On July 11, 2017, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at HSDM hosted the first Open Mic event to celebrate the diversity in our community through storytelling. There was no prompt, and storytellers organically arose from the audience. Speakers shared about different facets of their identities, experiences of pain and joy, reflections on personal triumphs and lessons learned, as well as life-changing encounters with strangers. Inspired by Humans of New York, Humans of HSDM is a photo series highlighting the speakers at the Open Mic.
"American English is NOT Indian English! When I first came to the United States from India, I went to Dunkin Donuts and asked them to 'parcel' my food so I could eat it at home. I learned quickly that here in the U.S., we say, food 'to go' and that if you ‘parcel,’ it means they would mail you your croissant and coffee! I also learned that you don't ever haggle here, even at an outlet mall!"
"I studied dental technology for five years in Italy prior to immigrating to the U.S., and during my English language course, I worked in a restaurant in order to support my living expenses. One day, I happened to serve a customer who gave me his business card, and I couldn’t believe my eyes! My customer was the author of a well-known dental materials textbook I had studied in Italy! From that day on, Dr. William J. O'Brien mentored me and eventually helped me to pursue my postdoctoral scholar certificate in Biologic & Materials Sciences. Since then, I was able to work in many institutions that led me to HSDM."
"Others said I wouldn’t make it as a mother of four and that I wouldn’t be productive enough, but HSDM supported me and opened its doors. With God’s grace and blessings, I ended up with a doctorate degree and a faculty position at Harvard, published multiple scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, presented my research at several major conferences, and received several awards. Wait, who's not productive enough?
"When we think of diversity in everyday interactions, we have to remember intent versus impact. As someone with a disability, I regularly meet people with such good intent who approach me out of their desire to ‘help’ me, but they make a sour impact, because having a disability doesn't mean I'm helpless or lost."
"Distinct childhood memories serve to remind me of what it's like to be a religious minority in the United States. Growing up as a Jewish child, even going to a neighborhood baseball game wasn't without reminders of my religious minority status. I keep those memories close to me, because it helps me to have greater empathy and understanding for others who are reminded of their minority status during each of their waking hour."
"On May 17, 2004, I went to City Hall in Cambridge to witness the historic issuance of the first same-sex marriage licenses in the USA, and among the thousands of people gathered to share the event, I encountered dozens of members of the Westboro Baptist Church (the Fred Phelps Family), protesting with vile picket signs. I decided to approach one of them with the hope of starting a dialogue. It truly became a conversation I will never ever forget."
"I didn't speak much English when I first came to the U.S., and I certainly didn't know this would become my home. I wasn't sure I could achieve anything here, but a mentor gave me a chance and here I am 20 years later. That's why I do what I do, because I want to become that person for my students."
"While it's hard as an African American woman to stay positive with all that is happening around us, I live with gratitude, stay positive, and do the right thing so I can be an example to my three children. No matter how tough life gets, look up and do the right thing, because you never know who is watching you as their role model."
“Language should never be your excuse not to follow your dreams. People told me along the way, ‘NO, you can’t; you don’t speak English,’ but I kept pressing on toward my dreams. I was the first in my family to obtain a bachelor’s degree! Yes, you can do all things, just keep pressing on and keep believing.”