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Through a special effort to involve all of Indiana’s residents, more than 125 agencies, organizations and individuals were contacted. To date, 85 projects have been endorsed specifically highlighting Indiana’s diverse makeup. Many more have diversity as a secondary emphasis. Indiana Humanities was a strong supporter of our efforts in diverse programming; their All-IN and Hoosier Campfires projects are shining examples.
October 2015 | Rachel Beliles, IBC Intern
Soon, 2016 will bring a new year and offer a grand opportunity for Hoosiers to celebrate Indiana’s 200th birthday, and everything that means to all of us. This summer, it was my privilege to intern for the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, and witness history in the making. My task was simple: contact as many diverse organizations as possible, make the Bicentennial representative of all peoples of Indiana. Diversity can be used as a sort of buzzword, a catch-all for groups or experiences not considered in the “majority.” As an international business major, I’ve heard and used the word, but it wasn’t until I was “Back Home Again in Indiana” that I understood the impact diverse backgrounds, experiences and thoughts can have on a community.
I began researching potential nonprofit partners and realized just how diverse Indiana really is. Yes, we have the hallmarks of our state, endless corn fields and the Indy 500, but just as importantly we have such a variety of people. Among them are Burmese refugees making a new home in Indiana (of all places), thriving Latino communities, African-Americans who painstakingly maintain Indiana’s Underground Railroad history, the contributions of the elderly and underemployed. The list, I found, went on and on. Did you know that more than 300 languages are represented in Indiana?
As one uncertainly starting her first job, I was fearful there would be little interest, that this diversity initiative might not amount to much. After all, we live in the twenty-first century and people are busier now than they ever have been. Imagine my surprise at finding just how wrong I was. My nonprofit contacts were not only open to the idea of participating in the Bicentennial, they were enthusiastic and willing to sacrifice their scarce time in order to be a part of it. They were honored to be unified with Hoosiers all across the state, while still sharing their unique culture. All organizations I came into contact with, about sixty strong all across the state, said “yes” to taking part. In the process, they shared with me their stories, their organizations’ efforts and their community impact. Every hour-long meeting over coffee led me into a new part of my home state that I had never known.
As the summer went by, seemingly in an instant, I was not just pleased to have so many voices represented in the Bicentennial, but to know how many worthy things are already happening in our state. We are Americans, but more specifically we are Hoosiers, a community within our state. We have a distinct flavor, specific values that have brought us through 200 years.
As a member of our global world, I understand why we often feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty and factionalism of our times. But truly, from seeing the dedication statewide to be unified, to be in solidarity, I feel that the present may not be as dubious as it is made out to be, if we celebrate our shared differences. Surely, in this 200th year and those to follow, our time will be as good as we collectively make it.