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We interrupt your narrative for a very important message

By Nicole Pokorney

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At the end of October, I was able to be part of a University of Minnesota Extension international professional development opportunity in Argentina. The purpose of the learning experience was to build cultural agility, establish new international partnerships and advance the DEI goals within our organization. While we dove deep into empanadas and architectural wonders, the immersion into the cultural atmosphere was where we felt the stretch of our perspectives and biases.

During a group reflection one evening, we were discussing the colonization of Argentina and the perceived view that the majority of Argentines had of the indigenous and black populations. We were wrestling with the concept and comparisons when a colleague stated that it was good for us to “interrupt our own narratives.” This simple statement encapsulated the feeling that we were having as we looked at our own stories and how we related to others.

In a recent youth training, I presented the 4-H True Leaders in Equity curriculum, specifically the Your Culture as a Tree activity. In this activity, youth are challenged to explore their values, perceptions, and insights in regards to their unique cultures. Throughout the session, I could see young people wrestling with ideas they grew up with compared to the values that they were beginning to form on their own. Some came to realize that they were positive deviants from embedded values, others celebrated and embraced their cultures. We were interrupting their narratives!

Are DEIB goals identified and supported in your organization? At the University of Minnesota Extension Department of Youth Development, one of our goals is that staff will possess DEIA knowledge and skills that are applied to effective intercultural interactions and culturally responsive programming.

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Field Guide concludes with these recommendations as a call to action for furthering DEIB in ourselves and our workplaces:

  • Identify allies that help you grow and deepen your understanding of DEIB
  • Personally identify with issues of DEIB
  • Find ways to do DEIB in your work and personal life and seek support you need to do so
  • Allocate funding for DEIB trainings and initiatives
  • Ensure the Board of Directors and other stakeholders are representative of oppressed groups
  • Search for and listen to silenced voices

What professional and personal development opportunities do you take to interrupt your narrative?

-- Nicole Pokorney, 4-H outdoor education program director

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  1. My colleague: "Interrupt your narratives." Argentina showed sights matter less than people connecting cross-culturally. Wrestling racial legacies revealed blindspots; discomfort held potential.

    I see the same with students exploring cultural beliefs - inherited narratives that limit more than ground. My university develops "intercultural skills applied responsively."

    Interrupting narratives requires courage but enables wholeness outside comfort zones. What familiar stories now shake for you? Question their origins, however unsettling. No growth without stretching. Your boldest self waits as narrative evolves.


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