Celebrating diversity

Created date

July 6th, 2015
celebrating diversity
celebrating diversity

You’ve heard the phrase “dress to impress.” Well, the residents and staff at

The July 29 show is one of dozens of community events throughout the year sponsored by the Charlestown Diversity and Inclusion Council (DIC) to promote awareness of cultural diversity. 

“Every July, we hold the International Extravaganza, which is a celebration of worldwide culture through education, dance, music, and delicious food,” says Yvonne Rice, human resources manager at Charlestown and chair of the DIC. “But this year, we decided to change things up a bit and instead are sponsoring an international fashion show that will showcase the way people dress from various countries and cultures from around the world.”

The DIC, formed in 2010, is dedicated to celebrating diversity and creating a more inclusive community that respects and appreciates individual differences. The DIC endorses a broad definition of diversity and seeks to provide programs and resources that enhance knowledge and encourage understanding of one another. 

The group comprises both staff and resident members. They meet once a month to discuss and plan ways to promote and strengthen cultural diversity among staff and residents. 

Some of the other community events the DIC sponsors throughout the year include Black History Month, Women’s History Month, National Day of Prayer, One Maryland One Book, a community tree trimming, and an evening with foreign exchange students.

‘Our doors are open’

Charlestown resident Patricia (Pat) Kasuda serves on the DIC board and says Charlestown focuses on the positive aspects of diversity, including differences that often go beyond what you might typically expect such as sight and hearing impairments, language, education, and cognitive challenges.

“Our doors are open to folks of all walks of life here at Charlestown,” says Pat. “We thrive on sharing our differences and capitalizing on them as learning experiences. For example, we recently had a Charlestown resident share a documentary created by her grandson, who is autistic, to show the daily challenges he faces.”  

This October, the DIC will participate in the One Maryland One Book reading program sponsored by the Maryland Humanities Council. The program aims to bring together diverse people in communities across the state through the shared experience of reading the same book. 

Charlestown residents who read this year’s book selection—The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown—are invited to participate in a book-centered panel discussion held at Charlestown. 

“We have had great success with the One Maryland One Book series over the last few years at Charlestown,” says resident Phyllis Lansing, also a DIC board member. “This year’s book is interesting. I am hoping to get in touch with someone at the Naval Academy to come speak at Charlestown about the rigors of rowing.”

Fostering understanding

Phyllis and her late husband John moved to Charlestown in 2003. She says diversity attracted them to the community, among other factors. 

“We liked the fact that the people who live at Charlestown come from all over,” says Phyllis.

In June, while visiting friends and family in the United States, Phyllis’s long-time college friend and Mumbai-native Dipak Shah performed folk songs in Charlestown’s auditorium, followed by a question-and-answer session about his homeland.

“I think it’s a good thing to try to foster understanding amongst people who come from different traditions and different circles,” says Phyllis.

Upcoming DIC-sponsored events this year include Fruits of Our Labor—an expo that showcases the nearly 300 resident-run clubs, classes, and activities—and the aforementioned One Maryland One Book discussion. 

Phyllis and Pat encourage all Charlestown staff and residents to celebrate the diverse community they live and work in. And for those unsure whether or not they would fit in to a community like Charlestown, Pat offers these words of encouragement:

“Leaving friends behind is a barrier to moving into a new community anywhere,” says Pat. “Knowing you most likely will find acquaintances here at Charlestown who share ethnic, faith, gender, career, and other similarities is a plus, and it removes any possible stigma that might be anticipated.”