Monthly Cultural Corner - December 2023

December 6, 2023

Cultural Spotlight: Our 2023 Spotlight Year in Review

In 2023 the cultural spotlight took us from block parties with Cathy Blair to clamming with Mike Morellino.  In both cases we had an opportunity to learn from our colleagues as they shared their cultural background, values, and traditions.  We, at Penny Lane Centers, are so very fortunate to be surrounded by such a diverse staff population.  We are here to lift each other up and celebrate with one another, whether it is Ramadan or Parrandas.  We celebrate each of you and the beautiful cultures that make up PLC.  

Here is our spotlight in review . . .

Naomi Novak

Upon reflection and exploration, it has become apparent to me that so many of the values, beliefs and traditions that are a part of my life today come from the cultural foundation that I was born into . . . The culture in which I was raised was very much about family, loyalty, honesty, hard work, service, hope and unconditional love.

Cathy Blair

I have fond memories of my grandmother and the other woman in the kitchen cooking greens, ham, mac and cheese and even Chitlins (Goggle it)! . . . This tradition continues to be my favorite cultural tradition. My cousins and I have continued it by having dinners and gathering almost every weekend, just as our parents did . . . My own culture is connected to my work because I was raised with the belief that strong communities are critical because they’re often important sources of social connection and a sense of belonging.

Mike Morellino

About once per month we would go to my grandmother’s (my father’s mother) house for pasta and her house also smelled of garlic and onion. This smell still reminds me of home and our time at my grandmother’s house . . . Health, nutrition and wellness are also very important to me and ways to best balance the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of life has been a focus of mine for many years as well. Learning and practicing how to cultivate a peaceful and quiet mind has really helped me, especially recently considering the many crazy things going on locally and worldwide.

Jen Altamirano

My dad used to say we were living the All-American dream, where family was always near and everyone attended church, played sports or served in the Armed Forces, he took pride in family and created our traditions that I still do now.  I held my sexuality in private, afraid to come out, to my surprise I had more open arms of acceptance than I had imagined.  Although I have supportive family, I have an extra family within my LGBTQ+ Community.

Summer Gomez

That was the day that I became proud of my queer culture, and I made the decision to try to raise our son to be proud of his queer culture as well.  To that end, we have told our son his truth, we celebrate June as Pride Month, we spend time with other queer families (our GAYcation!), and we celebrate holidays with our chosen family.  My son has many “aunts” and “uncles” that are not technically related to him, but that we consider family.

Michelle Ferrante

I feel most at peace in nature. If I have a moment to get away, I love the beach, especially in cooler weather. But a quick trip to the park can just as easily feed my soul.  I “grew up” at the fire station. My dad joined the department the year I was born (1980) and retired after 35 years. He had a very strong work ethic.  My holiday memories (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) include trips to my grandmother’s house. Somehow, she would manage to cook the whole meal by herself for our large extended family.

Kevin Cummings

I believe that their foundation of family, tradition, and teamwork, that was instilled in me as a child, has carried on to the next generation.  I look forward to sharing stories of my upbringing with my grandchildren, so they have a better understanding of where they came from and why it is important to hold on to your roots.

Nydia Barakat

I believe that when families stick together, they can make the impossible become possible. I believe that love and understanding will help you grow and make you a better person.  My favorite time of the year is Christmas.  Christmas is very special in Puerto Rico. This season also means to me a season of giving thanks, spiritual reflection and spreading hope, kindness, and joy.  

Each and every one of our PLC family deserve to be in the spotlight.  Each of you bring new perspectives, traditions and values that help to make PLC the vibrant and dynamic place that we know it to be.  I am so grateful for the spotlights above and look forward to sharing more of our staff with you in the coming year.

“When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become wiser, more inclusive, and better as an organization.” –Pat Wadors

-Judy Grant, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some photos of this past year's Spotlights below!

Penny Lane Shares a Message of Inclusivity at the Skirball Cultural Center

It was an honor to spend some time presenting to the staff and docents of the Skirball Cultural Center.  The topic was antiracism racial justice and the result was understanding.  From equity to microaggressions, we explored how these issues impact us all and can either lead us to unity or create further divide.  We asked that everyone consider their stories and how those lived experiences have influenced their behaviors and attitude around race and racial justice.  

If you ever wondered how to start these conversations in your organization, reach out to Penny Lane Centers.  We can help you facilitate and bring understanding to these difficult conversations.

-Judy Grant, Penny Lane Centers