Working on this mural for the past two weeks only with spotify and random conversations between me and Isabel filling the room it'd be impossible not to let your mind wander. That's the most enjoyable part about painting- the world around you seems to fade into the distance and it's only you and the materials to make something beautiful.
With the subject of diversity the focus of the mural, I've found myself questioning "what does it mean to be diverse, to embrace differences and celebrate multiculturalism?" Is it about filling quotas with students, faculty, staff, or having a certain number of buildings dedicated to its cause? These were the questions that circled my thoughts- never really coming to an answer. These questions were rhetorical, or so I thought.
During the course of these two weeks Isabel and I have learned a lot about one another. Mainly as a result of me peppering her with questions and she's nice enough to oblige and in return I am incapable of hiding whatever I'm thinking therefore supply all thoughts unsolicited.
Family has been a major topic of conversation especially since we both come from fairly large families. It was on the first or second day of painting that Isabel described how two of her three younger brothers were adopted from Ethiopia five years ago (when they were 10 and five years old). She described how it was fun being a part of the adoption process since she was old enough to understand what was going on and how she couldn't imagine the family without them. Though it makes it a bit hard to follow some of her stories about her family as she makes no distinction when referring to one of her "little brothers."
Yesterday I had the pleasure to meet her family as we all met up to grab lunch near Davidson. When I met Isabel's mom, LeVan, I immediately understood where Isabel got her big smile and warm and friendly nature from. Also there was her older sister and three younger brothers. Their family is beautiful and the picture of diversity. Later her mother joked "we do get funny looks sometimes when people try to figure out the relationship when I walk in somewhere with one of the younger boys."
It was clear that LeVan didn't see the different colors of her children, but rather as any mother would, she saw the children she was raising to adults. The love and pride she had for each of them was evident as she talked about all of the kids' various summer activities and academic achievements. She also described how she was adamant about how the younger brothers keep a connection with Ethiopia. It was clear that this one of the many definitions of diversity- realizing there is always a time to celebrate one's heritage but that's its not defining character that should separate us, but rather a connection we can all share in.