Inclusion, Diversity, Community and HD South

Inclusion, Diversity, Community and HD South

Inclusion, Diversity, Community and HD South 

Elaine Kessler 

The land on which Gilbert, Arizona sits was once the land of the Akimel O’odham (Upper Pima) and Hohokam tribes. 

Here, the arts flourished, and they transformed the desert into gardens, growing cotton for clothing, rugs and other textile products. They grew crops of corn, melons, beans, fruits, and other foods. A community thrived and gracefully integrated with their neighbors to the south. 

Later, as people traveled west in search of gold and land, one grateful member of the Mormon Battalion wrote in his journal in 1846, on his way from New Mexico to California during the Mexican American War, “They are a noble race.”  

Then in 1857 it is recorded by Lt. Sylvester Mowry: “Their stores of wheat and corn have supplied many a starved emigrant and restored his broken-down animals.” 

Long before Gilbert was incorporated, people inhabited this land with generosity, creativity, and conscientiousness. How do we pursue this incredible precedent? 

As we have developed in many extraordinary ways, there are some things that are not as quick to change. Sixty years ago, Jerry Talamante delivered a profound and still salient valedictory speech at Gilbert High School’s Graduation. He opened it saying that “many young people are concerned with their future and because they are concerned with their future, they are concerned with the world’s future.” He goes on to say that young people hope to have the experience of “living in a world of trust, in an era of peace.” Talamante’s speech outlines the “segregation – integration…problem, hidden under a coat of hypocrisy” here in Gilbert. His speech is brave and honest and unfortunately, Gilbert continues to wrestle with issues of diversity. 

As we grow in size, we should grow in diversity. While Gilbert is relatively homogenous, it is not a bubble. We have lively economic development, burgeoning businesses of all sizes, and incredible residential offerings. While known for its many award-winning amenities and accolades, the Town of Gilbert isn’t brimming with the diversity one might expect from a community over 250,000 strong. 

Less than twenty years ago, a paper called “Diversity Issues in Gilbert, Arizona” by Pamela M. Smith and Penny L. Willrich articulates: “Racism continues to exist. Homophobia is rampant. Access to affordable housing and accessible transportation has not been resolved. Domestic violence is a daily occurrence. Individuals with disabilities are still subjected to disparate treatment.”  

How can we promote inclusion, diversity, and a vigorous sense of community in the town? What is the role of HD South in contributing to the growth of a diverse landscape of people, cultures, traditions, and values? 

According to Museums Association:   

Museums now find that they play an increasing role in supporting the development of communities. Museums can be a place to help shape community identity and bring different community groups together, a catalyst for regeneration through the creation of new venues and civic spaces, and a resource for developing the skills and confidence of members of those communities.

HD South is a site of community transformation. People from all areas of life are invited to come to HD South and develop perspective, skills, and resources. HD South’s role in the current conversation of diversity and inclusivity is significant. As host to multiple program offerings and various arts, culture, and historical events and exhibits, HD South is a foundational component to our community development.  

In these unusual and tumultuous times, here are ideas to broaden perspective, contribution, and understanding: 

Vote. In an article by Michael Israel, a few prominent figures are quoted. Morgan Carroll in “Take Back Your Government: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Your Government Work For You” eloquently expresses the power of a vote when she says: “When there’s a vacuum of public input, lobbyists usually fill it. But when there’s public input, the people usually win.” Lyndon B. Johnson stated, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised…for breaking down injustice.” The more people know what is going on in our community by voting on matters that are important to them, the more people will engage with each other and begin to hopefully understand each other. See this link to learn how to register to vote: 

Participate. Encourage participation in public affairs – get people involved; be involved. This community is full of dynamic individuals – we should rally together to make the community a dynamic place to live. Show up at events, participate in meetings (virtual or not), and get to know your neighbors. This kind of participation makes all the difference when cultivating a strong, generous, and abundant community.  

Check here for events: 

From the National Museum Directors Conference, two compelling ideas are put forth that help to put into context the power of a place like HD South: 

“Museums are spaces in which identities are understood, formed and shared. They provide a stimulating public space in which people can come together and be inspired.”  

“Cultural institutions provide the glue that binds communities together. Culture attracts people to a place, just as much as good schools, housing or transport and creates an environment in which other industries, goods and services can grow.” 

In this interesting and uncertain era, we witness the evolution of our community. Consider allowing the cultural hub of Gilbert, HD South, to impact the breadth and depth of your experience as a member of this place we call home. 

Akimel O’odham – Pee Posh. “Our Community Our Future.” 2007. 

Israel, Michael. “Why is it Important to Vote?” The Borgen Project. 29 April 2018. 

Museum Association. “Communities Love Museums.” 

National Museum Directors’ Conference (NMDC).’ Museums Deliver.’ 2010. 

NMDC. ‘Values and Vision: The Contribution of Culture.’ 2006. 

Native Land. 

Smith, Pamela and Willrich, Penny. “Diversity Issues in Gilbert, Arizona: Effectiveness of Human Relations Commission for Resolving Human Rights Violations.” Arizona Summit Law School Research Paper. 2001. Available at SSRN: or 

Talamante, Jerry. “Valedictorian Speech.” Gilbert High School Graduation, 26 May 1960, Gilbert, AZ. 


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