Guest speaker Angelica Keen kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month

Emily Niman, Staff Writer

Hispanic Heritage Month had its kick-off on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Guest speaker Angelica Keen opened with a speech on the different meanings of the words “Hispanic” and “Latino” within cultures, and how these words represent much more than skin color and image.

The event, hosted by SUNY Buffalo State’s Equity and Campus Diversity Department in collaboration with the Residence Life office and The Grant Allocation Committee, was the opening in a series of events to celebrate the first Hispanic Month on Buffalo State’s campus in many years.

According to Residence Life office complex director, Jocelyn Tejeda, one of the people in charge of the event: “The goal of this event is to get the community talking about intersectionality of Hispanic and Latino cultures and the different ways to celebrate and acknowledge them.”

Keen’s speech, entitled, “Taking Back Our Name: Honoring the intersectionality of the Latino/Hispanic identity,” emphasized respect and education.

Keen told the audience to respect a person’s method of self-identification and talked about identity that can be formed from many different things. She addressed the audience, giving them advice on how – if they are unsure or want to learn more about their identity – to research and use all the tools that college provides.

“Anyone can be prideful of what Latino culture is, they don’t have to identify as such,” Keen said. “You should take advantage that this month celebrates Latinos, and have initiative to learn, celebrate, and immerse yourself in Latino culture.”

The meaning of words was not the only issue addressed, as Keen also educated the audience on the many misconceptions related to Latino/Hispanic culture. These misconceptions included how not all music correlates between Hispanic cultures, how each culture has their own way to pronounce words, and how cultures have their own identity – more than what is on the surface.

A major concept Keen addressed was cultural appropriation, stating that there is a difference between trying to celebrate holidays of different cultures versus blatantly stereotyping and offending people. An example she used was Cinco De Mayo. She showed a video parody of what it would look like if Mexicans celebrated the 4th of July in the same manor that Americans celebrate Cinco De Mayo.

This humorous clip added effect to Keens words, showcasing, in a lighthearted way, the negative impact of not educating yourself on another culture.

Keen ended her speech by advising the audience that teaching other people about life and culture is important.

“We can all be teachers in many different ways,” she said.

After the event, Yasmen, who asked for her last name to be withheld, a senior elementary education major, shared her thoughts on the event stating, “This helped me better understand different cultures and backgrounds and to not judge people.”

The event was the first of many events celebrating Hispanic heritage and culture throughout the month of October.