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Heritage months send Cleveland-area minority groups into exhaustion

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 4:56 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Selina Pagan and her team at the Young Latino Network were pushed to the brink last month as they participated in more than 30 events educating others on Latino culture.

“This issue around heritage months and people being exhausted every year when their month comes is not new,” explained Pagan. “I think the social climate now allows us to have these real conversations that we couldn’t have in the past and I’m really grateful for that.”

Pagan says from community requests to private organizations her team had barely any time to celebrate their culture, the reason these months were created.

“It’s important that we’re educating on why it is exhausting for indigenous and people of color to have to navigate their heritage month in a way that’s educating somebody,” said Pagan. “We have to reframe the way we’re thinking about these things in order to ensure that they are done in a way that’s not as harmful.”

But how do we do that? Share our cultures, while also allowing everyone to celebrate?

Erica Merritt, who has dedicated her life to diversity equity and inclusion, says there’s no one way to answer that question.

“While I think we should be curious of each other’s cultures,” said Merritt. “We cannot make it the job one group of people to take on the emotional labor of educating all the rest of us in a world where resources are so plentiful, it’s unnecessary.”

Merritt suggested that companies and groups attend cultural events that are already happening in their communities, reminding us to also take advantage of tv programming and podcasts.

And if you do decide to bring someone in or have someone from your team share their precious culture, Merritt says don’t forget to compensate them.

“While we may be experts in our own lived experiences, not all of us are necessarily experts on our history or our culture just because we are black,” said Merritt.

This conversation continues in households and conference rooms all over the country as we begin Native American Heritage Month.

Selina Pagan has one piece of advice for the group as they take on this month’s responsibilities.

“Don’t feel the pressures of outside institutions and people who want to do this work,” said Pagan. “Go at your own pace so that we’re not over-exhausted.”

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