September 11, 2019
“If you think you're woke, it's because someone woke you up.” — author Rebecca Solnit, on not taking for granted how much intellectual labor is needed to inspire progress.
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The LA LGBT Center’s Anita May Rosenstein Campus is teaching homeless LGBTQ+ student chefs of all ages valuable culinary skills. The culinary school’s goal is twofold: to prepare student chefs for employment, and “to create a support system and sense of belonging no matter a student’s age.” For queer youth and seniors who may have lost their homes due to family abuse or loss, learning in such a supportive atmosphere is invaluable.
Of the meals cooked and served by the student chefs, restaurateur and LGBT Center board member Susan Feniger says, “They’re having dishes like stuffed pork loin, potato gratin and really gorgeous salads...It’s all meant to make you feel like, ‘Okay, I have value, I’m respected, I’m a person.’”
What’s especially wonderful about the LGBT Center’s culinary school is that it doesn’t just eliminate financial barriers to a culinary education. It also fosters community, dignity, and longevity by bringing queer youth and seniors together in a safe and respectful environment.
A San Diego study reports that LGBTQ+ seniors are at higher risk of isolation and having inadequate support than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ+ youth. Research some organizations working to end LGBTQ+ homelessness in your area, and consider supporting them if you’re able.
At the new “Being Human” medical exhibit in London, the display bases are painted black, a bench facing a video screen is off-center, and exit signs are easily visible. These simple, unassuming details make the exhibit “the most accessible museum space ever opened in Britain,” according to disabled advocates and researchers. The black bases help the visually impaired maneuver through the space. The off-center bench gives wheelchair users a perfect view. Clear exit signs calm people with anxiety.
So what’s the key to the museum’s accessibility success? Their consultation with disabled people, and people with autism and other mental health conditions.
We appreciate that the “Being Human” exhibit is one of the most accessible museum spaces yet, thanks to thoughtful and nuanced design. As Ciara O’Connor, a wheelchair user, points out, “Accessibility is not ugly, or cluttered or distracting. Accessibility belongs in art and everywhere.”
Tony Heaton, a sculptor and wheelchair user, says, “If you’ve not got people who experience these issues in an organization, mistakes will be made.” If your team isn’t representative of all identity groups, supplement with consultants, like the “Being Human” exhibit did.
A group of academics known as the International Astronomical Union recently established the Working Group on Star Names. The group will codify official star names and ensure that they're more diverse, since IAU star names that originated in indigenous cultures are “notably underrepresented.” Unfortunately, though, the group will have to choose some cultures and traditions over others. That’s because the same stars can have different names, depending on where you are and what culture you’re a part of.
For example, “Some tribes in North America see what is known officially as Ursa Major as an elk, deer, or scorpion. Others in the Americas see half of it as a bear, and the other half as three hunters chasing it. In Europe, many see it as a wagon.”
It’s always interesting to see what diversity and inclusion work looks like in different industries and fields. Cultural astronomer and IAU member Alejandro Martín López explains why diversity and inclusion is relevant to naming stars: “Many of these astronomical views are linked with identity and idea of terrestrial landscape...If you cut these sky views, you cut these identities.”
The Working Group on Star Names will essentially be erasing some cultural elements from the sky and deeming others “official.” How does this relate to tough decisions made in the upper ranks of an organization that inevitably favor some cultures over others? The WGSN is going into this project with diversity and inclusion in mind, which may help avoid decisions that elevate majority groups but not marginalized ones. How can your upper ranks do the same?