“Diversity” is a word commonly used in our culture and educational practice. We at Bantu Arts focus on the expansion and growth of the children, with the goal of inspiring them to reach their creative potential. When the mind is invited to open in a positive, free manner, the potential for growth is limitless.
We share culture rather than teach diversity. We appeal to the natural curiosity of the child, to learn how others live which fosters awareness of variations in culture rather than people.
I remember reading a book about an African boy in grade school. I was fascinated with the idea that someone my age could live so differently, yet still embrace his culture as much as I did mine. I felt connected to him in ways I had not experienced with children in my own backyard.
In second grade we focused on “Around The World” and each of us chose a country to study. I chose Japan, and embarked on a journey filled with new experiences. From learning to make sukiyaki to presenting language and characters to the class in the kimono my mother made; I embodied the essence of a Japanese “princess” for a time. It was such an enriching experience, and I remember it in great detail to this day.
When you teach children about their differences in appearance, behavior and personality; then insist they “get along” or treat one another equally, a negative foundation is created around preconceived ideas that do not exist without teaching. When you share the beauty of culture with a child in a positive way, he is learning to appreciate and embrace the diversity, without being distracted by challenges. This encourages equality in very natural ways.
The best way to inspire a child is to allow freedom of movement, thought and expression. Dance, art and music are three of the most beautiful ways to encourage this.
When Marianne Bema first began sharing her culture with children, she immediately piqued the interest of those who observed. One thing I find quite fascinating: It wasn’t just the activities and program that sparked this. It was a feeling, an experience beyond words. They sensed the children were inspired, excited and joyful in ways not possible through structured rigorous programs. As the adults observed, they too were having an experience, tapping into their inner child (while behaving and sitting nicely, of course).
Now, as the children look at Marianne, they are seeing someone who in her heart and soul truly loves what she does. It’s a symbiotic connection- the pathways in their brains are open, their energy alive and their souls are feeling the beauty of nature through song, dance and art.
Marianne is truly an inspiration to each of us on the Bantu staff. Pamela, Michelle and I have similar-and unique- visions of where we want to see Bantu in the future. The possibilities are boundless, if we follow our path and just keep moving. We will end up wherever our hearts lead us as long as we love what we do. And, as Marianne loves to say “Just Do It”.
If you feel inspired as we do, please consider donating or volunteering. Any contribution is appreciated. We invite you to share in our exciting journey into the future, growing and changing with our Bantu Family. Please join us!