Freedom of speech is embedded in American society. One can speak openly without the fear of prosecution. Yet, there is no guarantee that anyone will listen. Our society has pockets of space where individuals struggle to express their cultural voice. Even those that have the opportunity to speak are rarely in an environment that allows one to be heard.
How is this possible? There is power in the diversity of voices. They are meaningful, significant. Power is speaking of your existence. To hear their story, the reality, the words that embody an individual is power.
The Culture Box provides the space where stories can be documented in a visual or auditory form. There is a microphone where one can record their story, however one wishes to convey it. Once finished, anyone can listen to the narrative that has been shared. The white walls are there to be marked, to give the anyone the ability to carve their existence.
Andre Daley has a deep understanding of the mind, recognizing the shortcuts it takes in perceiving the stimuli around us. This tendency to categorize others, to place them in a box, is a byproduct of the mind. It doesn’t desire diversity, complex narratives or stories that challenge our this-or-that view of life. People are more than a checkmark next to the question, “What race do you identify with?”
We validate ourselves by providing agency without discrimination, to have a place where voice isn’t shut down. Refusing to hear the richness of one’s experience results in feelings of abandonment, rejection, and neglect. It reinforces the idea that someone does not belong, that their identity is nothing more than the color of their skin, the history of their heritage. Daley himself has difficulty describing his identity.
The very act of placing a label creates a box -one that forces us to inhabit. It is limiting, enforcing the binary thinking that the mind indulges in. Yet, when pressed, Daley describes himself as one of “African descent, born in the Caribbean”, specifically, the British influenced Caribbean. There is more. He is a techy. A geek. An artist and musician. The blood of Brooklyn runs deep. The New York Mets are part of Daley. These labels do not exist separately, they do not occupy parallel lines of existence. The forces that shape us overlap. It’s messy, convoluted, precious, at times grotesque, but transparent and real. Identity is beautiful.
Daley believes that our society benefits from the diversity of others. Diversity, along with the cultural influences, have benefits that have yet to be tapped, leading him to believe that the potential of mankind to be limitless. The Cultural Box is but a brief snapshot of that idea. An example of what is possible. Love is the guide, the force that unites and confronts us to do better. By providing a space where subcultures can have voice, where they can be heard, the Box challenges the perspective of the dominate culture. Emphasis on “challenges”, this is not attack.
For change to occur, one must be exposed to the multiple truths that roam in our communities. Acceptance of the multiple pathways that exist. Some need just a nudge, while others require constant time, energy, patience, and love. There are people who will enter The Cultural Box and not understand it, unable to connect with the stories of others, and that’s okay. It’s okay that some may be offended by what is said, or what it represents. It must be allowed, to be offended, because diversity of opinion and perspective is necessary to have a cultural voice.
Daley not only challenges the dominant culture, but the subcultures as well. People of color who cannot see the perspective of the dominate culture doom themselves, perpetuating the endless cycle of yelling, hindering the voices desperately needed to have a conversation. It’s possible for all to entertain the perspective of another without adopting it for ourselves. A discussion is not a debate or argument with the sole purpose of “bringing the other to my side.” A discussion is finding common ground, going beyond the differences to focus on something more important.
If nothing else, the Box is a critique of the mind. It’s easy to live in a binary world. Right or wrong. On or off. Left or right. However, our society would live a rather poor existence if it was fashioned with ones and zeros. It will run out of steam, out of answers, trying to fit it all into a box.
What kind of mark do you need to leave? What story needs to be heard?
Reject instinct. Get lost in the stories.
Tell me who you are. I want to listen.
Andre Daley presents work with a rich and varied experience and history. Bringing the perspective of an immigrant who moved from Jamaica to the United States at the age of 15 he went to high school in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn crossing social and racial boundaries on a forty-five minute bus ride from his home in Crown Heights.
After completing a year of high school, he went on to The City College of New York in Harlem where he graduated with a B.A. in developmental psychology. Andre continued with graduate study at New Brunswick and then Princeton seminaries, graduating from Princeton with a Master’s of Divinity with a focus on cognitive development and spiritual formation. After graduating from Princeton seminary, where he served as the president of the Association of Black seminarians in the 1986-1987 academic year, Andre has pastored several churches in New Jersey and Michigan.
Andre has written several articles and curricula on multiracial approaches to community and organizational development. He is founded, principal and lead trainer/consultant at the Reimagine Diversity and Inclusion Project and believes this work is a convergence of his personal and professional experience to date.