the audience raised his hand and asked:

“Are you from Guam?”

This question seemed to come out of the blue for me; I’m from the northeast and not used to meeting many people who come from locations in the Pacific. Not grasping the question, I asked the student to repeat it.

“Are you from Guam?” he asked again patiently.

“No,” I responded. “Why do you ask?”

“I’m from Guam,” he announced proudly. His bright eyes fixed on me. At that moment I wished I was from Guam or at least had been there! His question was a great compliment. Something about me and my story reminded him of home.

This instance was also a reminder to me that the diversity on the rise in our schools embraces a great deal more than the “Black” or “White” American composition that comprised the public schools I attended as a child. And just as there’s variation in our population, there’s variation within each of our “groups.” One boy from Guam is still one individual boy with his own unique story, his irreplaceable glistening eyes, his question.

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