Opening Dinner Kicks Off Latinx Heritage Month at MC

by ANNA WOODSStaff Writer

The Multicultural Center held their annual Latinx Heritage Month Opening Dinner in Kelly Commons on Monday, Sept. 16. The dinner featured delicious food, a keynote address from Senator Jose Serrano Jr. and a dance performance by Bombaza Dance Company.

The Multicultural Center wanted to make the event as interactive and participatory as possible. There were place cards on every table with two questions for guests to answer: “What is your favorite part of Latino/a/x culture?” and “Who do you admire as a  Latino/a/x figure? (Historical or current).” There were semi-circles at every place setting for guests to decorate and answer the question. The center plans to display the semi-circles as an art installation outside their office on the third floor of Kelly.

The night began with a buffet of food from La Masa, a Colombian restaurant located in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. There was rice, beans, chicken, vegetables and other traditional Colombian dishes.

After dinner was served, the keynote speaker, Senator Jose Serrano Jr. was introduced. Serrano represents the 29th district of New York. Serrano and his wife are also Jaspers, having graduated in the 1990s.

In his speech he reminisced about the great times he had on campus and the impact that his education had on his life. “The thought process that I carry with me today was formulated here at Manhattan College,” said Serrano.

He continued to reassure students to not stress about not knowing exactly what they want to do with their life.

“We look at college students and we expect all of you know exactly what you want to major and exactly what you plan on doing with your life. That’s irrational,” he said. “Whatever the task that is in front of you knock it out of the park because what you’re doing is showing that everything that comes before, you’re going to give it 110 percent. And that leadership quality then opens your doors when future blessings come your way and then you’re ready for that challenge when it comes … that’s what people will notice the most about you when you move forward,” said Serrano.

Serrano continued by discussing his own path and how he got to where he is today. He said that his love for social justice motivated him to run for office. He explained that when he was elected into office the odds were stacked against him. At the time, he was running against someone who had already been in office for years which added a level of difficulty to his grassroots campaign.

He went on to explain that his campaign was dedicated to positivity and connecting with people in a positive way.

“We were going to stay far away from any negative talk [while campaigning],” said Serrano. “The valuable lesson that came from that election was that you can stay true to your beliefs, you can stay true to who you are and still win, and still make a mark, and still be able to present your message.”

Serrano’s final message urged students to take social action.

“You should look at suffering as something to energizes you … Get angry. Say this can’t be. Be the person who stands up against the bully in the schoolyard. That is sort of metaphorically what you hoped to do with social justice movements,” said Serrano.

The final part of the night was the performance from the Bombazo Dance Company. They specialize in dancing traditional bomba, which is a dance that streams from the African influence in the Carribean and throughout Latin America.

According to their website, the dance company is a “non-profit drum and dance company, whose mission is to preserve, educate and showcase traditional Afro Puerto Rican Bomba and Afro Caribbean and traditional folkloric elements.”

The director of the company Milteri Tucker Concepcion shared that she had just written a children’s book called “Bomba Puertorriqueña,” dedicated to educating and preserving the art of bomba. One part of their performance required volunteers to go up and dance with them. Each volunteer was paired up with a dancer and performed a solo dance with them to end the night.

Elizabeth Ta, a sophomore civil engineering major, is the major events coordinator for the center. Her responsibilities included organizing the food and contacting the dance group. She oversaw most of the logistics and marketing aspects of the event.

“My favorite part of the event was the performance, it brought [the night] together. I definitely enjoyed seeing other people enjoying the event. I feel like that was the best part for me,” said Ta.

When planning events like these, the Multicultural Center wants to ensure that they are multifaceted.

“We always have a desire to have an educational component, a sort of artistic component, and really good food … we want to try and have something different about the culture every year,” said Hayden Greene, director of multicultural affairs at MC.

He continued.

“One of the great things [about the event] was that we were able to share the campus with people who embrace Latino culture in many different ways,” said Greene.

Anna Rosario, a senior international studies major and president of Fuerza Latina said, “I think that it’s extremely important that the Multicultural Center hosts events like these because it really showcases the diversity of our school as well as the fact that we truly are an inclusive community. I think these events also allow our peers to learn about other cultures and about the community that makes up Manhattan College.”

When asked about what Latinx Heritage means to her, Anna said, “To me Latino heritage is being proud of my family, food, music, culture and most of all, my history.”

The Multicultural Center will continue to celebrate Latinx Heritage month with their “Fridays at the MC” events every Friday from 12-4 p.m. in their office on the third floor of Kelly Commons.