The Living Library event is being hosted by The United World OU at 6 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 22 at Headington College.
The United World is a nonprofit organization that promotes support and opportunity for international and cultural understanding at OU. According to their Facebook page, the organization has almost 160 members with students from more than 40 countries.
For the event, members of the community will share their stories to inspire others in creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for OU.
One member speaking tomorrow is Tatenda Nicolle Chido Dzvimbo, a senior at OU working on an accelerated bachelor's and master's degree in economics and a major in international development. She is the founder of the African Women’s League at OU as well as a motivational speaker, advocating for women and international students.
Through the event, Dzvimbo wants to share her story as a student coming to OU from an international background.
“As an international student coming from Zimbabwe and transitioning into OU, which is a predominately white institution, and being a black, African female, it was a rollercoaster,” Dzvimbo said. “The expectation was that you’d face many limitations (due to) institutional racism, but I have thrived (at OU).”
From her time at OU, she has seen the school improve in terms of fighting systems of oppression and the administration listening to students’ concerns.
“I want to share that we are in a place that is welcoming to diverse backgrounds, diverse cultures, diverse races and an academic institution that’s willing to learn and right their wrongs.”
Dzvimbo sees the Living Library as a way to learn about the world through the unique experiences of others.
“It’s always beautiful to learn about the world through somebody else’s lenses,” Dzvimbo said. “It’s important that (people) share (their stories) in their own words and (share) that wisdom, knowledge and experience with others.”
Being in a leadership position has allowed Dzvimbo to realize the positive ways in which she can impact others’ lives. She believes in the virtue of servitude and servant leadership, and her experiences with it has taught her to value leadership more than ever.
“I believe I was born to serve people, and (leading) has taught me to be respectful, open-minded and to embrace people for who they are and not what I perceived them to be," Dzvimbo said. “As a leader, you don’t boss people around. Instead, you water this flower so that they give back to their community as well.”
Founding the African Women’s League has shown Dzvimbo to not shy away from one’s calling, and to step up, no matter how intimidating the position might be.
“(The AWL) is a legacy that will live for generations to come. … (It allows) African female students to grow while preserving their cultural identity,” Dzvimbo said. “Transforming other students’ lives … warms my heart and it encourages me to continue to walk in my purpose that if I did dream, nothing is impossible.”
Dzvimbo says that having people to support you is equally important to your own motivation.
“If you have the right people to support you, you can achieve just about anything.”
However, she believes the world has a long way to go in supporting and empowering each other. Haitians emigrating to Texas and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan are two global situations of note to Dzvimbo.
“I feel like, as humanity, we have a long way to go to realize that we transcend race, geographical borders, divisions and religion,” Dzvimbo said. “I’m hoping that as we get back to normal (after the pandemic) ... we (know) that we need each other because the world can shut down at any moment and we are never guaranteed tomorrow.”
Dzvimbo hopes to encourage students to dream big and to go beyond the limitations they perceive, she said. If one’s dreams aren’t terrifying enough, Dzvimbo thinks they are not living up to their full potential.
“We are our only limitation and the world is just waiting for all of us to step into what we want to be,” Dzvimbo said. “Most importantly ... (I want students to) walk away with an open mind and appreciation of people’s stories, backgrounds and (to) appreciate humanity.”