Kindness in a Prejudiced Society Can Exist: My Experience with Leading #MyStory
Written by 2022 C4K Fellow Sunya Afrasiabi (#MyStory)
The discussion of inequities has, historically, been an indication of compassion for the underserved and the underrepresented. To be aware of one’s privilege is held with as great a magnitude as the acknowledgment of the suffering of others. It becomes important at one point, however, to go beyond mere talk. It is important to realize that rumination of injustices does little to help those who suffer due to the lack of change; rather, the speaker seems to benefit more from the talk, in which their anxieties about a troubling reality can be reduced without action. Much of my ability to realize these facts, however, was due to my experience in leading #MyStory and as a Riley’s Way Call for Kindness Fellow.
Despite being a nation of immigrants, America has struggled to be accepting of the diverse cultures that embody it. It has taken a great length of time for it to offer even basic civil liberties to minority, immigrant, and refugee groups. It will take an even greater length of time for it to then remove the stigmas behind such groups. The barriers that have been placed on these people have resulted in lasting consequences such as poor mental health, impoverishment, or a general lack of resources. To both acknowledge these difficulties and embrace these differences requires a considerable amount of empathy. When I interviewed local immigrants/refugees through #MyStory, I was exposed to stories in which people had endured horrific hardships with nothing but resilience inspired by affection for one’s family, community, and culture. It was inspiring.
In a world filled with prejudice, injustice, and discrimination, it can be difficult to be hopeful, but it is important to realize that humanity is innately kind. It was, afterall, Gandhi, himself, who once said that “humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” I embraced the value of kindness in seeking out these stories with the intention of sharing them with various communities. Such kindness, however, is not exclusive to my own experiences with leading #MyStory. Many of the storytellers in this project have devoted their lives to service in the hopes of societal betterment. They have used mediums such as dance, food, and sports to unite people, but they have also begun initiatives to preserve their heritage and educate others.
Similarly, as a Riley’s Way Call For Kindness Fellow, I was exposed to many other service-minded people. They were those who witnessed injustices and chose to do more than discuss inequities; rather, they actively sought to combat them. I have learned to embody the values of kindness, compassion, inclusivity, and leadership by taking inspiration from those who are energized by the prospects of fairness, justice, and equality.
Sunya is a 2022 C4K Fellow and the student founder of #MyStory. #MyStory is a storytelling project led by Bridges From Borders, whose goal is to unite people through stories by developing immigrant narratives through the combination of oral history, narrative therapy, and portrait exhibition. #MyStory fosters diversity and inclusion while serving the refugee and immigrant communities traditionally under-resourced in public programming.