#TonyDreaming – Cultural Understanding

And still on my soapbox fueled by the Tony Awards; the winning sweep of the musical, “The Band’s Visit” brings tears of joy to my eyes as it sends a strong message of cultural inclusion to the whole world.

I think spreading the message of cultural understanding is indeed my purpose. I am extremely passionate about it and it consumes my heart.

I was born into this state of being. My mother was East German, my father was a Nigerian – not mixed race, but mixed tribes. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, where Muslims and Christians lived side by side. Our neighbor was a wealthy Muslim who built himself a Mosque right there in his compound. So we were awakened by the Imam’s call every morning at 5am without fail. Lagos is like New York in its way of being a cultural melting pot – every Nigerian tribe is represented. ‘Foreigners’ from all over Africa as well as Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, Israelis, every kind of European, Americans and more.

I have known what it is like to be an outsider all my life, and concurrently I have known what it is like to be and insider all my life.

Not just from my parents’ leading, but in my own heart, I have always loved to know other cultures, learn about other histories, languages, customs and religions. I have attended and taken part in rituals, chants and prayers in Churches, Mosques, Buddhist temples, Hare Krishna temples and traditional Yoruba religious gatherings.

I honestly believe that if we just open our hearts and minds, we will find that there is beauty in everything and everyone. We do not all have to agree or be the same. We just have to understand each other and accept each other as we are.

Ari’el’s Stachel’s acceptance speech moved me to tears. He spoke from my heart. I too, for different reasons and in different situations have pretended not to be what/who I am. The human instinct for survival makes us do what we feel we must. Of course in times past and in some parts of the world still today, “survival” is literal…it is life or death. For Ari’el, it may have been about getting cast in a certain role, or for me, it was sometimes about avoiding certain cultural stereotypical responses. What ever the reason…it is still a sense of survival.

Ari’el made a brave and beautiful, real and poignant speech, that I am certain many people can understand and identify with.

Wow!!! Love it!!!

Then, there was Tony Shalhoub.

Hey, listen, when I hear the name Tony Shalhoub, I think Monk!

And I never knew he was Lebanese. Who knew!!

This was another important acceptance speech which is so opportune and affecting at this time in our history. He speaks of the much debated subject of Immigration.

Again, I can identify. I am myself an immigrant in America, albeit I landed at JFK and not Ellis Island. But an immigrant none the less. And though my experiences may not have been as dramatic or intense as they may have been back in those days, as far as ‘modern immigration’ goes, I have seen in others and have experienced first hand the struggles, determination and resourcefulness that Tony is talking about. And he is right, “May we, the descendants of immigrants, never lose sight of what they taught us.” And let us always remember that for the most part, we are ALL descendants of immigrants, no matter how they arrived here.

To top the night off, The Band’s Visit took home the Award for Best Musical.

Producer Orin Wolf accepted the award and gave yet one more necessary speech. “…in the end, we are all far more alike that different…”

And ain’t it the Truth?!?!

Let us open our hearts and learn something new about someone “different” today and every day following.

Let us be and remain Inspired!

The Original Film version of The Band’s Visit is available on Amazon.com HERE



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