Editor's Note: The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Patterson Foundation partnered on "The Future of the Philanthropic Sector," a special topics course for the school's students during the spring 2022 semester. The course connects students to The Patterson Foundation's innovative approach to philanthropy and nonprofits in the Sarasota area engaged in the foundation's initiatives.
Education is one of the most powerful ways that we, as nonprofit leaders, can inspire change within future generations to ensure that our world is a better place. Embracing Our Differences, a nonprofit organization located in Sarasota, FL, strives to do just that. The organization believes that "through the transformative power of the arts, we educate and inspire to create a better world." The organization envisions a future world "that embraces diversity, respects differences, and actively rejects hatred and prejudice."
As a Study Away student with The Patterson Foundation, I was able to observe and view the variety of artwork and attend the "Embracing Our Differences Tour." The exhibit was located on Sarasota's Bayfront Park and contained student artwork from over 123 countries around the world. A myriad of pieces struck me, but the ones showcased below personally moved me.
"We Are All Human" by Farzana Yeasmin tells the story of how all people, regardless of race, place of origin, and status are integral to the human experience. When looking at the piece, you see individuals with different skin tones, different hairstyles, and different types of clothes all engaged in painting the same globe. This reminds us how important it is that individuals bring a unique and important background and perspective to situations and that all voices matter. We should not value others only because they look like us or talk like us. It is through meaningful connection and observation that we can learn of these incredible differences and be opened to a new way of thought and empathetic concern. The individuals not actively painting the globe are smiling, eagerly looking at their earthly brothers and sisters with excitement and anticipation of what they will create. In their artist statement, Yeasmin notes that "everyone's contribution is significant. If all remain united, forgetting the external differences, this world will be a better place."
"Children Playing" by Connie Springer echoes a similar sentiment showing a group of young children from various racial backgrounds playing and enjoying one another's company. This image specifically spoke to me and made me think about how racism and hatred towards one another can be a learned behavior within society. These children are most likely toddlers and are excited and eager to be around one another. They haven't been socialized quite yet into a world where racial differences and status have a history of determining discrimination and exclusion among groups. This image also shows a vision of how Embracing our Differences as an organization seeks to educate future generations. If we can teach our children and youngest generations to love another for their differences and to appreciate and integrate all voices in society, these generations will grow up to become inclusive and open-minded changemakers.
I think it is important to note that recognizing the innate differences in how different groups are viewed within society is key to fully promoting inclusion and equity. We cannot uplift one another until we analyze and see which of our brothers and sisters need the most help and have suffered the greatest losses throughout society. These pieces truly conveyed that appreciation for our differences is key to creating a society that rests upon social justice and equity; educating our youth to embrace this is crucial.