To promote cross cultural understanding, the regional health equity coalition Let’s Talk Diversity is asking community members from different cultures to share their stories about living in Jefferson County including Warm Springs.
We begin this column with a community perspective from Sonya Littledeer-Evans, who worked in Jefferson County for 13 years with the Department of Community Justice-Juvenile Division and currently resides in Jefferson County. She also serves as a Cultural Competency trainer for the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition. Ms. Littledeer-Evans recognizes that she is one of many people who historically have not had power in our society: as a woman, a person of color, and a person who grew up in extreme poverty. Ms. Littledeer-Evans states that growing up she “felt it [differential treatment] but never heard anyone talk about it, didn’t know how to talk about it, and thought it was just in my head.”
This all changed when Sonya first attended an intensive Cultural Competency Training of Trainers. She explains, “Cultural competency trainings were one of the most life changing events in my life. The first thing I learned was that all the differential treatment I had felt and witnessed was real. It was validating and empowering to realize this and discover healthy ways to process it with other people.”
These trainings helped Sonya transform her ability to understand the world through all other walks of life. According to Sonya, “It first belongs with us [understanding] how we see the world and why.” Ms. Littledeer-Evans further explains, “It started changing how I did business in my job, and then it started changing how I did things in my community, as my job representing my agency but personally too.”
Sonya realized she wanted to continue this type of work as a trainer. She was able to do so through cultural competency trainings as part of the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition’s work to increase cultural understanding, change policy and social norms, and expand the lens in which we all view the world.
Across every racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic group, community members repeatedly identified community relations in public places as one area needing improvement during the Coalition’s community assessment. Ms. Littledeer-Evans clarifies, “Our trainings are a direct answer to what the community said they wanted to see improve. The Coalition and its trainings are about creating a safe environment to get together and talk about our differences and about all the things that make up who we are without blame or judgment.”
Ms. Littledeer-Evans adds, “We get to learn from it, to take away from it, and use it in our daily lives to change how we do our work and interact with each other in our community at every level. By the end of the day, across every different walk of life in that room, the community comes together and heals together.” Ms. Littledeer-Evans concludes that only with a better understanding of each other will we have a more unified and stronger community.