Immigrant to America has grassroots plan to tackle racism within her own community. It’s Diagne’s #HappinessIdea to host one very special dinner.
UPDATE: This #HappinessIdea has been successfully crowdsourced. In October 2018, twenty-three people from five countries provided everything Diagne needed to host her dinner party: food, venue, even guests themselves. Our deepest gratitude to everyone who supported this campaign, particularly Washington, D.C. firm Luceo LLC, who specialize in sparking constructive conversation about race. Luceo donated their time to attend Diagne’s dinner and moderate the conversation about race. Thanks to one and all for being a part of #HappinessInAction. Best of all — Diagne’s dinner guests agreed to host “dialogue dinners” of their own, which makes Diagne hopeful for a ripple effect.
Washington, D.C. — When Diagne was four years old in Senegal, her older cousin claimed her hand in marriage. The cousin was twenty-five, and the son of a powerful man. Young Diagne’s father had no choice but to say yes to the arranged marriage. But when Diagne came of age, she didn’t want to get married. She wanted to study in America. Diagne spoke to her father about her aspirations to go to America to study. His answer was no.
It still surprises us how we managed to meet Diagne. In 2009, Patricia traveled to Mongolia to attend the country’s annual Ice Festival in Siberia. There, she met with nomads and politicians and adventurers to talk about happiness. Then Patricia met the Reindeer People. Little did she know that it was this meeting that would ultimately set the wheels in motion to create The Happiness Idea.
Three years later, in 2012, Patricia received an email from Ed Nef, a storied old filmmaker who’d also met with the Reindeer People. Ed told Patricia a terrible story about a young Reindeer Herder girl who’d lost her father under tragic circumstances. Ed and Patricia agreed to collaborate to crowdfund for the young girl’s family. Along with the Mongolian Mission to the United Nations, they raised funds for medicine and housing for the Reindeer Herder family. Several more years passed. Then in 2016, Ed got in touch once again with Patricia. This time he told her the story of Diagne, a woman from Senegal with an idea about how to make the world a happier place.
Back in Senegal, Diagne has to appeal her father’s decision by approaching one of the country’s most powerful men — her uncle, the Caliph General. In Touba, the holy city where Diagne’s family lives, her uncle presided over these types of family affairs. The Caliph General was Diagne’s father’s superior; his word would be final.
Diagne pleaded her uncle to convince her father to give her his blessing. This took a year and many more conversations. Finally, in 1989, Diagne flew to America with a scholarship to study translation at Georgetown’s School of Languages. In 1991, Diagne landed a job teaching French.
Over the years in America, Diagne experienced racism: at a restaurant where she waitressed, a group of white patrons commented loudly on the size of her nose. In Diagne’s classroom, a student told her that he was not there to learn French, but to “learn how to use weapons in the coming war against the blacks.” On the D.C. Metro, passengers moved away from her. At both companies where Diagne worked, she says management fired everyone who was black.
For Diagne, this was heartbreaking. Her health suffered. She lost her job, along with the other Africans and African-Americans she worked with. Eventually Diagne was able to create a role for herself as interpreter and translator.
But—Diagne believes her experience can help change the conversation about race. “Things cannot continue like this,” she says. “People’s lives can be destroyed because of the color of their skin.”
Diagne’s #HappinessIdea is to host one dinner party—for starters—that will aim to create community. That will aim to tackle racism on a grassroots level. Guests will bring only honest questions and a willingness to talk. Diagne hopes to use this first dinner to create a wider ripple effect.
It should be noted that Diagne is an incredible cook! In 1992, she cooked live on-air for NBC4 in Washington D.C. Everyone, especially the legendary Jim Vance, wanted second (third!) helpings of Diagne’s traditional Senegalese cooking.
Can you help Diagne achieve her #HappinessIdea to host this special dinner? You can donate food that Diagne will prepare, or a venue where the dinner will take place, or you can be a guest.
To learn more about filmmaker Nicki Atkinson seeking “Happiness Ideas” in the sub-Antarctic, click here.
We’ve crowdsourced these items
Ingredients for Diagne to cook for one dozen dinner guests
Thank you happy supporters!
Venue in Washington, D.C. where Diagne will welcome one dozen dinner guests to discuss how to tackle racism in her community and farther afield.
Thank you Karthik Subramanian!
One dozen dinner guests to attend Diagne's dinner party. Please have open minds and questions ready. And your appetite!
Thank you one and all! We look forward to meeting you!
Patricia's domestic airfare to Washington, D.C. to help Diagne host her dinner party. (This is by request from Diagne.)
Thank you anonymous happy person for donating your United Airlines credit to us!
One filmmaker to shoot the impact of what happens at Diagne's dinner party. Filmmaker will need to bring own equipment. We will provide release forms.
Thank you Susan H. for supporting us to hire Sam Casscells!