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Brooksby Village celebrates Diversity Month

Educational events highlight range of human experience

Created date

July 20th, 2016
Brooksby residents placed pushpins on the map location they consider their homeland as part of the community’s Diversity Month celebration.

Brooksby residents placed pushpins on the map location they consider their homeland as part of the community’s Diversity Month celebration.

When Bob Vincent and his wife Fedela started looking at retirement communities, their search took them to three states.

“We lived in Rye, N.H., at the time,” says Bob. “Fedela and I spent the better part of a year visiting communities in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts.”

The couple’s conclusion?

“When all was said and done, nothing could compare to Brooksby Village in terms of value, amenities, size of the community, and the people,” says Bob, a retired senior intelligence officer with the CIA.

Bob and Fedela moved to Brooksby, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., in 2011. 

“My work with the CIA made me appreciate how tiny my world was,” says Bob. “People are diverse in their backgrounds and cultures, and I loved learning more about the range of human experience.”

Now at Brooksby, Bob relishes that same spirit of diversity among community members and staff.

“Whether it’s race, culture, or religious beliefs, we can all learn from each other,” he says.

A month of educational events

As a community, Brooksby recently celebrated Diversity Month with unique programming and educational opportunities.

“We use the widest lens possible when we think of diversity,” says Pastoral Ministres Manager Chad Kidd, who coordinated the month’s events. “The experiences and beliefs that define each person are the same factors that make our Brooksby community so rich and engaging.”

This year’s Diversity Month brought back popular programs from past years and introduced new speakers and topics.

“We had multiple planning sessions with community members to assemble the calendar for Diversity Month,” says Kidd. “A number of resident groups got involved and helped plan individual events.”

The Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowship welcomed photojournalist Robert Azzi to Brooksby for their “Ask a Muslim” program.

“Residents filled the [Brooksby] chapel for their opportunity to ask questions,” says Bob, chair of the UU Fellowship. “It was a great time to learn more about Islam.”

The planning sessions also focused on factors that draw people together.

“Music, food, and art bind people together, so we incorporated them into our diversity celebrations,” says Kidd, who led a drum circle for residents wishing to experience the spiritual aspect of drumming.

One of the month’s culminating events was a culinary treat, Taste of Brooksby Diversity. Residents gathered in the catering room to sample a tasting menu prepared by Brooksby’s chefs and to watch video demonstrations of residents making foods unique to their heritage.

“It’s important to reach beyond ourselves so we can experience the world in its fullest array,” says Kidd.

Diversity on display

The visual component of this year’s Diversity Month was more prominent around the community than in previous years.

More than 200 flags from different countries lined the walkways connecting each residence building. 

A world map traveled to Brooksby’s three clubhouses throughout the month, giving residents and staff the opportunity to place a pushpin on the location they consider their homeland.

Patrick Gordon, who works in Brooksby’s on-site television studio, created a new logo for Diversity Month featuring a thumbprint that was displayed at the community’s entrance as well as in each clubhouse.

“A thumbprint was a great symbol to use because it represents the uniqueness of each individual,” says Kidd. 

Tackling hard issues

Community members weren’t afraid to take on complicated topics as they mapped out events for Diversity Month. 

The Religious Skeptics group, which counts Bob among its members, organized a forum entitled “Diversity in Belief vs. Unbelief.”

“It may seem like a paradox that I’m the chair of the UU Fellowship and a member of the Religious Skeptics,” says Bob. “But the Religious Skeptics group provides a legitimate forum to ask serious questions. We don’t shy away from hard issues.”

Brooksby also hosted representatives from the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, who told of their recent tour to Istanbul, Turkey, and how they weren’t allowed to sing in their scheduled venue unless they changed the name of their group, which they refused to do.

A group of women clergy, dubbed the Just Peace Players, performed for Brooksby residents and told the story of suffragettes who fought for the right to vote.

“It’s never the easiest route to learn from others around you and be a world player in your own life, but it’s so much better when you do,” says Kidd. “Our own lives are richer when we embrace other people and their experiences. Brooksby is a wonderful example of what it means to live in community.”