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.
The summer has been progressing and I have been learning a lot through my time at Conflict Kitchen. I’m finding it very useful to journal in order to track what I learn and be able to reference my thoughts later in discussions.
I have been busy doing research for Conflict Kitchen, which switched to its Cuba iteration in June. My various tasks have included finding articles for the kitchen staff to read so that they are informed about Cuba and revising the food wrapper that features interviews with Cubans both in Cuba and the United States. I have also helped with preparations for future iterations by finding contacts who can help with research and developing questions to interview the contacts. I have also been working at the kitchen and interacting with customers, engaging them in dialogue about Cuban culture and US- Cuba relations.
Keeping to my learning goals, I have learned that successful facilitation of cross-cultural education should provide a means for the education to continue. I’ve realized through this internship that there tends to be a backup of knowledge between the information we gather on the country and what we can share while interacting with customers. The interactions with customers can be so short that there is hardly any time to truly engage in dialogue or share an interesting piece of information. I felt like the kitchen should offer some way for people to continue educating themselves, and therefore dispelling stereotypes, after they leave the restaurant. I suggested that I could develop a recommended reading list of books about Cuba and novels by Cuban authors. My supervisor liked the idea and it became my project. I partnered with the local branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh down the block from the Conflict Kitchen to learn how to make an effective booklist. The library was excited about the project and agreed to display the featured books and to work with the Conflict Kitchen in the future. This project is the part of my internship of which I am most proud. It has truly been my own project to develop and implement. It has not only allowed me to work towards my learning goals but also taught me new skills. Being able to put together a list of recommended reading will be useful in future jobs that deal with cultural education. Furthermore, developing a partnership with another community organization is important for any non-profit position.
With only a few weeks left of my internship, I know that I have learned many things and look forward to the remainder of it while finishing research and putting everything in place so the partnership with the library continues after I leave.
This past week, I started my internship at the Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh, PA. Founded in 2010, it is a take-out restaurant that features countries with which the United States is in conflict, serving food and hosting cultural and education events. They seek to encourage dialogue and learning in order to move past the unhealthy and polarizing discourse surrounding these countries in the United States. While working for the Conflict Kitchen, I will be doing mostly research for their upcoming iterations and event-planning. I will also be working at the take-out window, where the majority of the dialogue and education takes place.
As a native of Pittsburgh, I discovered the Conflict Kitchen two summers ago. Its mission deeply resonated with me. Being truly passionate about dialogue and dispelling prejudices through the arts and finding myself ready to more professionally explore the facilitation of cultural learning, I contacted the directors with the possibility of an internship. After an interview and a discussion of our mutual goals, they offered me a position of mainly research and event-planning.
To begin my training and get acquainted with the daily work of the project, I worked in the kitchen this week. Based on the recent news surrounding the United States and Iran, the Conflict Kitchen switched to their Iranian menu. I learned how to make the Iranian food and stepped into the window a few times to interact with the customers. People come to the Conflict Kitchen with varying levels of knowledge and opinions of Iran, its culture and its relationship with the United States. It is fascinating to see their reactions to the food as well as to the interviews with Iranians featured on the wrapper in which the food is served. The most interesting encounters are with those customers who have simply stumbled on the Conflict Kitchen and know nothing of its mission but are open to it. This is when most of the education and tearing down walls takes place. This week, the Conflict Kitchen also hosted an event with the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. Dr. Trita Parsi, Founder and President of the National Iranian American Council and author of A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacywith Iran, came to speak about his book and the US’ diplomatic relationship with Iran. It was a truly fascinating talk and conversation stemming from the audience’s questions. This was certainly a highlight of the week, building an excitement to be a part of this process at the Conflict Kitchen.
Looking towards the rest of the summer, I look forward to learning how to facilitate cultural learning specifically in order to dispel prejudices. This will be achieved through engaging dialogue and challenging events. I will also be able to develop further research skills as I help them prepare for upcoming iterations with interviews and conversation with Cuban and Korean communities in the Pittsburgh area. I look forward to all that I will learn about peace-building through the arts and culture working with the Conflict Kitchen.