American Historian Carl N. Degler once said, the metaphor of the melting pot is unfortunate and misleading. A more accurate analogy would be a salad bowl, for though the salad is an entity, the lettuce can still be distinguished from the chicory, the tomatoes from the cabbage. This is just as true now as when Degler won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. Though much advancement was made in the United States through movements like Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and Gay Rights, many realities for disenfranchised communities have not changed in a measurable way in the last 30 years. Women still make on average 76 cents to the dollar compared to men doing the same work, young black men are more likely statistically to go to prison than to college, and the word “minority” is used to describe the vast majority of our country’s citizens.
Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” To that end, we propose the idea of neither a melting pot or a salad, but a Rubik’s cube. In a Rubik’s cube, each individual block has distinguishable characteristics that are integral to the way that the cube works, supporting Lorde’s notion that we are more alike than we are different. The goal of Cultura Ijile is to unify that American experience by testing the concept of the “melting pot,” or as we say the Rubik’s cube.
In an effort to explore this idea, and to juxtapose Macro-America with Micro-America (Stoneham), Cultura Ijile follows several former and current residents of Stoneham, Massachusetts, all of different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds and examines the idea that regardless of origin and roots, we all encounter very similar experiences growing up. The opinions and feelings of the Stonehamites are balanced with research, historical information, observations and interviews with writers, historians, cultural critics and pop-culture icons to evaluate individual and social awareness of cultural identity, or Cultura Ijile.
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