The Road to Cultural Competence

youth dancing  to West African drum rhythm of the strong man
Catalina Martinez, Director of Diversity and Inclusion

For me, the month of February and its national designation as Black History Month, is a perfect time to focus on an identity that is different than mine in order to seek ways to understand it, embrace it, and celebrate it while helping others do the same. It is a time to create spaces for African-Americans in our midst to share their perspectives, honor their rich ancestry, feel pride, and revel in their contributions to our society.

Not surprisingly, it is also an ideal time to reflect on my own pursuit of cultural competence, not only on how far I have come, but also how far I have to go. This pursuit is a lifelong commitment that we can each make toward effectively navigating the space between what we believe and what others believe, between the lived experiences of others and our own, with an understanding that seeking out and honoring that space can make us into more loving individuals that lead fuller lives. Cultural competence isn't just about seeking other perspectives, it is more importantly about understanding who we are and the different identities that are at play within us as we interact with our world. It is about being conscious of the lens through which we view our world. Cultural competence is also about trying to remove preconceived notions in order to listen and see each other as we truly are and not as society tells us we are.

Finally, cultural competence is not something you can just check off as an acquired skill. It requires constant work and is a choice each individual makes. It is a choice I am asking our community to make. Join other members of the De Smet Jesuit community in this journey by participating in any of the different events happening throughout the month of February.


Students at De Smet Jesuit prepared for Black History Month by gathering to hear Harlan Hodge from Barnes-Jewish Hospital and FOCUS Youth Leadership St. Louis Program, meet visiting students from Taiwan, and celebrate with the Spirit of Angela West African Dance and Drum troupe. Spartans enjoyed watching and participating in the rhythm of the strong man.

To see upcoming events or learn more about how we build community, visit our Diversity webpage or contact Catalina Martinez.

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