Hispanic heritage month kick-off melds community, hope
September 18, 2017
The smell of food infused the University Center’s lobby as Latin music poured from the ballroom.
The event kicked off National Hispanic Heritage Month with a reception on Sept. 14 as Latino Programs and Services invited the northern Kentucky community to join them in celebrating their culture.
The night began with free food and a few words from Lilleana Cavanaugh, the keynote speaker and Executive Director of the Office of Latino Affairs Commission in Ohio.
“I know that I could spend the next ten minutes talking about DACA and how horrible things are, but instead of that I have chosen something different,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh told those in attendance that we are all at a crossroads at this moment in the United States, but then asked those in attendance what those crossroads were.
“Those are trials that really force us to change to adapt, to build a new reality, and we know that is exactly what is happening to all of us,” Cavanaugh said.
She encouraged the audience to examine the events happening and impacting the Latino community and then shared the experiences that she had as an international student herself.
These experiences were those that led to Cavanaugh worrying about her visa expiring, waiting for work permits, and, ultimately, her citizenship.
“I know about all of these things, but do you know what? In every one of those challenges I had to make a choice,” Cavanaugh said.
As the audience soaked in her words, she went on to challenge attendees to continue engaging, speaking the truth, to do what’s right and to learn from the current obstacles that the community is facing.
“You have an incredible voice before state and federal government, and I expect each one of you to use it,” Cavanaugh said. “By talking to your legislators, by talking to everybody that you know and asking every person that you know, to write and to appeal on behalf of our DACA students, before the federal government.”
As Cavanaugh continued to speak about the various issues Latinos face in America, she reminded those in the room that the issues extended beyond the DACA decision and that it is up to all of us to make a difference.
“All of us together are writing history and my question to you is what kind of history line do you want to write? One of defeat and wants, or one of dignity and purpose? It’s your choice,” Cavanaugh said.
Other speakers at the reception were Leo Calderon [Director of Latino Programs and Services], Dan Nadler [Vice President of Student Affairs] and Erica Bluford [Vice President of Student Government Association].
“Our students are excelling, our students are succeeding, but it’s because of the wonderful support that we receive from the community,” Calderon said. “The students are the ones that really make things happen.”
Calderon was not the only one to express gratitude for the students involved with Latino programs and services.
Erica Bluford also thanked the Latino students for the love and support that she and Sami Dada have experienced throughout their term as SGA President and Vice President.
“It is because of this constant love and support that we feel that it is of the utmost importance to serve, represent, and protect our Latino community here at Northern Kentucky University,” Bluford said. “We are currently working to produce legislation that will lobby for the protection of our DACA students.”
Bluford closed with a vow to continue to advocate for Latino students and continue the line of communication already established between the Latino Programs and Services’ office throughout her time as SGA vice president.
Other students in attendance were Christina Caffery and Alyssa Torres.
Caffery, a sophomore, will oversee LAMP, the Latino Mentoring Program, and is the head peer mentor.
“I want people to learn about National Hispanic Heritage month because I feel like it’s very underrated. A lot of people don’t really know about it,” Caffery said.
As a part of National Hispanic Heritage month, events will go on between Sept. 15-Oct. 15 as part of the celebration
“We have a whole month of events that everyone can attend. They’re all free, and we do the kickoff to showcase the events and talk about everything,” Torres said.
As the night ended, Cavanaugh left the crowd with a few words of encouragement.
“I have faith in our community, I have faith in our youth, and more than anything else, I have faith in the American dream and that is why we are all here,” Cavanaugh said.