The Center for Cultural Engagement hosted a celebration of Our Voices, a student publication exploring identity, purpose, and belonging at Catholic University on April 23 on the Pryzbyla Lawn.
The publication includes stories, essays, poems, and artwork that capture the experiences of students of color and other minority groups on campus, including how they are processing recent world events.
The celebration kicked off with an introduction and prayer from Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M.Conv,, University chaplain and director of Campus Ministry:
“Let us read the words that are penned in these pages and reflected in the art. Let these images change our lives and cause us to be better selves. Let us raise our voices in celebration and hope that we can be agents of real change. Let the voices raised penetrate into our hearts and change those hearts. Let us raise our voices not today, but everyday in unison, praise, and honor because truly those voices, those pens are mightier than any sword. Let our words and pens move us to action for justice, and peace.”
Gemma Del Carmen, a junior political science and psychology major and founder of the student publication, said “Our Voices started because we wanted to find a way to connect with one another by sharing our unique experiences.” Del Carmen later read her poem in spanish, “No Soy Ella” or “I’m Not Her.” “My skin has pigment; I’m no size zero. I curse too much, I speak with passion. But me? I am worth something too. I no longer want to be her, I’d rather be me, love me, and not have you,” she read.
Seven other students read excerpts from the publication including Cindy Citron, Sean Devlin, Zach Mauro, Krishna Najjar, Esther Paulino, Jakob Rosario, and Kelly Woodson. The excerpts explored topics like race, faith, identity, belonging, and more.
“I’ve learned to approach my faith gently and cautiously, knowing how I let it hurt me, but without reproach, knowing that it can help me make peace, if I want it to,” said Rosario, a senior psychology major who read his essay, “A Reflection.”
Najjar read an acrostic poem, in which the first letter of each line (Identity Through Voice) spells out a specific word, titled “Shades of Color”. “I stand with all those who are powerful and have been stripped of their power; Dream of the end. The end of the never-ending fighting between shades of flesh,” he said.
Javier Bustamante, director for the Center of Cultural Engagement ended the event, saying, “My hope is that, for these students whose names are in the booklet, you will find that connection on campus and begin to see yourselves as a member of our community because you are a member of our community, you are part of us.”
“I am a believer that when two people meet and share their stories, they’re creating sacred ground,” he said. “When two people come together and break bread, share their stories, and pour their souls to each other, that is where the divine love is to me.”
The publication and stories from other students is available in an online version at: https://cultural.catholic.edu/programs/our-voices.html.