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Family Forum: Diversity in Port?

Examining diversity in the Port Washington community.

The discussions leading up the school elections demonstrated opposing viewpoints abound in this town. The diversity of opinions afforded a deeper look into the issues.

Diversity broadens your horizons and enables you to see many sides of the same coin. In other words, rather than having your iPod play the same sounding tracks, try shuffling various musical styles.

Many moms I’ve spoken with say they love Port Washington for it’s diversity, but is Port Washington really that diverse? 

My best friend and mother of three, Melissa Goldberg, suggested that diversity is  “much more than just skin deep and being surrounded by people of different colors.” When living in her Brooklyn apartment building, which while colorful, the similarities among her neighbors outweighed the differences. After all, the building residents were of similar socio-economic status and comprised mainly of hard working families.

So is it a combination of a diverse socio-economic makeup plus cultural differences that makes Port diverse?

According to the 2000 US Census Bureau Data, Port Washington is 85% White and 11% Latin American, peppered with a small percentage of African American, Asian and Native American (figures are rounded). Our neighborhood profile on MLSLI displayed to potential incoming Port residents shows the median household income is $100K.

What about our values?

The statistics show we have a minor majority of Democrats to Republicans.  Most of us are married. Most of us work in the service industry. Most are Catholic.

The numbers are pretty homogenous.

The proverb “birds of a feather flock together” seems true. Perhaps there is safety in numbers or at least comfort. Comfort knowing your neighbors share similar values and work ethics despite differences in opinions.

Failing to step outside your comfort zone can lead to a sheltered life. Seeing how the other half lives and learning about other belief systems also broadens your spectrum and helps you evaluate your own life and ideals.  

Luckily, there’s enough in Port Washington to take you out of your comfort zone. Perhaps step into a church or a temple and have a listen. Take a foreign language or a Spanish immersion class. Talk to someone at the playground you may not necessarily have pegged as a potential friend.

The scenery in Port is diverse with a little bit country (Baxter Estates} and a little bit beach (Manhasset Bay, the Sound), perhaps take a scenic route and tour your town.

When it comes to food, our town hits some non-diverse notes. Yet having a diverse palette helps experience cultural differences in an intimate way.

Perhaps diversity in Port is like our restaurants, a plethora of pizza places (one for each day of the week and twice on Sunday!), ice cream and now frozen yogurt places with enough sprinkling of ethnic jaunts – French, Italian, Irish, American, Mexican, Spanish, Indian, Japanese in town to keep our taste buds fresh and appreciation for diversity.  

How else can we diversify our life in Port?

Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 05:01 PM
The school budget discussions of the past few weeks have left me seeing things differently. It's been an eye opener and one of the things I've always loved and appreciated are differences of opinions. Law school trains you to see an issue and circumstances from all viewpoints and is an important part of being an active member in the community. Yet having diverse opinions isn't the only thing that comprises diversity, so what are the other aspects of diversity?
Emily Wood May 18, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Great point, Cynthia! I think diversity is made up of several different factors including, but not limited to, socio-economics, culture, values, morals, background, personality and personal past experiences. Combined together, that is what makes a community diverse. As you said, exposure is key in becoming a well-rounded human being and I think there are plenty opportunities for that exposure here in Port.
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Is diversity something tangible or is intangible? The Meriam-Webster definition alludes to cultural diversity - as "the inclusion of different types of people (race and cultures_ in a group or organization..." Or is it more like the University of Oregon's Diversity Initiatives conceptual definition - "The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual."
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 05:10 PM
Would love to hear of more diverse activities and places in Port. Exposure is the first step!! I saw a sign on Main Street for the Asian Street festival. There's also CHILD PLAY NOW by Evelyn Allen and her husband that runs Spanish Immersion play groups www.Childsplaynow.com.
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 05:12 PM
Would love to learn more about the places in this town. Unearthing opportunities for families is a key component!! My parents were very conscious about taking me into Manhattan to go to museums and other cultural spots to help broaden my otherwise pretty sheltered existence.
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 05:16 PM
I remember taking a sign language for toddler class with my son at the PRC, that was so interesting, could you imagine having to diversify your means of communication? Ever lost your voice??
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Harbor Fest on June 18th is another great day to see what's about in Port, from Fisherman to Spas... :)
Emily Wood May 18, 2011 at 05:34 PM
Agreed. I think another important factor is exposing children to foreign languages early on. This is an imperative action to take if we want them to become well-rounded "citizens of the world," which is going to become ever more important in the coming years. Perhaps there are language classes that cater to families in the area?
Emily Wood May 18, 2011 at 05:35 PM
The Asian Street festival sounds like an amazing event! Does anyone know of any similar things happening in the coming months?
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 05:39 PM
The PRC has Spanish and Japanese playgroups!! http://www.parentresource.org/prog_parentchild.html#8 That's pretty awesome. Childs Play Now www.Childsplaynow.com offers Spanish Immersion playgroups (in your home). I can't find any French lessons or playgroups for children. The Adult Education brochure offers foreign language classes and I took some Spanish classes when I first moved out, by default, actually, I wanted to take French but was the only person registered!!
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 05:43 PM
There's the Grande Festa Italiana the sunday after labor day. http://www.marinolodge.org/festival.html Nothing says diversity quite like a canoli!!
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Whatever we bring home with us from these outings is so important and will no doubt impact our children's perspective of the world and our community.
Emily Wood May 18, 2011 at 05:59 PM
It's also a wonderful thing to be exposed to global and culturally diverse foods. One can learn a lot about a culture through their food!
Robert J. Pape, Jr. May 18, 2011 at 07:01 PM
I believe that Port Washington is even more of a diverse community despite what the census figures seem to indicate. Diversity is the inner strength of our community. Different people, cultures and religions are represented in Port Washington and more importantly, are respected in Port Washington. As a community, we celebrate our accomplishments, share the burden of our disappointments, and look out for one another. Do we always agree with each other? No. Does everyone feel a diverse community is a strong community? No. Is there prejudice in our community? Yes. However, I truly believe the vast majority of our community enjoys our diversity and realizes we are all the better for it.
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Beautifully said Robert!
Jill Rader Levine May 18, 2011 at 08:55 PM
The Town of North Hempstead Asian American Festival is on May 21 at North Hempstead Beach Park starting at 12 noon till 6 PM. This second annual event will feature the music, dance and cuisine of 5 ethnic groups - Japan, Korea, China, India and Pakistan. Celebrate diversity right here in Port Washington this Saturday!
Cynthia Litman May 18, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Thanks Jill!!
JC May 19, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Manorhaven Elementary has a Cultural Studies week each year. Every year the school emerses themselves in the cultural of a particular country. The students learn about the culture in many integrated subjects , Art, Music, Science, Social Studies, Literature etc. They learn about the particular country for a whole week and it culminates in a night where all the parents come to experience the culture. The teachers and parent volunteers put together everything. This was the 21st year. I haven't heard of an other elementary school in Port that does this but they should. Its really amazing to see the school transformed its a big highlight for the school each year and the students love it and really learn alot about the different cultures.
jane May 20, 2011 at 12:37 AM
Are you sure Harbor Fest is on June 18? I thought it was on the 5th.
Adina Genn (Editor) May 20, 2011 at 01:28 AM
Jane, You are right. HarborFest is June 5. http://www.pwcraftfair.com/2011%20Harborfest%20craft%20show%20application.pdf
Adina Genn (Editor) May 20, 2011 at 12:41 PM
JC, I agree that Cultural Studies week is a wonderful event, and enriching for the whole community. It's a highlight every year.

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