With my internship at the Conflict Kitchen completed, I have been reflecting on all that I learned. The research I completed for the Cuba iteration as well as the upcoming countries required me to integrate my academic knowledge into dialoguing with customers at the take-out window. Through this, I also came to a fuller understanding of the concepts I have learned in my classes at Brandeis. The Conflict Kitchen also held a Cuban Date Night for their final event of the summer, featuring dinner, a showing of the Buena Vista Social Club, and salsa dancing. Working as the on-site coordinator for this event forced me to develop my event-planning skills, further supporting my learning goals for this internship.
Coming out of this experience, I certainly want to continue seeking cross-cultural experiences and learning about peacebuilding and the arts. However, this internship did not merely reaffirm my interest but also helped me to discern my specific interests more fully. The concept of the Conflict Kitchen can both use the arts and culture to humanize demonized populations and give voice to minority communities in the United States who have been marginalized due to the demonization of their home culture. After interning with the Conflict Kitchen, l feel that I want to pursue a vocation that utilizes the arts and culture to give voice to minority and marginalized communities.
I would advise a student working at the Conflict Kitchen to not be afraid to take initiative. My idea to collaborate with the local library and develop reading lists of Cuban literature became the most rewarding part of my internship and the project that taught me the most. To a student doing similar work, I would recommend that every experience or exchange lead to reflection. I found that using arts and culture for peace and rehumanization is fascinating and there are a multitude of large questions to which everyone has a different answer. I learned much more from constantly reflecting on these issues than if I had simply focused on my tasks without looking at the wider picture.
The wider perspective that comes from reflection also helped me to more clearly envision the goal of peacebuilding and the arts and the details necessary for cross-cultural education. In one encounter this summer, I was shocked when someone found the project exploitative. While I think that the person had made a snap judgment without truly understanding the project, the statement certainly made me reflect. I believe firmly that rehumanization of demonized populations is essential to the establishment of a just society. However, I also feel that this internship taught me that when working to rehumanize cultures and peoples it is essential to be aware of the danger of exploitation of these people and their culture. I think to avoid this, it is important to constantly be aware of the power dynamics at play, work directly with the community in question, and to focus on the goal of education.