Culture SHOCK Sharing Flint’s Cultural Richness


The sensation of culture shock, by definition, is a feeling of disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar social environment. Communities First, Inc. of Flint enhances that definition by provoking, stimulating, and inspiring new perspectives within community families through this nationally recognized program. Culture Shock provides families with the opportunity to experience different aspects of local culture, with pop-up performances, workshops, and other events.

“We hope to continue to grow and expand, and continue to adjust to meet the needs of the people involved.”  – Glenn Wilson

cultureshock-3To make Culture Shock a reality, Communities First, Inc. has collaborated with the Flint Institute of Music, Flint Institute of Arts, The Whiting, Flint Youth Theater, Mass Transportation Authority, Hurley Medical Center, McDonald’s, local schools, and other businesses and non-profits. The program targets people with limited financial means or disabilities who do not regularly experience arts and culture activities.

“There are many people who have lived in Flint their whole lives and they don’t know about the Cultural Center,” says Essence Wilson, who co-founded Communities First, Inc. with her husband, Glenn. Part of the mission of Culture Shock is to help community members understand their resources, such as providing a list of free cultural events that occur in Greater Flint and Genesee County.

A unique aspect of Culture Shock is that it is a program for entire families, not just kids; this was a gap the Wilsons noticed when they first began cultivating ideas for the program. “There was a disconnect between parents and their children,” explains Glenn, CFI president and CEO. Parents may not understand why their child might want to pursue something in the arts, but if they parents are involved in the activities, a connection can be established that is mutually beneficial. “For the adults, it’s a chance for them to be a kid again,” says Essence. “It helps create memories for families,” Glenn adds.

Although the program’s main focus is arts and culture, participants also enjoy kite-flying at Downtown events like “Movies Under the Stars,” sledding in the winter, and even sporting events. The Wilsons shared the story of a young girl who went to The Whiting to watch a performance through Culture Shock. The show was called, “Black Violin.” The girl, who also played violin, leaned over to her mother during the show and said, “That could be me one day.” This is a perfect example of what Culture Shock is accomplishing. “What that did was provide a context to help her believe that she could do it,” Essence explains. “We want to hear more stories like this and see more smiling families.”

One event that Culture Shock hosts is called, “A Taste of Culture.” Noticing a lack of diversity in many  art and culture events, “A Taste of Culture” represented ten different countries with volunteers who dressed in traditional garb, and also interacted with attendees to share stories from their home country. Information about each country was posted at the station, along with food and activities from that country. This event was a way to help educate people about what life is like in other parts of the world. “We found that there were people who had never visited another state, let alone another country,” says Glenn. “It allows them to make an educated decision about whether or not it’s something that want to participate in,” adds Essence.

Culture Shock is presenting Flint’s First African American Film Series with four independent films that will inspire, empower, and entertain viewers of all ages. Their goal for the films is to raise interest in something that viewers may not be able to experience in Flint. “There are some phenomenal films out there and this series exposes people to powerful movies that will cause them to think twice about their perceptions,” Glenn says.

Because the issue of lack of diversity and participation in cultural events is not unique to Flint, other communities from around the U.S. have reached out to CFI and Culture Shock to emulate their model and promote involvement. Although it’s a new interest, the Wilsons are continually invigorated by what they have already helped to achieve in Greater Flint. “By having a strategy, and then implementing it, we’ve been encouraged by the support and demand in the community,” Glenn says. “We hope to continue to grow and expand, and continue to adjust to meet the needs of the people involved.”



Thursday, December 10 – An American Ascent

This documents the first African American expedition to climb Denali – North America’s highest peak – and explores our relationship with the outdoors. Recommended for all ages.
Thursday, January 14 – The Bicycle

When Bobbi is jumped and her bicycle is stolen, her mother’s fiancé, Teddy realizes that finding the bully and getting back the bicycle is the perfect opportunity to repair his relationship with Bobbi and save his fiancée’s hope of them becoming a family. Recommended for all ages.
Thursday, February 11 – Last Night

Last Night spins an unexpected adventure when verbal sparring takes an intimate turn into soul-baring disclosures between strangers who might never meet again. Recommended for ages 13 and older.

All films are shown at the Flint Institute of Arts. Doors open at 5:30pm and all films begin at 7pm. Seating is limited to the first 300 guests and a donation of $2 is suggested. Each film will feature a brief discussion about the themes featured in the films.


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