Diaspora and Diversity

By Mercedes Redmon,

GreenStar Staff

11-06-mercedes-redmonToday I am on the hunt for something that speaks to my ethnicity. Something to recharge my roots, if you will, and I'm not talking about the Musical sensation! Something in Ithaca that reminds me of where I come from, a remembrance to take pride in.

The undertaking brought me to Diaspora Gallery on The Commons, an Afrocentric store that holds a rich variety of paintings, housing decor, oils, soaps and so on. I got to chatting with the owner, Eldred Harris, a friendly tall drink of water who was more than happy to answer some questions for this inquiring mind.

MR: How long has the store been here?

EH: This location, since March of '08.

MR: What different countries do the items in the store come from?

EH: We travel regularly to Guinea and Ethiopia, but the items come from all over Africa, really. Even South America and India.

MR: So it's not only African influences in the store but from other countries as well?

EH: Oh, absolutely.

MR: Would you say a diversely mixed group of people come into Diaspora?

EH: The clientele is as global as our products; we get tourists who travel from all over, not only the parents of students but the students as well, and of course the locals.

MR: OK, and what does Diversity mean to you?

EH: What does Diversity mean to me? It means not having to say it.

Well played, Mr. Harris, well played! The word diversity can bring up such rehearsed and generic answers, but that was the one! As we chatted more about things of an African nature, a handsome Caucasian family came in and, while the parents took a shine to the lamps made of animal hide, the children dispersed and each found an instrument of their liking then proceeded to go to town. The shop filled with the sporadic beats of children experimenting.

"Looks like you have a band there!" Eldred said, smiling at the children.

"Oh, I hope you don't mind!" The father replied with lamp in hand.

"Not at all, the store is very music friendly..."

I poked around some earth-toned beads for a moment and then realized what Diversity means to me. It means welcomed tolerance, with the room to educate those hungry for knowledge of things they may not understand. As I retrieved my bike from the end of The Commons, I smiled to myself and felt the guidance of my culture trailing behind me, strong and recharged.

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