By Önder Durmuş
Every February, as part of National Black History Month, the United States honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation. Embassy Seoul’s Facilities Management Office celebrated this year in a unique way. In collaboration with the English Enrichment Program and the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Council, American and Korean colleagues, ranging from plumbers and electricians to trades helpers, selected and memorized poems authored by Black American authors focused on this year’s theme of “Black Resistance.” They then recited the poems in both English and Korean for videos that were shared with the embassy community. Selected authors included celebrated poets like Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Amanda Gorman.
This year’s theme of “Black Resistance,” explored how African Americans have resisted ongoing oppression—in many different ways—from America’s earliest days into the 21st century. The resistance came in different forms, including through poetry. Pithy and powerful, African American poets recognized the influence and the everlasting effects of the art form of poetry. They exposed grim truths, raised consciousness, and built united fronts. The experience of recording and posting the recitations on the embassy’s intranet site brought diverse groups of employees—Koreans, African American, Vietnamese Americans, Turkish Americans, men and women, from different professions ranging from security officers to plumbers, together and helped build mutual understanding.
Önder Durmuş is the senior facility manager at Embassy Seoul.