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When you get immersed in different cultures, you begin to connect with people through shared experience or broader understanding. This information updates your brain, creating a new, complex picture that can start to replace simple stereotypes.
Take some time each week to explore a different cultural perspective, through movies, art, books, music, food, or travel. If you can’t get out and about and indulge in real experiences, explore from the comfort of your couch…the internet provides a wonderful window into the souls of many.
From Bollywood to basketball, Korean dramas, Muslim comedians, Latinx Literary Journals, Black Enterprise Magazines…we’ll share what we’ve found so far, but this is just the tip of the cultural immersion iceberg. Grab a few friends and have fun exploring!
Diversify your inbox! Because your brain very quickly organizes information into groups, you have to feed it a balanced diet of stories, otherwise, it automatically defaults to the stereotypes it sees in the media. Here are a few places we like to go to expand our mind.
Go on a musical journey with Latinx artists. Our generous friends at Freqsho have curated 34 musical experiences to aid your cultural immersion. We love freqsho because you get to see the artists perform as well as listen to their songs. Caution: You may want to be somewhere you can wiggle your hips.
Books are a wonderful way to take a cultural journey. Our friends at Bookpeople offer some suggestions for an initial foray into black literature. When you immerse yourself in other perspectives it helps your brain reframe how you see people.
25 tunes to explore from African and African American artists. Variety and talent off the charts, prepare to be transported, body and soul.
This immersive virtual reality exhibition is presented at Atlas Performing Arts Center in DC. IF you’re in DC, go and experience the visceral challenge of crossing the Sonoran Desert, trying to make it to a better life in the US. The stories are based on real refugees. It’s a direct experience, walking in the immigrants’ feet, under their skin, and into their hearts.
Explore voices from Pakistan, Iran, and Palestine, these books, recommended by Bookpeople, give us the ‘behind the scenes’ feeling from individuals experiencing tumultuous times. Can you find a connection or empathize with a story? Understanding the complexity of culture helps bust stereotypes and changes how you see people, which in turn, changes how you treat people.
Don’t get too comfortable on this Arabian musical journey, there are surprises at every turn. From the Turkish prince of pop, Tarkan to Syrian hip-hop, Iraqi heavy metal, Egyptian songbirds and indie rock bands in Afghanistan…your new favorite is in here somewhere.
A digital magazine whose mission is to nurture emerging writers of color and create opportunities for their
voices to be recognized and valued. By creating community and programming based on artistic excellence and rigor, Kweli empowers writers to share stories that engage and impact our communities. Their vision is for a world where the narratives being told reflect the truth of our histories and the possibilities for our future. Carve out a little time to explore the talents of the next generation of storytellers.
A latinx cultural exploration through the wonder of books. Consuelo of Bookpeople, Austin, recommends these three fantastic books for a mind-expanding journey. One secret to overcoming stereotypes is to have a deeper understanding of individuals and their cultural context. Suggest one of these for a book club or enjoy solo.
This Korean series has it all…drama, romance, humor, snappy dialogue, and a sprinkling of politics—not to mention some very attractive people. It’s a major hit in South Korea, winning the Grand Prize in Television in 2016. The cherry on the top is the real-life romance of the two lead characters…awww. Available on Netflix.
Cultural immersion is exercise number 4 in our series of 5, it helps the brain create new associations and interrupt one-dimensional stereotypes that are created through lack of exposure.
Akunyili Crosby’s visual language tells the story of straddling two worlds – her native Nigeria and her home of 18 years, the US. When you look closely, you can see the complex layers of emotion and nostalgia. Last year she won the prestigious McArthur Genius Grant, allowing her the time and freedom to explore her duality further. When you engage in rich conversation about culture, you replace simple stereotypes with a vibrant, intriguing picture of individuals.
Find out more @ http://www.njidekaakunyili.com
Trevor Noah has a unique perspective; he was born the son of a mixed-race family in South Africa at a time when that was a crime. Now living in America, his stand-up routine has you looking through the lens of someone dealing with his own version of blackness in a new culture. Hilarious observations that will have you chuckling as your own perspective expands (avail on Netflix).
Turn on your mirror neurons
Try following different social media sites that offer a window into the culture of others. When you see stories and news popping up in your feed from a different perspective, it helps create more complex associations with people beyond the limited stereotypes that exist in your brain. These are a few suggestions to get you started.
Our science partners call this exercise “seeking individuating information,” roughly translated, it means, look for ways to understand issues through personal stories rather than esoteric headlines about groups.
When you hear directly from real people, your brain connects emotionally and activates empathy. This is one step toward deconstructing stereotypes and seeing people as the fascinating individuals they are. This documentary about Nina Simone takes you on her wild ride — all her dreams and demons shared honestly. With Miss Simone’s otherworldly talents, you can’t help but feel something.
Cultural immersion for the whole family.
Kids start to form stereotypes as early as 3 years old. Their brains are like sponges soaking up environmental cues. It’s important they get exposed to different cultures, it adds dimension to their ideas about people and creates an emotional connection. Movies are a great way for the whole family to share a cultural journey. Try some entertainment options that give you and the kids a window into another world. Coco checks all the boxes; easy for kids to connect, they learn something about a culture and have a good laugh (and cry) along the way. Enjoy.
Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, stories offer depth and perspective from worlds unknown. As you add more detail, context, understanding, and emotion to your very limited ideas about people and places, your brain starts to expand on the simple stereotypes that exist because of lack of exposure.
Hasan is American but has the unique perspective of growing up here with parents from another world. He is currently a correspondent on the Daily Show, but this Netflix special is a fantastic journey through his childhood. This pacy, laugh-a-minute show explores his struggle to process his cultural history and the awkward experience of being brown and misunderstood. You are along for the emotional ride as he grapples with how to prove his patriotism and the struggle to reconcile his love of a country that doesn’t see him as equal. Laugh, cry, laugh and clap, not a minute goes by without you being glued to his story.
This documentary takes you on a deep dive into the world of hair in the black culture. Not only is it funny, smart, and surprising, you are left with a rich understanding of a subject that often feels taboo. Cultural insight helps us connect on a personal level and develop empathy for those that are different than us. This documentary isn’t just about hair, it’s about life, money, time, and health.
The acting, writing, and directing in this movie transform you from a watcher on the outside to the feeling you are a fly on the wall, observing from the inside. The reward is a deeper level of empathy, an understanding of the complexity and tension around friendship and ethnicity, and a wonderfully rich context for all that occurs in Oakland, CA. There are role reversals, love troubles, family dynamics, and neighborhood hoohaa, but just when you think you know what to expect…you get
a surprise. It’s not all about tension, there is levity, too, plenty to chuckle about and connect with, regardless of race or gender.
~ Rated R – must be over 17 yrs old to watch this movie.
Who is Dolores?
Someone Carlos Santana believes should be more well-known. He produced this documentary about civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and her fearless and strategic work on behalf of farm workers in the 1960’s. She is an American rebel with a cause, and at 82 is still optimistic that equality is possible.
Exploring culture from another perspective helps your brain give up on simple stereotypes and replaces judgment with curiosity.
You can rent this documentary on YouTube for $3.99
Museums are a great way to explore different cultures. Try to visit a museum once a month that exposes you to different ideas or is promoting diverse artists. This museum happens to be in Jackson, Mississippi.
Callaloo is a kids’ media company developed to empower children to be global citizens through cultural literacy. These stories can help kids stay curious about and connect with others who don’t look like them. Check out @callalookid books or watch one of their short shows on YouTube. If you’re really lucky, go to one of their puppet plays and learn a thing or two yourself. http://www.callalookids.com
Take a musical trip with Muslim rapper Neelam Hakeem. Follow her on social media and let her bust all of your stereotypes.
Sherman Alexie started out writing poems, but encouraged by a flash of certainty that his destiny lay in literature, he moved on to novels. His stories often have the rhythmic feel of a spoken word performance; direct, emotional, letting you in on ALL the truths. It is a Native American perspective that is seldom shared. We have a long history of segregation and subjugation, but we are optimistic that we can evolve to enjoy the riches of cultural diversity in a way that nourishes everyone.