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A Note of Gratitude to Diversity on World Day for Cultural Diversity

I didn’t grow up with a national identity of being “American”. When people where I was raised asked about your cultural identity, they were always asking about your ancestral roots. I was Italian first, from Jersey second – and New Jersey just happened to be in America, so we got to watch fireworks on the 4th of July. As I got older and moved about the country a bit, I was utterly confounded at the lack of ethnic pride I encountered and the abundance of all-encompassing national pride in its stead. Many of the people I met didn’t even know their ethnicity – while everyone I grew up around had it lovingly hand-stitched into the very fabric of their family by their grandparents.

As much flak as I (deservedly) give New Jersey, I am eternally grateful to have grown up in a community so astoundingly rich in racial, ethnic and religious diversity. My grade school class pictures looked like a U.N. convention in miniature. This experience taught me at a very young age that “truth” lies somewhere between facts and subjective experiences – and different people can hold different truths, and both be equally valid.

I learned that diversity is strength.

Cultural Diversity Blog Post Image - Craig Wikely

When I was fifteen my mother could no longer afford our house, so we all moved from the rich melting pot of the city where I was raised into my grandmother’s one-bedroom home my mother was raised in. My grandmother’s town was within walking distance of my childhood home, but it may as well have been another country. A lot of the towns and cities in northern New Jersey were literally built from the ground up by second and third-generation immigrants settling away from their NYC roots. In Garfield, for example, if you find a deep enough pothole in some roads, you can still see the foundational bricks laid generations ago by the Italian masons who built the town. As more and more people migrated from NYC, they’d naturally gravitate toward the people they knew and the culture they were familiar with.

By the time I was a teenager, many of these towns still held onto their rich cultural history. It’s easy to call it segregation when you look from the distance of space and time – but you know better if you lived it. It was so much more beautiful than that implies. Wallington, for example, was primarily Polish, but there wasn’t the animosity and tension I watched continually unfold and erupt in the clashes between the Black community in Bed-Stuy and the neighboring Jewish community in Crown Heights in the Brooklyn of the seventies and eighties. Wallington was just where everyone knew to go for great pierogis.

I learned that pride doesn’t need to be at the expense of others.


Embracing Diversity One Story at a Time

I shared recently about how I joined the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) team at Thirdera, and I said I would have something else to share soon… well, we just finished the first DEIB initiative I was officially a part of!!!

Our goal was to get one employee from every country Thirdera operates in to contribute to an ebook to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (Diversity Day) on May 21st.

Rather than taking a clinical, anthropological lens to the wider global impact of racial, ethnic, national, religious and cultural diversity, we wanted to explore our personal relationships with our own lived experiences and how they’ve helped shape us. Our intention was to foster dialogue about what cultural diversity means to these individuals.

Watch this video to see how Eranauts from all over the world embrace their differences and feel united and empowered. 

Also, in celebration of Diversity Day, Thirdera will be donating $1,000 to Team4tech – a not-for-profit impact accelerator, bridging the digital equity gap in education to create inclusion and opportunities for under-resourced learners around the world. Team4tech works together with other non-profit organizations to improve education and economic opportunities for underprivileged and disadvantaged learners through technology solutions. Team4tech delivers global impact by building capacity and connecting with over 50 organizations spread across 24 different countries.

I am honored and proud to have been given the opportunity to share my story with you. And am excited you have the chance to expand your cultural awareness by exploring our Cultural Diversity ebook and reading the personal stories of my fellow Eranauts!

Explore our ebook



Craig Wilkey

Craig is a seasoned IT Operations & Service Management leadership professional with over twenty-five years’ experience. His career has afforded him opportunities to work in environments ranging from the smallest micro-incubator organizations to one of the largest financial institutions in the world.
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