“Diversity of opportunity is important in fulfilling life,” is just one of the many thoughts that Richard Blanco left the room of librarians (at the Diversity Summit of the Texas Library Association’s 2015 conference) to ponder. The event began with an author meet and greet and book signing and that author pulled his audience in with a presentation that was both personal and universal.
Smiles shot across the room as Blanco shared that he owes much of his career to a librarian who bequeathed him with a Norton Anthology of Poetry. At the time he was struggling to decide who he was and the book greatly influenced him to continue writing poetry.
Richard Blancowears many labels: gay man, engineer, poet, Cuban immigrant, former Miami resident, but these labels don’t bother him as long as he gets to choose which labels to carry. “We need labels to start a conversation- they are useful to open up doors, but there’s a fine line between a label and a stereo-type.”
Blanco quoted Robert Frost who said, “the universal is in the particular.” Expounding on the idea, Blanco suggests that particular specific detail- things that all can relate to- may be the very thing that helps to abolish the messy issues surrounding diversity. If all things are common, than nothing is diverse. If we can understand or relate to the little things about a person, then we are more likely to accept them.
Blanco read portions of his new memoir, “The Prince of Los Cocuyos” in which he longed to look like the kids from the Brady Bunch with names like Greg and Marsha. It wasn’t until later in life that Blanco realized that what is diverse to one person his normal for another person. “Diversity is relative. Blueberry pie is foreign to me, plantain chips are foreign to other people.”
The session ended with Blanco reading an 8 minute segment of his inaugural poem. The room thanked him with an emotional standing ovation.