Celebrating the Latinx Community At John Jay With a Series of Month-long Events

Celebrating the Latinx Community At John Jay With a Series of Month-long Events

Celebrating the Latinx Community At John Jay With a Series of Month-long Events

Javier Avila’s experience moving from Puerto Rico to Pennsylvania when he was thirty-one inspired him to resist discrimination with art in the form of a one-man show that he recently performed as part of an event hosted by the SEEK Department at John Jay. “In the show, I explore what is wrong with prejudice and what’s at the root of it—fear,” said Avila in one of his videos. “But I also explore how positive it is to embrace diversity.”

Avila’s performance, which SEEK Department organized as part of their Freshman Seminar, was one of several events that also celebrated diversity during Latinx Heritage Month, and specifically the diversity of experience that makes up the Latinx community. On September 14, poet and novelist Elizabeth Acevedo kicked off the month-long series of events with a reading from her book. Acevedo, who is the daughter of Dominican immigrants and whose forthcoming novel features a teenage Afro-Latina protagonist, captivated the crowd.

“Acevedo was able to connect with students,” said Communications and Marketing Manager of Student Affairs Mark Travis Rivera, who also read at the event from his book DRAFTS, which explores the intersection of race and disability. “She was talking about being from New York City and about her hair, and it really resonated with folks.”

That all of the events in honor of Latinx Heritage Month resonate with John Jay students is important for the College. With 43% of its student population identifying as Hispanic/Latino, John Jay is federally recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution.

Included in the roster of events was also a talk that featured Ana M. Bermudez, the first Latina to be appointed Commissioner of the Department of Probation in New York City. Bermudez spoke to John Jay students about overcoming social bias as a Latina woman and member of the LGBTQ community, as well as what it means to be an effective leader for justice.

“Ana M. Bermudez is a living, breathing example of change in our society,” said student Uroosa Malik, who is completing a dual-degree program in Public Administration and Inspection and Oversight.  “Her fierce persona and diligence in committing to her vision inspired everyone in the room to stand up for what they believe in.”

Bermudez also emphasized the importance of embracing all facets of one’s identity—both ethnic and otherwise.

“Through the words of her mother, Commissioner Bermudez shared that the key to happiness and success is to praise one’s unique sense of self,” said student Gina Ortiz, who is completing a Master’s program in Inspection and Oversight.

For the culminating event on October 12, everyone in the John Jay community was invited to celebrate their unique sense of self by contributing to a collective art project at Hound Square. With assistance from The InterRelations Collaborative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building cross-cultural understanding through art, John Jay students, faculty, and staff helped construct a community quilt.

“Everything from The Trouble with My Name to the quilting project centered Latinx communities and families,” said Rivera. “We hope to continue to center our Latinx students and their lived experiences.”