What does Cultural Sensitivity Mean to You?

Someone asked me this the other day. She is a volunteer for an NGO that seeks to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon through developing their life skills. I think this question is also very relevant if you are a Lebanese citizen living in Lebanon due to the vast amount of refugees who are living in Lebanon at the moment. Do we embrace these cultural differences, regardless of how big or small they are, or do we each go about our every day lives setting these people aside or labeling them as the “other”?

I responded more or less like this…

Cultural sensitivity is the way one reacts to a culture that is different from his or hers. Different cultures embody special qualities and one must keep an open mind when dealing with these cases. Our differences are what make us unique. The first aspect of being culturally sensitive is to be compassionate and understanding of the differences between your culture and others. Nowadays, people are quick to judge any aspect of life that is not similar to theirs. In this case, it is important to stand back and reflect upon these differences. Basically, one must empathize with the other instead of judging.

How can we be culturally sensitive as a volunteer?
In order to implement cultural sensitivity as a volunteer, the volunteer should indulge themselves in the culture they are exposed to and reveal to the people they work with that there are not many things that set them apart. Even though we all have different cultures, this should not push us apart, but rather bring us together in order to learn from each other and advance as people. It is also important to keep in mind every one’s different live experiences and to not judge solely based on what you see on the surface…

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A Brand New Year!

It’s been a year since I last posted something. This time of year makes me think of several things and helps me put things into retrospect. It is a joyous month for everyone whether they celebrate Christmas or not. It is a time when I think about everything I’ve done this year. It there anything I would change? What can I do to make this year better than the previous one? Too often people ask me about what my new year’s resolutions are. What would you like to accomplish or change this year? My first response is, I’m going to get a gym membership, but that never really happens. So what are some of the things that we can promise ourselves and actually commit to? Should we only make these kinds of commitments when we are starting a new year?

Saying the things we want to accomplish/change is not enough and that’s why most people never make their resolutions a reality. We all have flaws and things that we hope to change about ourselves throughout the year. I think the reason some of us don’t make the changes we want is because we don’t take action right away. We always tend to postpone things that matter and help better us. So the question is when should we try to make changes in ourselves and how do we actually go through with them?

Steps we can take in order to make crucial changes in ourselves:

  1. Identify what you would like to change about yourself. What is the thing you know is affecting your life negatively. Are these changes or goals realistic? Make sure they are so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
  1. Take action. Don’t sit around and allow yourself to fall deeper in a routine or habit that can be detrimental to your life. Make a plan of some of the things you can do to make this new lifestyle or simply a small change in your life a reality.
  1. Get support from family and friends that encourage this new you or goals you want to accomplish.
  1. Remember that change is scary for anyone and can create anxiety. Also remember that this is all in your head and is not something tangible. Realize that we all have these feelings, but allowing them to take over our mindset will only slow down our progress.
  1. Commitment. Follow through with the plans you have outlined for yourself and think about how these changes will make you feel in the long run. This will reassure you that you are taking the right steps to improve your overall life.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Good luck and I hope this year will be great for all of us!!

❤ Sarah

What is Growth?

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As we grow, it is important to recognize the changes we have made as a person. Are they positive or negative? If negative, how can we fix them? If positive, how can we continue to move along the right path? In life we experience some setbacks that may hinder our growth, but it’s important to move forward and learn ways to measure our growth. So how do you know that you’re growing and not letting setbacks impede your growth?

I believe the 10 actions below help you understand your growth. If you recognize any of the actions below, you are growing and molding your personality as an individual.

I grow as a person by…

1) Taking responsibility for my life as it unfolds day to day. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them.

2) Learning to love without the string of expectations. Expectations can lead to disappointments and understanding that people don’t really owe you anything, is a sign of growth. Expect nothing, but ensure there is mutual love, respect, and care.

3) Acting with integrity that flows from highly developed principles. Your values, whatever they may be, are instilled in your mind and are ingrained in your heart.

4) Mastering the discouraging fears of the unknown tomorrow. Fear is a common emotion among all of us, but being able to wake up every morning ready to face any challenges is a true sign of growth.

5) Learning who the best people to surround myself with are. These are the type of people who feed your growth, teach you something, are supportive, and most importantly, OPTIMISTIC. If you encounter a person who is pessimistic, your ability to not let them affect you is a sign of growth, as well as not allowing that type of negativity in your life.

6) Forgiving people for the mistakes they have made and moving forward. We all make mistakes. Forgiving a person for their mistake is a sign of maturity and strength.

7) Having a purpose and goal and working to accomplish it. We all need a purpose, whatever it may be. Setting your priorities straight and not wandering through life aimlessly is crucial to growth.

8) Depending on myself. If you want something, do it yourself! No one is going to hand you something on a silver platter. Life is tough and realizing that is a sign of growth.

9) Developing self-confidence that is generated from within. What people think about you is none of your business. Don’t base your confidence level based on others, but rather love yourself for who you are, with all your flaws and imperfections.

10) Focusing on myself, my strengths and weaknesses, and not comparing myself to anyone else. We are all different and comparing ourselves to anyone is pointless. This will only slow your progress in life and keep you from accomplishing your own goals. Your focus should be 100% on being the best version of yourself, keeping in mind what you want to accomplish along the way.
“Comparing is impoverishing your own experience.” – Paulo Coelho

Hip-Hop Music: An Art Form Taken Too Lightly

Sex. Drugs. Violence. Guns. Girls. Money. Profanity. These are some of the words that may pop into a person’s mind when he or she thinks about hip-hop music. It is a genre of music that has been misunderstood since its start in the early 1970s.

hip-hop-danilo
The word “rap” was derived from a slang word that meant conversation. Young people living in poverty did not have the means to attain proper living conditions, so rapping was a way to release their anger. They told their stories through their music and people listened.

Most people are so taken aback by the inappropriate language used that they do not take the time to understand the profound meaning behind the lyrics. I believe the most thought provoking and poetic music is created during times of emotional unease, struggle or oppression. This applies to any genre of music, however, I believe hip-hop music has an element to it that differentiates it significantly from other genres.  This music continues to bring people from the same cultural background and upbringing together and explores and examines topics such as politics, poverty, oppression, racism, power, love, values,and difficult life decisions and experiences. Even if one hasn’t been through some of the situations heard in the songs, one is able to feel the struggles and pain through the creativity depicted in their writing, which I believe, is not appreciated as much as it should be.

Most people are too consumed in the beat of the song or are intrigued by the rappers’ lifestyle and quick rise from rags to riches that they do not take a step back to truly understand the message the lyricsWe have seen that these artists do not last very long in the industry. The rap artists who last in the industry are the ones who are able to really shed light on their struggles and tell their life story through their songs. They are also the ones who are able to depict society as it really is and not how it should be. In general, there is a level of trueness to their music. Some of the rap artists who resonate in my mind as the genuine depiction of artists who have remained, to a certain extent, true to their craft are the likes of Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Nas, Tu-Pac and BIG. To gain commercial success, however, several of these well respected rap artists, with time, have written lyrics that are not true to their life experiences. In some cases, to attract what industry professionals have labeled as their target audiences, rap artists have had to rap about topics that are not necessarily a paradigm into their lives.  As a result, I believe rap music has the potential of losing its aesthetic value. This issue can be further understood through Lupe Fiasco’s “Dumb it Down,” in which he explains the downgrade in lyrical ingenuity simply because this method generates more money and wider range of fans: http://rapgenius.com/Lupe-fiasco-dumb-it-down-lyrics. Unfortunately, we are able to see with time the change in the music produced by these rap artists. In the end, who wouldn’t want to gain commercial success and everything else that comes along with it? For most artists, the evolution from underground to mainstream music is the ultimate goal. For instance, I have seen a shift in the quality of Jay-Z’s music. His first album, “Reasonable Doubt” released in 1996, contains much more poetic and heartfelt emotions than arguably some of his later released albums. Is he sad about this? Of course not! He’s one of the biggest rap artists to ever exist. He even wrote,” I dumb down for my audience, triple my dollars, they criticize me for it, yet they all yell holla.” Through these lines, the discrepancy and contradiction is certainly conveyed. It is a shame however that the art form has suffered as a result of what people expect to hear. People who listen to rap music no longer want to think. They are too distracted by the glamorous lives of these rap artists and their subliminal messages. As a result, the art form is listened to, but not as appreciated as it should be. It is important to look back in time and reflect on what rap music meant to the people who were influenced by it the most.  A time when music was not only made to generate profit, but was a tool used to communicate to the world about the obstacles, oppression, and poverty many people were living in.  A time when music was a form of art that allowed one to express their deepest thoughts and release any anger they felt about the unjust society he or she was living in.  A time when artists could sit back and reflect on their lives and experiences in meaningful ways rather than thinking about how the music will be perceived and if they will make significant profit. Generating money is important, but not at the expense of producing music that is true to oneself.

Hip-Hop music is underappreciated because music in general is losing its value. Commercial success is one of the main goals of all these upcoming artists and has taken its toll on other older artists. This is a time when an artist is faced with a dilemma: Do I sacrifice my identify, my musical depth and become molded into what the industry thinks will make money or do I reveal to the world my true talent, communicate to them my experiences, and as a result learn more about myself and the people who are influenced by my music? This artist needs to ultimately take control of their own path to fame and success and decide what he or she wants: Musical freedom or imprisonment. My hope is that rap artists of future generations are reminded of the reasons why this art form is so important, how it revolutionized a culture, brought people together, and how it can still be a platform of communicating issues, struggles and societal ills that are too often swept under the rug. Overall, audiences must not forget how powerful music can be and artists should not forget the power they possess in helping to spread influence and ideas around the world.

I have posted a short video that introduces rapper Ice T’s documentary entitled “the Art of Rap,” in which he explains the importance of understanding the origins of rap music and its terrain. I encourage everyone to watch the full documentary as it provides a lot of insight into the different styles of hip-hop music.

World Humanitarian Day – August 19, 2012

The theme of the UN’s World Humanitarian Day this year was “I Was Here.” This campaign was a brilliant idea to get people from all around the world involved in random acts of kindness, no matter how big or small. This campaign really reminded me that no matter who you are in this world, you can always make a difference. We are all one entity and need to stand together in times of need. My hope is that this idea is always instilled in everyone’s minds…We can all make a difference.

What can you do? Below are some suggestions:

  • HELP SOMEONE WITH THEIR SHOPPING
  • MAKE A HOMELESS PERSON A SANDWICH
  • DONATE YOUR SKILLS TO A COMMUNITY PROJECT
  • STAND UP FOR SOMEONE BEING PICKED ON
  • VISIT AN ELDERLY PERSON
  • COOK A MEAL FOR A NEW MOM
  • COMFORT SOMEONE IN HOSPITAL
  • VOLUNTEER AT A LOCAL CHARITY
  • GIVE AWAY SOMETHING YOU DON’T USE
  • MOW YOUR NEIGHBOUR’S LAWN
  • TUTOR A DISADVANTAGED YOUNG PERSON
  • CLEAN UP YOUR LOCAL PARK

You can read more about this campaign and organization via their website:  http://www.un.org/en/events/humanitarianday/

Beyonce was one of the main supporters of this cause and performed a song from her album “4” called, “I Was Here,” at the UN General Assembly in New York. The video was posted on World Humanitarian Day: http://www.whd-iwashere.org/

Beyonce’s Impact on American Culture, Turned into a Course at the University of Rutgers

Check out this new course at the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Rutgers. The course explains how artists provide perspective on race, gender, and sexuality.

Beyonce as a Political Figure? Well, not in the traditional sense the article explains…

Beyoncé as a Political Figure?

“The course explores such topics as the extent of Beyoncé’s control over her own aesthetic and whether her often half-naked body is empowered or stereotypical.”
The link to the main article by Amber E. Hopkins-Jenkins:

Man in the Mirror

Sometimes we need a little motivation and inspiration to do good deeds in life. We all have the ability inside of us to make a difference in someone’s life and sometimes it can be as simple as giving someone a genuine smile, or a small compliment. Maybe you made their day just a little better. We live in a place that doesn’t always consist of laughter and happiness. It can be gloomy and dark. Nobody has it easy, but together, one by one, a lot can be accomplished. Seldom can people accomplish their goals without someone there to support, guide, and love them. If you want to see a change in the world, then you have to be the person who initiates it. Everything small done, can lead to something big.

This is one of my favorite songs by Michael Jackson that reminds me everyday of a better person I can be to make a change in the world. It starts with you: The man (or the woman :P) in the mirror!

                                                                “Man In The Mirror”

I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

As I, Turn Up The Collar On My
Favorite Winter Coat
This Wind Is Blowin’ My Mind
I See The Kids In The Street,
With Not Enough To Eat
Who Am I, To Be Blind?
Pretending Not To See
Their Needs
A Summer’s Disregard,
A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man’s Soul
They Follow Each Other On
The Wind Ya’ Know
‘Cause They Got Nowhere
To Go
That’s Why I Want You To
Know

I’m Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change)

I’ve Been A Victim Of A Selfish
Kind Of Love
It’s Time That I Realize
That There Are Some With No
Home, Not A Nickel To Loan
Could It Be Really Me,
Pretending That They’re Not
Alone?

A Willow Deeply Scarred,
Somebody’s Broken Heart
And A Washed-Out Dream
(Washed-Out Dream)
They Follow The Pattern Of
The Wind, Ya’ See
Cause They Got No Place
To Be
That’s Why I’m Starting With
Me

It’s Not Just a Song

When I think of love I think of music. It has the power to transform my body and soul to a different place.  All of the sudden the pain I once felt lessens and I feel empowered beyond words.  One of the best things about music is it has the power to unite people of different colors and races. It has a taste that can satisfy every person with no kind of discrimination. During the 1950s and 60s, when African Americans were segregated and treated harshly by non-African Americans, music was one of the things that brought people of different colors together.  Musicians such as Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry were just a few of the artists who brought people together through their music.

The king of pop, Michael Jackson, once sang, “It doesn’t matter if your black or white.” His music is timeless to say the least and brings people together from all over the world. He spoke through his profound and heart-felt lyrics. No one cared that he was African American because he sang for a common cause. His music alone was enough to “heal the world and make it a better place.” When the artists mentioned performed and sang, people no longer judged them based on their color, but rather the way they performed, the lyrics they sang and the energy they possessed that spread quickly from across the room, eventually across the nation. What’s nice about music is it has the power to unite people and has no language. Even if you don’t understand the words in a song, you can definitely feel the words and emotions being perpetuated. They can be words of sadness, love, anger, or happiness. Music is artistic and can elate you or play along with any of the moods you are feeling. It can calm you or maybe frustrate you. It allows you to be okay with feeling certain feelings and joins people with common experiences together.

Music has the power to impact your mood and provide all the following:

1. Entertainment- Any kind of party is not the same without music.

2. Revival – Music revitalizes in the morning and calms in the evening.

3. Strong sensation- It has the affect to brighten your day and make you feel different emotions or sensations.

4. Diversion- Any negative feelings or thoughts can be healed when listening to music and bad experiences during the day can be diverted for a while.

5. Discharge- Music is a release of energy and a discharge of anything the mind and body does not need. It is cleansing in many ways.

6. Mental work-  Music allows a person to go into a different place and increases the brains mental work with is good for overall health.

7. Solace-  Music can provide a shared connection of experiences whether good or bad.

When I listen to singers such as the magnificent Adele, I feel empowered. When I listen to Bruno Mars, I feel beautiful just the way I am. When I listen to Mariah Carey, I remember people who I once loved and feel a sense of calmness listening to her sing. When I listen to Beyonce, I always feel confident in every sense, encouraged to be all I can be and not feel marginalized just because I am a girl. When I listen to Michael Jackson, I feel like I can do more to make the world a better place. When I listen to Celine Dion, I pray that someday I will be able to find someone who I love and loves me back unconditionally. Most importantly, what I think of when I listen to music is the impact it can make and the ways it can unite people to coexist regardless of anything that might differentiate them from each other. Music is like love; It knows no color, race, or gender.