Cabrini Day Workshop: Working to build positive identity

By Hayley Thompson
November 19, 2018


This year’s Cabrini Day took place on Tuesday, Nov. 13. A workshop, titled Sharing our Journeys, was held at the end of the day to wrap up the idea of building a positive identity.

Dr. Raymond E. Ward holding a sign at Cabrini Day saying, “Men of quality support gender equality.” Photo via Cabrini’s Flickr

The main discussion in this workshop was defining identity and resilience. Identity can be defined in stages and layers. Those who attended agreed that identity and resilience means to keep going and to never give up.

The Interim director of the Wolfington Center, Dr. Raymond E. Ward, and Lisa Ratmansky planned this workshop. Lisa Ratmansky is not a faculty member but she works with Dr. Ward and Cabrini faculty on research projects and interfaith work. This year, they wanted to bring interfaith questions into the Cabrini Day event to get some conversation going.

The workshop was a way to cap off the day for people to process their thoughts about what they had heard throughout Cabrini Day. Most importantly, the goal was to apply it more to their lives. “We realized that we weren’t necessarily experts in this area but we thought that we could facilitate a discussion. That’s really how we envisioned this thing,” Ward said.

A few short videos and poems were shown to help kickstart the discussions. It was Lisa Ratmansky’s idea to show video clips because she thought that it would be helpful to have something that the attendees could take part in together.

One of the Cabrini Day speakers. Photo via Cabrini’s Flickr

They wanted people to reflect the content of the video clips so it was not just introspecting into each other’s lives the whole time. “People can bounce their ideas or reflect their lives off of what they see,” Dr. Ward said. “In a nutshell, our goal was to have a workshop at the end of the day for people to reflect on and apply the things that they had learned, especially in the Keynote, to their own lives.”

The selection of videos Dr. Raymond Ward played at the workshop absolutely facilitated detailed conversation. The main conversation was about the challenges to positive identity. After watching a few videos, attendees came up with a list of challenges. A big challenge within most of the videos was the pronunciation of names resulting in an identity taken. Some people with commonly mispronounced names will eventually alter the way they say their name to better accommodate other people.

Junior political science and history major Chardanay White can relate to this video. “I like the Mohamed video and how he was saying he had to take his name back.” She explained that he had to unlearn the American way of saying it so he could use the way his mom would say it. “I think that shows how you can grow into yourself culturally and just accept who you are, where you’re from and what your cultural roots are.”

A poster at Cabrini Day. “Treat people how you want to be treated.” Photo via Cabrini’s Flickr

More of the challenges to a positive identity that were identified in this workshop were nationality, colorism within ethnicities and assimilation. Religion, genetics and language can also be included. These challenges are external and expectations from society. An example of an internal challenge of positive identity is self doubt.

When culture meets culture, there is sometimes friction. However, these external factors can actually lift you up. Challenges can be turned into resources. It’s important to not shy away from uncomfortable things. Discomfort can be a place of growth.

“Honestly, I came [to the workshop] because I had to come to something for the honor’s program. I’m not gonna lie,” freshman Julia Klos said. “I think I got a lot out of it.” Regarding the pronunciation of names, Julia Klos said that even though her name is simple, the discussion made her appreciate who she’s named after and why. She said she had a different outlook on it that she never really thought about before.

This workshop was meant to open up people’s minds to different perspectives and to reflect on their own as well. “I wasn’t necessarily aware of some of the adversaries that some people face with cultural barriers,” sophomore political science major Christian Jones said. “And I guess, above all, the thing that I learned is that people need to learn how to feel comfortable with being themselves, staying true to who they are as a person and not be afraid to express it.”

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Hayley Thompson

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