Discussing Identity and Belonging

© Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations
Allegory of the Transatlantic Slave Trade route

Facilitate a class exploration of identity and belonging. The discussion can also include elements of membership. The teacher summary should emphasize respect for human rights, inclusion, and diversity.

  • Essential questions: Who are we? Think of the numerous ways we describe ourselves. 
  • Discuss various descriptors, including: sister, brother, friend, classmate, student, teacher, learner, citizen, family member, neighbor.   Leave this list open to students.
  •  Can we be most of these? Ask students to take a few minutes to write down three words describing their roles.
  • Essential questions concerning ‘belonging’: What does it mean to ‘belong’? What makes you belong? How are we connected? Who and what determines membership in a group? In what communities do you have membership? Who is outside our community? Who is defined as ‘other’? Does being ‘other’ have a value associated with the designation? What is the effect on the individual identified as ‘other’?
  • Inclusion and diversity essential questions: Should we exclude those different from us?  What are the consequences and legacies of exclusion for the dominant / disenfranchised group?  What gives us strength when we embrace all that reside in our community?

Activities

Activity: As a class, write a statement that supports human rights, inclusion, and diversity. Consider signing this as a class. Post in the classroom, school, or public place.

Twinning ideas: Consider discussing these essential questions with another TST school.  Teachers should preselect / limit the discussion questions or together formulate new questions around human rights, inclusion, and diversity. Plan a “getting to know you” activity. With the class, decide what information will be shared about your community and school. Next, exchange class statements created during the closing activity.  Discussion/exchange should center on two to four of the essential questions above. 

  • Activity with Technology
    Host a Skype or video conference with the partner school. Email the class statement you created during the closing activity to your partner school. Begin the exchange with a “getting to know you” activity. Perhaps students can create a PowerPoint presentation introducing their community and school. Next, discuss the preselected questions. Consider ending the exchange with a student from each side thanking the other for participating.
  • Classical Activity
    Create a discussion packet and mail it to your partner school. The first item to include is introduction information. Perhaps students can create a brochure or draw pictures of their community. As a class draft responses to the preselected questions. Discuss these in class. Write a response (What new ideas were sparked? What did we learn?). Include a student-generated thank-you for the partner students and teacher.

Examples

Read about the legacy of a community of African descendants in Trinidad

ASPnet Trinidad and Tobago

Safeguard and adaptation of traditions: Rada Community in Trinidad”, University of Trinidad and Tobago 

The project “Rada Community of Trinidad: Continuities and Adaptations” aimed at increasing awareness of the legacy of the Rada community (a group of people from Dahomey, a country in West Africa now the Republic of Benin) among young people aged 20 to 28. The project contributed to increasing the visibility and appreciation of a community that has been able to preserve its heritage while adapting to the realities of a different world. The University hopes the project will contribute to the Rada Community being declared part of the local heritage. 

Over the course of this project, students increased their knowledge of Rada traditions and understanding of the adaptation process in their new home in Belmont, Trinidad. To this end, students examined Rada practices and traditions, as well as their belief system, and assessed how they were maintained amidst Western culture.  

This project had the specificity of being conducted at University level, which is still quite rare for TST projects. The level of education had an impact on the nature of activities, with greater use of academic language and the introduction of scientific concepts and analysis. Thus students discussed the syncretism between Christianity and traditional beliefs, the meaning of religious ceremonies and seasonal sacrifices and the role of musical instruments in traditional practices. 

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