CLIMB Cultural Night: Identity and Why It Matters
By Kierre Coghill
CLIMB, Crawford Legal Institute Mentorship Bond, hosted its Cultural Night event at the World Beat Center in Balboa Park on Thursday, April 17, 2014. While CLIMB often hosts events at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, the CLIMB Board felt that an opportunity to visit Balboa Park was invaluable for Crawford High School students, because many of the students were unfamiliar with Balboa Park and its rich representation of diverse cultures in the San Diego community. CLIMB volunteers regularly at Crawford High School, one of the most diverse high schools in all of San Diego County, where over 40 languages are spoken by the high school student body.
Cultural Night consisted of guest speakers in addition to Crawford student interpretations of the concept Identity. The purpose of Cultural Night was to foster a positive attitude among the youth about their own personal and cultural identity. Cultural Night was an opportunity for Crawford 10th grade students to take the stage and express themselves in front of peers and CLIMB volunteers in order for Crawford students to practice public speaking, confidence and to explore their personal roles in the community. Several Crawford students shared something about themselves while on stage while some Crawford students sang and one student even shared a self-portrait in which she examined what it meant to grow up as an Asian American. The students’ unique talents were on display for CLIMB volunteers and their peers to appreciate.
Not only did the students take the stage, but the professors and guest speakers did too. Rappinismyhabit opened the night with a positive rap about being yourself. He introduced the students to snapping their peers back into their performances if they messed up, which is like dusting yourself off when you fall off of your bike and climbing back on. The students were encouraged to be resilient and to not give up if they felt challenged during a performance, but to pick up where they left off and to encourage their peers to do the same. Rappinismyhabit served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening as he introduced each speaker and called students to the stage to perform or share something about their own personal Identity.
Professor Maurice Dyson offered words of encouragement and support to the Crawford students and took time to also thank the CLIMB TJSL volunteers and acknowledged their contributions with award plaques.
Mr. Mike Slomanson ‘04, TJSL alum and actor, moved the audience as he shared a moment of his life, when he visited his ancestors’ lands and while at the top of a pyramid he cried as he was overcome by the feeling of joy as he embraced his own identity. The audience laughed and smiled as Mr. Slomanson explained that growing up, he fit into two groups: Latino and White. He showed the students that being biracial is powerful and has advantages in society where one does not always have to fit into a single category. Mr. Slomason emphasized the importance of education and learning about one’s own personal identity.
The students were excited to see their class mentors including: Josh Desmond, Amanda Gracia and Edna Gutierrez at the event. The night was centered on the theme Identity and the World Beat Center’s exhilarating murals were on full display emphasizing cultural identity. As the evening neared an end, the sound of drums beat softly in the background as the students were addressed by their teacher Mr. Steven Luttbeg. Mr. Luttbeg brought laughter to the audience when he reminded them all of his home state of Nebraska and as the entire 10th grade class began to sing a song about Nebraska. The appreciation the students have for their teacher was clear. CLIMB volunteers wrapped up the night by spending time with the students as they waited for their bus and discussed the evening.