Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off

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Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is a time for discovering culture, celebrating differences and discussing issues.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a period in which people celebrate the culture and histories of Latinx and Hispanic people. It is also a time for discussing issues that people from these groups still face.

Missouri Western is hosting several events during this time for students, faculty and community members to get involved in Hispanic Heritage Month. The Center for Multicultural Education organized and sponsored these events.

“I think it’s important to have these events to spread out diversity on campus and to make people appreciate who they really are,” said Dianah Hidzir, program assistant of the CME. “Sometime I come across students that [pretend] to be someone they’re not. So basically, bringing [in] these cultures, performances, and events- they are able to feel like home. They are able to feel welcomed on campus.”

Hidzir also believes cultural celebrations are important for people who are outside of those groups to learn and become more accepting.

The month kicked off with a Zumba night that was open to students and was led by an instructor with a Hispanic background. This was a great chance for students to get involved with Hispanic Heritage Month while having fun.

“He came on campus the last two weeks,” Hidzir said. “It was on a Tuesday, and the turnout was pretty good.”

The main event of Hispanic Heritage Month for Western is the Hispanic Heritage Banquet. According to Hidzir, almost 80 people RSVP’d for the event, which featured traditional hispanic dishes catered by Aramark, music from the Trio Aztlan and guest speaker Denice Frohman.

The CME’s director, Latoya Fitzpatrick, saw Frohman perform at a conference and immediately knew she would make a great performer for Western.

“As soon Latoya saw her, she knew that having her on campus would be a great idea,” Hidzir said.

Frohman is poet who speaks about culture, sexuality and other topics. She has won several awards for her work including the 2013 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, 2014 CantoMundo Fellow, 2014 National Association of Latino Arts & Cultures Fund for the Arts grant recipient, 2013 Hispanic Choice Award recipient for “Creative Artist of the Year,” 2013 Southern Fried Poetry Slam Champion and 2012 Leeway Transformation Award recipient.

“By bringing up Denice Frohman — she’s a person with a Hispanic background, she’s also from the LGBT community — so at the same time, we want people to realize that it doesn’t matter what majority or what minority you are from, you are still able to become someone,” Hidzir said.

Frohman invited the audience to participate and challenge themselves during her performance at the banquet. According to her, this is all part of the college experience

“You go through college to ruffle up your ideas, to just be uncomfortable, to figure it out and not know,” Frohman said.

Froham performed poetry that covered a variety of topics, including accents, borders, dancing with her grandmother, mass shootings and her first real kiss.

“She didn’t just step on stage and perform five poems and go back to her seat,” Hidzir said. “She managed to pull people into her feelings and into her emotions, and the whole room was paying full attention.”

Poets like Froham have inspired others to use poetry as a means of expression. Senior Deir Montiel Dominguez performed a poem he had won third place for in the Poetry Slam earlier this month. His poem touched on the subject of hate speech and some of his personal struggles of coming to the United States from Mexico.

“I wrote it within an hour,” Dominguez said. “I started watching Youtube, and I came across a poet, and it just influenced me to write. I started writing, and it kind of influenced my emotions a little bit more about what was going on currently.”

Dominguez said that the poem was the first he had ever written in English and that he was inspired by news coverage of the presidential election and a conversation with another Latino.

“It just hurts knowing that this is what other people are going through again,” Dominguez said about his friend who is now facing oppression. “That part of him telling me that he’s going through this racism, kind of similar to what I went through, I think it’s what instigated [the poem].”

The poetry and banquet opened up many doors for people to discuss issues surrounded the Hispanic community right now.

Although most of the events are over, it’s not too late for students to get involved in Hispanic Heritage Month. The CME will be handing out 50 tickets in their office for a free Hispanic lunch in the cafeteria on Oct. 12.