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Intercultural Inclusion in Action: Speculations after watching the film, Scarborough

In my last post, I closed with the benefit of #intercultural fluency. I wrote:

"Intercultural fluency can allow you to develop into the bridge between cultures and groups, thereby enhancing your own skills as a catalyst, a networker, a leader, a coach. It fosters the opportunity for #collaboration across different styles of verbal and nonverbal communication, of resolving conflict and differing face needs and varying ways to be in the world."

I promised a future post on #intercultural #inclusion, combining the benefits of both intercultural competence or fluency with equity, diversity and inclusion approaches. While I was prepared to go with an example of a multinational corporate entity, I recently had the opportunity to watch a #TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) digital screening of Scarborough, written by the author of the acclaimed book of the same name, Catherine Hernandez. The film is part of TIFF’s Share Her Journey program, which is itself is part of several initiatives embracing and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in film.

Before the film begins, Hernandez speaks to viewers telling us the film is about the forgotten parts of the city, stratified by race and class, and that there are “Scarboroughs” in every city. Her words, “I see you. I acknowledge you, I celebrate you,” felt the siren call of #equity and #inclusion practitioner, if there ever was one. The words haunted me as a spectator as I was immersed into a documentary-style narrative of families going through a series of what (to me) was one crisis after another. From intimate partner violence, addictions, chronic illness, housing instability, precarious employment, hunger to racism, the characters, from various cultural and racialized formations, including Indigenous, Filipino, White, Black, South Asian, among others, were falling through our fragmented social safety nets.

Yet, at the heart of the film is the interwoven story of three children, Bing, Sylvie and Laura. At a parenting and literacy centre helmed by Hina, they find reprieve from the chaos that surrounds them and can be “children” - who laugh, invent games and play, dress up for Hallowe’en, and participate in a talent show. Some of them have caring and loving, if beleaguered parents, some of them have parents who are abusive and addicted, but Hina, as if personifying Hernandez’s words, sees them, acknowledges them, and celebrates them. Effectively, she is the bridge between children and families of different cultural and racial backgrounds. She manoeuvres and manages some of the parents, who are openly hostile to her efforts, or like her supervisor, indifferent to the #empathy and #compassion she exudes to the children and their families that can benefit from her support.

I found the storyline disheartening and unsettling, and the divide between villains and heroes a little too blatant; nonetheless, the film is redeemed by captivating performances of the children and the narrative of the possibility of people in one’s community - other adults - rising about institutional and collective apathy and summoning the #empathy to make a difference and demonstrate #intercultural #inclusion.

Here’s information from TIFF about the film and a little bit more about Hernandez:

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