Celebrating the similarities between the university’s black and Latino communities, students took part this week in symposia to examine how men of color fit in at Georgetown and in the broader world.
Male Empowerment Week entailed discussions about how blacks and Latinos are portrayed in the media and about the difficulties that men of color face in relating to the greater Georgetown community. Men of Color with Vision & Purpose and the Student Commission For Unity were among the event’s principal organizers.
“We sometimes feel that the perception is that we don’t belong here,” Hector Cendejas (COL ’10), one of the week’s coordinators, said in an interview. Cendejas said that some Latinos and blacks were considered academically inferior at the university if they graduated from high schools in lower-income districts.
In a forum on Wednesday evening, Fr. Charles Gonzales, S.J. discussed the role of spirituality in black and Latino communities. Gonzales reflected on his experiences serving in Camden, N.J., considered to be one of the most violent cities in the country, he said. Gonzales worked to convince the city’s teenagers that they could escape Camden and take control of their lives.
“In order to be effective, I had to live with them. [I had] to carry with them all of that pain and all of that burden that they carry,” he said.
Gonzales said that spirituality had the power to help people escape difficult situations.
“If we let God into our lives as a friend, God will stay with us and will lead us and help us in the best and the worst of times,” he said.
Jayah Kaisamba (MSB ’12), who attended the meeting, said that Gonzales’ message of spirituality had the power to unite seemingly disparate communities both inside and outside the university.
“I think spirituality is a big thing that unites a lot of big people. It allows you to talk about the same issues and creates opportunities to connect with each other,” Kaisamba said.
A forum on Tuesday evening, “Where Do Men of Color Stand in Today’s World,” examined questions about masculine identity and fatherhood, and specifically how contemporary media portrays these issues in the Latino community.
Cendejas said that the two groups have a common history that connects them in contemporary society. He said that the civil rights struggle of the 1960s is analogous to the Latino struggle in today’s society.
“We look up to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X,” Cendejas said.
The programs continued on Thursday afternoon with a kickball tournament called “Kicking Into Action,” similarly aimed at connecting the black and Latino communities.
“It’s hard for us as black[s] and Latinos to talk about [these issues] with the rest of the Georgetown community,” Cendejas said. “[The week] allows for us to bond more, and to let everybody know you’re not alone.”