Earlier this year on March 28, seven students from Saint Ignatius High School joined peers from various Jesuit schools across the country to participate in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program in Detroit. David Okocha ’19, Jaylen Harris ’20, Joseph Bonner ’20, James Crosby ’20, Jerome Fistek ’20, Shondo Green ’22 and Adam Smith ’22 all participated. Through this program, the students as well as their moderator, Mr. Christian Sanders ’10, the Interim Director of Diversity and Inclusion, were able to gain a better understanding of the world around them and appreciation for those different from themselves.
A driving tour of the city highlighted further the similarities Cleveland and Detroit possess; cities both built on now-gone industrial empires. At the start of their trip, the students explored the city of Detroit and learned about its history, one that seemed strikingly familiar. Senior David Okocha realized that “Detroit is much like Cleveland, a city on the rise.”
The tour took them to the Dr. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where the group experienced an exhibit showcasing the harrowing atrocities of slavery. Sanders recalls that the students “walked through the door of no return and experienced the harsh realities of the middle passage to America” while in the museum.
The next stop was the American Muslim Center, a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan. Imam Muhammad Mardini, a director at the center, exposed students to an experience otherwise unknown to them. The green and gold colors posted on the walls symbolizing life and growth, the scriptures posted in Arabic and English, and sharing a meal provided by people from the Muslim community center all were new and enriching experiences for the students and their moderator. The Arab American National Museum also allowed the students to take a closer look into the life of an Arab American and their lives in the United States.
The experience at the Muslim Center allowed for a deeper immersion and stronger appreciation for different cultures and races around the students in Cleveland and Detroit.
Sanders says, “America is a beautiful pot of vegetable stew. One culture, one connected body but filled with many diverse ingredients and spices that have their own flavor to add to the taste of the entire pot.”
He hopes the students realized the same as a result of this trip. In the end, the participants of the trip gained a meaningful experience and learned that in reality, we are not as different as we seem to think we are.