This message was written and delivered by Sonya Brown.
I grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and I can’t recall being told of specific months where we can only highlight who we are. Stories of traditions, customs, people, and places were told at different times throughout the year. These stories told of who we were, where we came from, and about the other tribes and cultures that interacted with our people. We were told of similarities between cultures and even of conflicts between tribes, settlers, and the government. It was interesting when my family moved off reservation and we attended a public school in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was there where I learned that the culture group I am part of has a specific date to highlight Indigenous people of the United States.
Did you know that November is Native American Heritage Month or American Indian Heritage Month? This month was designated by President George W. Bush in 1990 to highlight the American Indian or Indigenous people of this land. In my own curiosity, I googled, “Why do we celebrate heritage months in the United States?” It was a common asked question and Babson College in Massachusetts had a good response. Their website explained, “In the United States, Heritage Months are periods within the year that are designated to celebrate and acknowledge various ethnic and marginalized groups. These are times not only to celebrate, but also to educate others on various groups’ histories and contributions to American History.”
I appreciate hearing the stories shared of cultural and ancestral ties, acknowledgement of lived experiences, contributions people in the community made and continue to make, and how significant anniversaries, achievements and struggles have shaped each community. The celebration of diversity and a push towards inclusion is dependent on how the people and community are willing to engage and embrace the diversity surrounding us.
As the church, we don’t have mandatory diversity classes like we have in our jobs or educational system. Diversity in the church challenges us to reimagine life together as the body of Christ.