Deerfield inclusion group throws a party celebrating other cultures

  • Deerfield Inclusion Group’s community potluck in Deerfield Elementary School Friday was part dance party, part cultural outreach. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Deerfield Inclusion Group held a community potluck in Deerfield Elementary School. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

Recorder Staff
Published: 3/25/2018 10:40:08 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Music, laughter and the tantalizing aroma of hot ethnic foods drifted through Deerfield Elementary School as about a hundred parents and their children celebrated diversity in the cafeteria with a community potluck dance party.

“It’s a lot more than a big party,” said Rich Allium, a local parent who helped organize Deerfield Inclusion Group’s community kickoff dance party Friday night. In the middle of a circle of tables, dozens of children jumped and shouted to “Gangnam Style” by South Korean artist PSY. Tables laden with homemade dishes stretched across one end of the room, and on the opposite side children labored over craft items.

The inclusion group was founded two years ago in November by a small group of parents and school teachers concerned about divisive social issues like racism and gender inequality, and their impact on local students. Since then, the group has expanded to nine members who meet regularly, often with their children, a few times each month.

“We’re looking for allies. For this event, we’re looking for others who feel there’s work to be done, but don’t know where to start,” Allium continued. “I remember the first meeting I went to with my kids. Right off the bat, the kids were engaged in discussion.”

Deerfield, like many surrounding towns, is a primarily white community, so it’s easy to retreat from national discussions of race and only interact with neighbors from similar backgrounds, said Lu Vincent, a founding member of the group. Thus, connections with people from different cultures must be intentional. Creating those connections is an intention of the inclusion group.

“Especially around topics of race, there’s a lot of silence. This is a way to interrupt that silence in a positive way,” Vincent said. “As a parent of kids of color, I long to see more cultural connection. This is the beginning of that.”

While the inclusion group isn’t directly affiliated with the town or school, some local officials in attendance Friday — including Union 38 Superintendent Lynn Carey and Deerfield Selectboard Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness — voiced strong support for the endeavor. The school opened its cafeteria for the event, and a broad selection of ethnically diverse music was provided by Music Teacher Anthony Tracia.

Everyone was invited to bring food to share in order to create a welcoming environment. Offerings included empanadas made by a family from Guatemala, authentic Italian cuisine, French cooking, Hungarian, and Irish dishes. Later, Prone to Mischief, a Northampton-based brass band, performed during a break from dancing.

“This is our debut event to introduce ourselves to the community,” said Suzanne Ryan, a 17-year preschool teacher at Deerfield Elementary School and founding member of the group. “We felt like there were some people in the community who weren’t feeling welcomed in the school community.”

Looking ahead, the group intends to host monthly public discussion groups tackling social issues. Vincent said they’ll also talk about how Deerfield can be more welcoming. Based on those discussions, Ryan noted the group will evolve its mission to fit the community’s needs. The group will also soon be on social media platforms, including Facebook, and have a website where residents can discuss social issues.

For more information, contact Allium at rich.allium@gmail.com.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo




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