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Heritage Month

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St. Thomas Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

hispanic-2016Hispanic Heritage Month is upon us; the celebration begins on September 15 and is set to continue for a full month until October 15. The purpose of the celebratory month is to recognize the contributions and vital presence of both Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and to observe their native heritage and contributing culture. The history of Hispanic Heritage Month has deep roots in the United States, the month long observation began in 1968, and always begins in the fall of each year. Originally the celebration was not a month long; in fact it was only a week. President Lyndon Johnson first approved Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, and was expanded to a full month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Finally, Hispanic Heritage Month was officially enacted into law on August 17 of that year.

September 15 was not a date chosen at random; in fact the date contains a large amount of significance for multiple Hispanic nations. According to, the date is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. They all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively. Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted to celebrate the fundamental contributions Hispanics have made to the growth, vitality and culture of North America.

This year at St. Thomas we once again celebrate and provide opportunities for the community to engage in the month-long celebration, details are available on our website.

As a Latina I fully embrace the necessity of this month. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I remind you and myself that “mi gente” are powerful and resilient. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I get to celebrate all of our accomplishments. This is the one-month out of the year where I get to remind you, boldly, that we matter and that we extend a “bienvenida” to you as you help us celebrate. Hispanic Heritage Month is not about one community but rather is it about realizing and accepting how vast and complex our varied cultures are within the Latinx narrative. Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month gives us a chance to celebrate what each of our cultures bring to the St. Thomas community. I encourage all students, faculty, staff and the greater campus community to join us in celebrating  ‘la cultura Latina’ through all the events and programs on campus. We are very excited for this year’s events!

Heritage Month

AAPI Month 2016 Is HERE



It’s that time of year again!

The last national heritage month we celebrate during the academic year is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. It is a time to learn about and acknowledge the issues, culture, and history of individuals and communities with Asian or Pacific Islander backgrounds.

Though it is meant to be celebrated in May, we start our observance of AAPI Month early so St. Thomas community members are able to make time for it before the hectic last week of the semester.

Before previewing some of our wonderful programs for the heritage month, here are a couple of questions we hope you find answers to as you learn from and enjoy the month:

  1. How diverse is the Asian American and Pacific Islander population?
  2. How does American culture affect the experiences of Asian Americans?
  3. What are the unique social and cultural problems affect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders?
  4. How can I be more mindful in viewing and interacting with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities?

With those questions in mind, here are a few programs that you’re guaranteed to learn from and enjoy!

Diversity Dialogues


Our second annual Diversity Dialogues is tomorrow! As we prepare for Jose Antonio Vargas to visit campus on April 25, we will be screening his documentary Undocumented. A discussion on the experiences of undocumented immigrants will follow. You can still sign up in ASC 224 and receive a free T-Shirt!

And Still We Rise


Hosted at the Luann Dummer Center for Women, this month’s And Still We Rise is a student-led presentation on popular culture’s fetishization of Asian women and its negative impact. Come learn from and discuss this issue with presenters Divine Zheng and Gabbie Ryan, as well as other interested folks coming through for the event!

Festival of Nations


On May 7, SDIS and Residence Life will bring students to St. Paul’s annual Festival of Nations. The festival is an enormous showcase of the Twin Cities’ various ethnic communities featuring dance performances, cultural exhibitions, and a marketplace full of ethnicity/nationality-themed stands where food, clothes, and other goods can be purchased. Communities represented at this year’s festival include the Thai, Japanese, Taiwanese, Indian, and Sri Lankan among the wide variety of peoples there.


The last month of the academic calendar should not be an enormous, stressful cram session. Sometimes, the best way to relieve yourself of your problems is to interact with and learn about other people. Take the opportunities we’re providing to immerse yourself in something new, even if it’s just for an hour.

Hope to see you at our programs!

Heritage Month

League of Women Voters and Women’s History Month

It’s Women’s History Month, and one way female social activists are honoring the month is through the fight for restoration of the Voting Rights Act.

Get to know the League of Women Voters!

Founded in 1920 after women in the United States achieved suffrage, the League has since concerned itself with the preservation of the right to vote for all underprivileged social groups in this nation.

With the presidential election coming up, the League’s most urgent fight has been brought to greater attention: restoration of the Voting Rights Act.

In Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder (2013), the Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act which granted many protections against discrimination in the voter registration and polling processes. Section 4(b) is a coverage formula which determines if a local government has practiced discrimination in their voting processes.

Basically, being identified as an area with discriminatory voting practices puts Section 5 of the VRA into effect. Any state or local government in violation of Section 4(b) has to wait on a pass from Congress, called preclearance, to continue running their own voting affairs.

According to this graphic on The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights website, 16 states are covered by the aforementioned Section 5 of the VRA. States with large impacts in election years such as Texas and Florida, as well as states with intense histories of voter discrimination such as Mississippi and Alabama, are affected by such changes to the VRA.


The setback of Section 4(b) being removed from the VRA prompted congressmen to work toward strengthening it again. In January 2014, the Voting Rights Act Bill was introduced and then re-introduced to Congress a year later. Then in June of 2015, the Voting Rights Advancement Act was introduced with the aim to restore former VRA provisions that were taken out as a result of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013.

Protections that were granted by Section 5 of the VRA are important to regain. Just look at what happened in Florida right after the Shelby County case in 2013…

Starting with a list of 180,000 voters, Florida’s state government attempted to purge people from the list of registered voters under suspicion of being non-citizens. In the final list of 2,700 people, 58 percent of them were Latino.

Florida’s Latino population is 13 percent.

Of the 2,700 on the final list, fewer than 40 of them were actually non-citizens. Details on that voter purge and similar incidences post-Shelby County v. Holder can be found here at the Brennan Center for Justice site.

That being said, the fight for restoration of the Voting Rights Act is crucial. And despite issues of racial and class privilege within the feminist movement, those invested in Women’s History Month are standing firm behind this fight.

The League of Women Voters is exemplifying the notion that the freedom of other people is tied to their own. Women’s suffrage in 1920 was a great victory, but this organization has continued to use the privilege granted by that to bring fair treatment to other marginalized groups.

Having read this, celebrate this Women’s History Month knowing that fighting for gender equality is intimately tied to other fights for groups on the margins.

I leave you with a quote from Lilla Watson, an Indigenous Australian visual artist and advocate for various Aboriginal and women’s issues:

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Heritage Month

Celebrate Black History Month!


With February comes a new semester at the University of St. Thomas. It also ushers in Black History Month, a time for Americans to intentionally reflect on the history of Blackness both domestically and globally.


The first two weeks of the month have already seen a slew of events!

The Black Empowerment Student Alliance (BESA) hosted a social to begin the month. The documentary Dark Girls was screened last week as part of our ongoing Diversity Film Series. BESA also had a screening of their own, airing the movie Selma this past Saturday. Also, the first two Purple Benches of the month have seen enriching discussions about White identity, racial categorization, and colorism across the global Black population.


With the second half of the month starting today, here are some programs to look forward to!

Tonight, BESA is hosting a panel discussion at 6:30 pm in the ASC Hearth Room (room 341) on “the n-word”. The panel consists of St. Thomas faculty, staff, and students with

This week is Slam Poetry Week, a week of workshops, performances, and competition revolving around spoken word and poetry.

For those interested in writing or performing poetry, former national slam poetry champion and St. Thomas alumnus Mike Mlekoday will be hosting two workshops: Wednesday, February 17 at 5:30 in ASC 202, and Thursday, February 18 at noon in MHC 204. Later that Thursday is a performance by touring poetic duo Sister Outsider at 7 pm in ASC Woulfe North.

The week concludes with the Slam Poetry Contest on Friday, February 19 at 5:30 pm in Scooter’s. Mike Mlekoday will also host this event, and students will perform original spoken word and poetry pieces with three Express money prizes on the line.

Next Monday, February 22, is a discussion on the differences between Africans and African-Americans jointly hosted by BESA and the African Nations Student Alliance (ANSA). The following Thursday, February 25, is our Culture Stew featuring senior James Mite’s research presentation on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

To wrap up Black History Month, BESA will be hosting a soul food dinner on February 28 in ASC Woulfe South at 6 pm.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in any of the Black History Month programming organized by us, BESA, and other contributing organizations and departments thus far.

We hope the events have been, and will continue to be, fun, culturally enriching, and helpful in understanding the local and global significance of Black history and the Black community beyond the month of February.

Can’t wait to see more of you at the upcoming events!


Heritage Month

The Root of the Slur ‘Redskin’

Not everyone thinks redskin is an offensive term. A small minority of Native Americans consider it neutral, and many Americans, especially fans of sports teams like the Washington Redskins, only acknowledge the neutral or positive connotations of the term.

Though many would cite good intentions and cultural contexts as defenses for use of the term redskin, the historic significance of the term plus the expressed anger of millions of Native American tribes makes it clear that the term redskin is problematic.

There are a couple of popular origin stories for the term redskin. Some think it began as a reference to the skin on the head of a Native American who had been scalped. This was cruelly done for commercial reasons by European colonists, while other Native Americans would scalp each other only as a war tradition. Another story is that Europeans used the term in reference to Native American face paint during war.

A portrait of a European settler scalping a Native American during battle.

A portrait of a European settler scalping a Native American during battle.

In an article published by Slate magazine, a reference was made to the work of Ives Goddard, an Indian language scholar of the Smithsonian Institution. Goddard published a comprehensive study of redskin‘s early history in 2005 which provided new information on the term’s origin:

Redskin, he learned, had not emerged first in English or any European language. The English term, in fact, derived from Native American phrases involving the color red in combination with terms for flesh, skin, and man. These phrases were part of a racial vocabulary that Indians often used to designate themselves in opposition to others whom they (like the Europeans) called black, white, and so on.

The rest of the article discusses how the term redskin, despite its harmless origin, became increasingly used in the context of violence by or against Native Americans. Many newspapers published stories using the term to describe near-death encounters that settlers had with Native American tribes, which can be found in Chronicling America, the National Digital Newspaper Database.

Redskin should be avoided simply due to its trend toward negative connotations in the 19th century, along with the definition’s ambiguity in Webster’s Second Unabridged and Webster’s Third Unabridged dictionaries (1934 and 1961 respectively). The outcry from a number of Native American tribes is another reason, but that is a more complex aspect of the discussion than most people think.

In the article ‘How Many Native Americans Think ‘Redskins’ is a Slur?‘, it is mentioned that a significant number of Native Americans do not find the term offensive.

In the case of the Red Mesa school district on the Navajo Nation reservation in Arizona, superintendent Tommy Yazzie believes larger issues such as environmental negligence on Native lands by corporations and government warrant more concern than the term. The reservation’s high school actually has sports teams named the Redskins.


The Dakota Sioux reservation in North Dakota voted to keep the University of North Dakota’s ‘Fighting Sioux’ nickname in 2010. It was only removed after a statewide vote in 2012.

These tribes, along with survey data from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey suggest that only a minority of Native Americans—9 percent according to the survey—consider the use of the term redskin to be an issue. 

Despite these cases, the activists leading the lawsuit against the Washington Redskins have plenty of support from the Native American community. According to Suzan Shown Harjo, one of the campaign’s leaders, there is support for the lawsuit from the Cherokee, Comanche, and Seminole tribes among others, as well as the National Congress of American Indians which represents 250 groups and roughly 1.2 million Native American individuals.

In response the 2004 Annenberg survey, as well as tribes who support the use of Native American mascots, Harjo expressed doubt in the both the survey sample and the political involvement of the few tribes who support the use of the mascots.

Harjo criticized the lack of specific questions about the identity of those participating in the Annenberg survey. Tribal affiliation and level of sociopolitical involvement were not gauged by the survey to qualify the responses. Harjo also considered the cases of tribes supporting Native American mascots as suffering from “internalized oppression”, or unconsciously buying into the popular narratives about Native Americans without considering its implications.

Of course, not every Native American will have the same opinion on the term redskin. And not every dictionary or interest group will agree on its current definition. But given its tumultuous history and the significance of its more negative connotations, it is tough to defend the use of the term and mascot as something positive.

As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said after an initially defensive stance on the term, “If one person is offended, we have to listen.”

Heritage Month

Upcoming Events: Native American Heritage Month!

November is here, meaning our Native American Heritage Month (NAHM) celebration is about to begin!

Native American tribal cultures have unique and long-lasting influences throughout the United States. Twenty-four states have names derived from Native American words, including Minnesota (Mnisota) which is the Dakota name for the Minnesota river and also means “clear water” (University of Minnesota Department of American Indian Studies).

The programs we have for NAHM this year shed light on many unique aspects of Native American culture in the Midwest and Minnesota in particular. From art museum trips to riveting documentaries, we hope this month’s programming creates awareness of the daily influence of Native American culture as well as an understanding that the Native American population is as diverse as any other ethnic group.


Minneapolis Institute of Arts trip: Arriving at Fresh Water

This Friday, join us on a trip to the MIA for an exhibit highlighting some of the best works of Native American art from the Great Lakes region. Sign up in our office before we close on Friday (4:30 pm) if you want to come on this quick visit to this enriching exhibit.


Diversity Film Series: Mann v. Ford

On November 17, the second installment of our Diversity Film Series airs in the ASC Dining Room (ASC 366). Mann v. Ford is a documentary on the fight beteween Ramapough Mountain Indians and the Ford Motor Company over toxic waste dumping on Ramapough lands. Mistreatment of Native lands by large corporations and federal government is common, and the documentary captures one of these battles in great detail.


We also have Purple Bench on the first three Fridays of November discussing Native American communities and experiences, and T’s will be serving a Native-influenced menu on the week of November 16th.

All of that and more will be coming at you for this Native American Heritage Month. Stay tuned, continue to check our social media pages for updates, and wait patiently to hear more from Voices of Diversity!

Heritage Month, Purple Bench

In Conclusion: Hispanic Heritage Month

This Friday will mark the end of our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. From discussions on the lived experiences of undocumented immigrants to Afro-Caribbean dance nights, the month was full of enriching and fun activity. Here are some of the highlights:

Diversity Film Series: Spare Parts

SDIS began its new Diversity Film Series with the presentation of Spare Parts the night of September 15th. The film, starring George Lopez and Marisa Tomei, is a dramatization of a true story about four undocumented Mexican-American high school students who competed and won in a college-level underwater robotics contest against tough odds.

Issues like socioeconomic disadvantage, neglect from authority figures (e.g. parents, school administrators), and constant family strain due to legal complications were illustrated in the film. A discussion during Purple Bench the Friday after the screening evoked greater discussion about the struggles of undocumented immigrants.

One major takeaway from the Purple Bench discussion was debunking the inaccurate view of undocumented immigrants being an isolated population of Mexicans that live near the border. The undocumented Hispanic/Latino immigrant community includes many Central and South Americans, and is widespread in the USA. An intimate personal testimony revealed to us that it also includes residents of South Minneapolis that many of us frequently pass by and interact with.

Spare Parts  allowed an accurate glimpse into the daily lives of these families, and the experiences shared at Purple Bench provided better understanding and empathy for their plight.


Culture Stew: Slavery in the Americas

Our first Culture Stew of the school year dove into the rich but little-known history of African slavery in South America. With a focus on Brazilian slavery, Dr. Kari Zimmerman detailed differences in the daily lives of African slaves in Brazil versus the American colonies. This led to a greater discussion about how Brazil’s history shaped the nation’s racial climate.

Students who attended the event said they gained a perspective on race in America and a greater understanding of the cultural diversity in Latin America. It not only opened their eyes to Brazilian history and culture, but it provided a comparison to reevaluate American society with a new lens.



On October 7th, Minneapolis-based Afro-Caribbean Dance band Malamanya came to perform in ASC Woulfe. The music played included Salsa, Bachata, and Merengue. People of all different skill levels came out and danced the night away to some live, upbeat Afro-Caribbean music.


Heartwarming, entertaining, and educational. Hispanic Heritage Month was a great mix of events and programs that saw people learn and have plenty of fun engaging with Hispanic and Latino culture.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our programs! We are now getting ready for our next heritage month celebration, Native American Heritage Month, in November. Stay tuned for updates!

Heritage Month

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM)

2015 his t

Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) is back.

Established in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week (yes, it was once only a week) by President Lyndon Johnson, in 1988 President Ronald Reagan turned HHM into the 30 days between September 15 —the day five Central American countries celebrate their independence from Spain; plus don’t forget Mexico’s September 16 independence — and October 15. There is even a public law in the books saying that Americans must recognize this month so that, as the government’s official HHM page describes, we all celebrate “the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.”

Looking at some of the social media accounts that SDIS monitors and follow we saw the following question posed to audiences: “Let us know what you think about #HispanicHeritageMonth.”
Here are few of the twitter answers that we saw:
• Hate the word His-Panic. Let’s go with “El Mes De Latinos”
• It provides an opportunity to educate others of the richness of our culture and the accomplishments of our gente.
• Whether or not we are born in the USA or in our home country, to be who we are and have culture is always a celebration.
• Que viva Latinos everywhere! We are a great melting pot.
• While we celebrate important public figures, I want to celebrate every day Latinos who live exemplary lives.
• Every day for me is Hispanic Heritage Month
• I do enjoy the events my community puts on. It’s a way to celebrate the diversity among Latinos. That part is authentic.
Not sure what your thoughts are, but we would love to hear from you and invite you to celebrate with us and our UST community this month. Here is the link to events.
Tuesday  we started the celebration with the viewing of “Spare Parts”, we promised to post discussion/contemplative questions.
1. What solutions does SPARE PARTS present for helping teenagers excel in school and build healthy friendships? What can we learn from the robotics team about reaching out to at-risk youth?

2. Did SPARE PARTS change the way you see America’s immigration controversy? If you could re-write the nation’s immigration policies, what changes would you make (if any)?

3. Discuss the role of education in society. Manuela tells Joshua Davis that the fees for attending public schools in Mexico were small but sometimes hard to meet. How does a free education contribute to a free society? Should the curriculum include bilingual instruction?


We encourage you to provide your feedback and invite you to join us in the celebration!

Diversity, Heritage Month

Black History is American History

2015BlackHistoryMonthEventsFebruary is a time to remind ourselves of the many and varied contributions African Americans have made to every aspect of the U.S. culture and to celebrate them in conjunction with others. Be it music, science, religion, health, examples and influence from the black experience are present.
Please join Student Diversity and Inclusion Services in celebrating Black History Month this February! The month kicks off with “The Gathering” on Friday, Feb. 6th at 8 p.m. in ASC LL Dance. We once again welcome DJ Enferno for a “Flashback Friday” themed event. Invite students to celebrate the new semester with us by reconnecting with friends and letting loose on the dance floor.
Come to ASC Hearth on Tuesday, Feb. 10th at 4 p.m. for some dialogue and stew! The topic for Culture Stew is natural hair, and discussion will be facilitated by Dr. Buffy Smith, Dr. Todd Lawrence, and Michelle Miller (student). Mixed Blood Theatre will present “AFRICAN AMERICA” in ASC Scooter’s on Wednesday, Feb. 11th at 7 p.m. The play helps immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Liberia to connect with and celebrate their heritage as an interracial couple is led by a magical African to a better understanding of the immigrant experience.2015AfricanAmericaScreen
There will be a special menu at T’s in ASC for the week of Feb.16-20 to celebrate Black History Month! Special lunch items will be served from 11a.m.-2 p.m. Our main event this week is a series of slam poetry workshops and performances Feb. 17-20 with help from STAR, BESA, American Culture and Difference, Office of Mission, and the English department. Dr. Todd Lawrence writes:
Nate Marshall is a poet,2015SlamPoetryWeekScreem writer, rapper, educator, and activist from the south side of Chicago. He is author of Blood Percussion and the forthcoming Wild Hundreds. Featured in the award-winning documentary Louder Than a Bomb and the HBO series “Brave New Voices,” Marshall is a Zell Postgraduate Fellow at University of Michigan where he earned an MFA in poetry. He has won many awards, including the 2014 Hurston/Wright Foundation Amistad Award and the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from University of Pittsburgh Press.
Michael Mlekoday is the author of The Dead Eat Everything. He won the 2009 National Poetry Slam with the St. Paul team, and returned in 2010 to coach the team to another championship. He has served as Poetry Editor of Indiana Review, and his poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, RHINO, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Anti-, Muzzle Magazine, and other journals.
During their visit, Nate Marshall and Mike Mlekoday will offer poetry workshops so that participating poets can improve their writing and performance skills. Poets will receive personal instruction from two published artists who have extensive experience with performance poetry.

In our final week of celebrating, Dr. Bryana French will lead our Still We Rise series with the Luann Dummer Center for Women. Come discuss the “Intersectionality of Black Women” and enjoy a soul food dinner on Wednesday, Feb. 25th at 5:30 p.m. in the Luann Dummer Center for Women (OEC 103).

Celebration leads to providing experiences that create lasting impressions and knowledge. This month is especially significant to enhance our sense of the differences, sameness, and uniqueness of every individual allowing us to embrace the contributions of all of us in this shrinking society.

Heritage Month

UST Unidos-Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

hhm cover 2Over 52 million strong, Latinos are touching every aspect of the national landscape—pop culture, the workforce, consumption, politics and America’s identity as a nation. And from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes and celebrates the Latino culture and heritage, as well as the contributions U.S. Hispanics have made to the nation.
This period was chosen because it coincides with the independence celebrations of several Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile. It also coincides with the “Día de la Raza” (Day of the Race) celebrations that many Latin American countries celebrate in remembrance of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.
At St. Thomas, the Hispanic population is growing each year, along with Hispanic Heritage Month. Not only has Hispanic Heritage Month grown every year, America as a whole has a chance to celebrate the importance of this culture. People around the country take advantage of this distinct period and show their appreciation for the Hispanic people and all they’ve done throughout history.
More specifically, UST takes advantage of this opportunity to celebrate the Hispanic population around campus and holds special events most directly in their honor. Many of these events are meant to emphasize Latin America and to teach more about the way they live.
Celebrating diversity through events such as Hispanic Heritage Month is very important to the St. Thomas community, not only does it show support and respect for people who bring so many valuable contributions to our campus, but it also creates an overall campus environment that embraces differences and supports freedom of thought and expression.
Please join SDIS and our many others around campus as we celebrate the richness and contributions of the Hispanic culture! Check out the many activities taking place all over campus during this 2014HelpWantedmonth.