Culture Matters: Defining Diversity Through Appreciating Culture

Written by

Marva Allen
Marva Allen Ms. Marva Allen is CEO of the Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe in Harlem. An author and lecturer on entrepreneurship, Allen's contributions to leading business growth initiatives span 25 years. She is past president and a co-owner of USI, a multi-million dollar technology firm and is the recipient of numerous business awards, including the IBM & Kodak Excellence Award, the MMBDC Diamond Award, and Crain's Business 40 Under 40.

I discovered Pandora. I may be late to the game but thanks to my wonderful son I found this amazing technology. For those who are yet to discover Pandora, it is an Internet radio station that allows you to customize the music you want to listen to on any given day or for any given mood.

Want to hear music that touches your soul or music that tickles your creativity? You guessed it, there is a station for that. I personally have a Luther Vandross station that is groovy and a classical station which keeps me running to my piano to play Sonata Pathetique, that sounds nothing like theirs. Also, I created a reggaeton station to which I ride my stationary bike; a meditation station; and, yes, a myriad of Jamaican radio stations with music of my childhood. It is music diversity at its best, all co-existing on Pandora. A pretty good job if only we could apply the formula to people.

What I am speaking of is the importance of culture because our culture gives us identity. It is culture that builds communities and nations. Culture is passed on from generation to generation and helps us to understand ourselves.  Culture is the lens through which we process life. E. B. Taylor defines culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morale, laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” A community and indeed a country gain its character and personality because of the culture of its people. So important is culture that wars have been mercilessly fought to preserve cultural identity.

So, if such is the case and culture is really a system of social control that shape peoples’ standards and behaviors, how is culture being transformed in today’s world? What impact does that have on a country that is home to 200 natives of the 248 countries in the world.  America is one place on earth where the impact of this cultural melding is pushing the boundaries of what it means to be American. This past election surely gave us a glimpse of the impact of ignoring cultural diversity.

Many have argued that the greatness of America is in its diversity from which springs originality and freshness. The presidency was won in 2012 due to the influence of cultural change. Though this election brought out the worse and the best of America, I could not help but appreciate how amazing this country really is.  Imagine when it finally embraces diversity, in more than words, the kind of innovation and leadership that are possible.  Consider the dynamic ideas, solutions, and systems that are brewing in this melting pot!  Imagine too, the excitement of a new “culture” where co-operation, meaning individuals thinking as a part of the larger whole, is the new norm and where this new norm will help to redefine the concepts of family, state, and nation.

Adaptation is good, referring to the adage “when in Rome”, possibly Republicans should take heed. So yes, I now celebrate the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Veterans Day. Certainly not a leftover festivity from my Jamaican heritage but one that seeped in from my transformed cultural life of living in America for nearly four decades. Another one being able to cast a vote for the presidency!

In the next election I am going to suggest that the GOP candidate listens to Pandora. I still listen to Desmond Dekker, Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff on my Pandora as I nod to a heritage so deeply a part of who I am. Additionally, I listen to world music that gives nods to those memories of my travel; such as, Awake, Gurrumel, Juan Luis Guerra, Bach, Bob Dylan. Also, I now cherish American music. I am not afraid of change and I am clearly not afraid to become a better person by adapting to a culture which embraces diversity and aspirations. If we have cultural tolerance and understanding, I am imagining a world with less hate, poverty and wars. I say God Bless America! For in all its trials and tribulations, it dares to move forward. I hope the GOP will get on board for the sake of the United States of America.