Celebrating diversity boosts Oklahoma City's unity

October 14, 2018

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The Fiestas de las Americas event held in south Oklahoma City a few weeks ago was filled with color, sights, sounds and smells. Women, men and children wearing colorful and festive costumes, dancing horses and cars sitting low to the ground (that also seemed to be dancing) were crowd favorites at the parade.

Many Latin American countries were represented, including Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, Venezuela and Panama. This festival celebrated its 13th year as a way to celebrate the rich multiculturalism of our city. The streets around the Capitol Hill district were filled with thousands of people from across the city, uniting in celebration of diversity and multiculturalism.

Also represented in the parade were many Oklahoma City Public Schools. There were high school marching bands, Junior ROTC cadets and fine arts groups; middle school pep clubs and leadership clubs and elementary school students, educators and parents — all participating to show their pride in their schools, their cultures, in Oklahoma City Public Schools and in America.

Oklahoma City Public Schools mirrors the growth in our city. South Oklahoma City, and particularly the Latino population, has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade.

Elected officials and those running for office were part of the parade, because they understand and embrace this fact. Higher education and community colleges were there because they understand and embrace this fact. Numerous corporate supporters were there because they understand and embrace this fact.

Beyond the moral need to welcome our fellow citizens as friends, it is clear that diversity in our city brings a richness of ideas that broaden our thinking. Data shows that homogeneous thinking does not move economies or businesses forward. It takes a multitude of views coming together to move a community forward, which is why Mayor David Holt uses the messaging "One OKC."

Oklahoma City Public Schools is a majority-minority district filled with rich cultural diversity to be celebrated. Understanding and embracing that fact is critical as equity is addressed by Oklahoma City Public Schools leaders and the community. It must be the basis for decision making as we work to provide resources and support ensuring equitable opportunities for every student in our district.

There is a common theme at each of the 54 elementary schools in Oklahoma City Public Schools. All students stand and put their hands over their hearts to proudly proclaim the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America and to the State of Oklahoma, whose symbols of peace unite all people.

These are Latino children, black children, white children, Asian children and Native American children. Their hearts are pure no matter where they come from. They have not yet learned hate, because that is something that is learned from adults.

The hate and vitriol about our differences must stop. Accepting and celebrating differences and finding common ground is absolutely critical to our city, state and country in all areas, but most certainly in public education. Oklahoma City's renaissance would have been impossible without it. Celebrating differences and coming together was the theme at Fiestas de las Americas and anything else isn't welcome here in our one OKC.

Read Mary Mélon's original NewsOK editorial.