Integration is like a slow-waltz

by Joanna Dukkipati

About

Joanna Dukkipati, founder of Good Day Cork participated in ‘We Are Cork: Stories from a Diverse City’ – a collection of stories of integration in Cork City, capturing the perspective of those with lived experience of migrating to Ireland and finding a new home in Cork City. This project was led by Cecilia Amabo in NASC.  You can read the report here.

The report was launched on 29th Sept 2022 at Cork City Council. You may read Joanna’s speech from the occasion below.

WeAreCorkNASC_GoodDayCork_1
NASC Team with few of the We Are Cork participants. Joanna Dukkipati (sitting 2nd from left) Photo credit Eluk Productions

My name is Joanna Dukkipati. I grew up for the most part in Bombay, India. A Cork man & I fell in love with each other. We got married and I moved to Cork with him in 2012. I was a new bride in a new city but I never blushed. Had I blushed I would not be standing here to tell you that this city has been like a mother to me, her people are my siblings and like in every family there is love and dispute in equal measure. To put it plainly, Cork is always pushing and pulling to grasp with her incredible identity.

I don’t know all my siblings but many of my adorable siblings are in this room. We’re almost similar to a brass band – loud audacious, rhythmic and attractive. Allow me to explain – our actions are louder than our thoughts, audacious because we dare to be vulnerable and in that we show our strength, we’re rhythmic because we are always listening to the beat of our heart and of the communities we work so that we can do better. We are attractive well [I looked at my incredible friends endearingly] — and also because we do our best to inject vitality in the spaces we work to build the most gorgeous and powerful collaborations. I honour each one of you!

… this city has been like a mother to me, her people are my siblings and like in every family there is love and dispute in equal measure. to put it plainly, Cork is always pushing and pulling to grasp with her incredible identity.

I must acknowledge the elephant in my city… For every moment of joy, my city, my mother is ripe with grief …. because everyone is experiencing discrimination, is experiencing also loss – loss of community each time there’s a sexist and racist attack be it in person or online. This grief will only end when we embody abundance. Migrant people have been in Cork for years and yet we’re labelled as new communities, new Irish. When you take home this remarkable story book – do not leave it on your desk – read it well, read it out to your children, lend it to your friends, your colleagues, so they can understand diversity is not to be feared. Make it crystal clear to them that diversity is the only way we can heal ourselves and lead towards peace. In accepting diversity fully, there’s space for everyone – it seems an utopian dream. But hey am in a room where we all envision a brave new world.

I am the founder of Good Day Cork – a digital magazine to amplify marginalised voices – and am also the co-founder of Think Speak Do Community Engagement – facilitating community events. Since being in this city and holding the role of being a steward of both these spaces for the last 4 years – this much I know – creating a platform for migrant integration is hard work. Firstly, most migrants who I know ( who most likely are not in this room) couldn’t care less for integration because they care to survive. That’s natural. They keep it easy, stay within their own cliques and get on with life. This doesn’t imply they don’t have friends from majority communities – of course they do – and that has always seemed enough for them. So, integration is a slow waltz. I can not say it enough – each of us can prevent racism, discrimination, bullying, wherever we are – be it at the post office or at the gas station!

When you take home this remarkable story book – do not leave it on your desk – read it well, read it out to your children, lend it to your friends, your colleagues, so they can understand diversity is not to be feared.

Most of us have privilege and all of us have bias – so accept it and be an ally to another human being – notice their colour, their accent, their language embrace it don’t fear it. While most migrant communities look for spaces to express themselves – it’s a challenge of it’s own, I invite majority communities to look outward with authentic curiosity and be prepared at being wrong. I also can not say it enough, do not begin a conversation with “So where are you really from?” – It puts us in a fight or flight mode and another thing is that we’re tired of assuming good intent – Here are different conversations starters –
“How’s your health?”
“How’s your day going?”
“So how was your weekend?”
“Hey, what are you passionate about?” “What music are you listening to these days?” “Where’s the best coffee in Cork?”
“How’s work going for you?” —— should I go on —- if you have time for a meaningful conversation then ask a meaningful question or just smile big and be quiet.

Most of us have privilege and all of us have bias – so accept it and be an ally to another human being – notice their colour, their accent, their language embrace it don’t fear it.

Ok now I am going to love you and leave you with this excerpt from an essay that you will find on Good Day Cork – Essay is titled “I know that Ireland is capable of inclusivity” by Priya Krishnan

You can’t/won’t get our names right or you refuse to try, yet you expect us to correctly pronounce names of villages that we’ve never even been to and that white immigrants mispronounce.

You tell us this country isn’t racist so you won’t listen to our direct experience of racism and daily micro-aggressions, or you’ll search for any reason why it can’t be racist. ‘Perhaps we’ve misunderstood or said something to provoke or we’re playing the ‘race card’, or or or… just smile and rise above it. Don’t complain. Grin and bear. Endure and be grateful we’ve let you in.’
We are not ‘playing the race card’.
What is this elusive race card anyway?
Where can I get one?
Does it come with benefits?
Do you get loyalty points for every micro aggression you encounter?
Joking aside…
I know that Ireland is capable of inclusivity. I’ve seen it for myself. Just look at the the numbers of Irish immigrants who returned ‘home’ to vote in the referendum for same sex marriage. It was so wondrous to see how Irish people came together to ensure that human beings were not discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality.
The question is, is racism as important a topic to you?

Few photos from the launch

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