The World Day you’ve never heard of

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

You’ve all heard of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, right? Wait, you haven’t? No, it’s not Earth Day. It’s more like Earth Day’s illegitimate step-child.

Saturday, May 21, was the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (we’ll just call it World Day), just like it’s been every year since 2002. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard about it before, you’re in the majority. There are plenty of reasons that it isn’t well known, most of which have to do with being a legitimate attempt to accept and recognize cultural diversity.

“Celebrating cultural diversity means opening up new perspectives for sustainable development and promoting creative industries and cultural entrepreneurship as sources of millions of jobs worldwide – particularly for young people and especially for women. Culture is a sustainable development accelerator whose potential has been recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations,” says Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.

World Day was created by UNESCO in December 2002. Wondering what the heck UNESCO is? It’s a specialized agency of the United Nations. Its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights.

So, why the need for a World Day? Maybe because three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Because bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability, and development throughout the world.

On the micro-level, as Native people we are pretty experienced with cultural conflicts. Seems like every month, every week, and every day even, we are fighting some kind of cultural conflict; either externally with the US Government, internally between tribal families, or on some level in-between. Between the city of Marysville and the Tulalip Reservation there are never any shortages of cultural conflict stories to be heard, and we’re neighbors. So it’s easy to see why bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for stability and development.

One way that culture gap is being bridged is by the implementation of Since Time Immemorial (STI) curriculum in the Marysville School District, amongst other school districts in the area. The ground-breaking initiative will teach the details of tribal sovereignty, tribal history, and current tribal issues with context to students of all grade levels. Teachers will find that it’s easy to integrate tribal perspectives into their already existing lesson plans. The result echoes the mission of World Day, to openly accept and acknowledge cultural diversity as a driving force of development with respect to personal growth and as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.

We know that cultural diversity should be promoted not just some of the time, but all the time. Cultural diversity is an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development. That is why World Day is an important day to be celebrated.

The Snohomish County Human Rights Commission held a celebration for World Day that was open to any and every one. It took place at the Edmonds Seniors Center on Thursday, May 19. There were some very fascinating talking points discussed about diversity and Snohomish County. Did you know that Snohomish County is undergoing an explosion of diversity with profound social and cultural change? With an increasingly diverse population base, 14.5% of Snohomish County residents were born outside the country. Just a short 20-minute drive from Tulalip is the city of Lynnwood. What’s so interesting about Lynnwood is it has become a city in which the majority of residents are people of color. Similarly, to us in Tulalip where the majority of residents are of color (read Native).

All this is to say our local area, Snohomish County, is rapidly growing in diversity. However, we know that being diverse isn’t the same as recognizing and appreciating diversity. That’s why a day like World Day is important to acknowledge and celebrate. The hope is that by talking about and honoring cultural diversity, as an inclusive and necessary framework for our very survival, we can bring about a more peaceful community and county.

There are issues facing all humankind – global warming is an example – that will take all of us working together and taking responsibility for each other to clean up the common air we breathe, the common water we drink. How clean does the water have to be in order for us to safely eat the fish that swim in it? Cleaning up the ocean is a global task. No one can do this alone.

Cultural diversity is the common heritage of humanity, as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature.

While Earth Day is more like a club that you can join and say that you are part of, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development forces you to take responsibility for your actions and actually walk the talk. This assertive stance is part of the reason it isn’t as popular with mainstream America. It calls for people to build a world community of individuals committed to support diversity with real and everyday life gestures. To raise awareness about the importance of intercultural dialogue, diversity and inclusion.

In any case, now that you know that World Day exists, take a moment to think about its important and what it means as Native person to help spread cultural diversity. Maybe consider making a resolution to follow through with one of ten simple things you can to do celebrate World Day every day.


Ten simple things YOU can do to celebrate the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

  1. Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures.
  2. Invite a family or people in the neighborhood from another culture or religion to share a meal with you and exchange views on life.
  3. Rent a movie or read a book from another country or religion than your own.
  4. Invite people from a different culture to share in your customs.
  5. Read about great thinkers of other cultures than yours (e.g. Confucius, Socrates, Avicenna, Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi).
  6. Go next week-end to visit a place of worship different than yours and participate in the celebration.
  7. Play  the “stereotypes game.” Stick a post-it on your forehead with the name of a country. Ask people to tell you stereotypes associated with people from that country. You win if you find out where you are from.
  8. Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures; learn more about Hanukkah or Ramadan or about amazing celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Spain or Qingming festival in China.
  9. Spread your own culture around the world through our (UNESCO) Facebook page and learn about other cultures.
  10. Explore music of a different culture.

There are thousands of things that you can do, are you taking part in it?