Spoken word poetry, a cappella, and dance performed by Boston College undergraduates were the central focus Thursday night at “Speak for Your Change,” an event celebrating diversity and cultural identity.
FACES, which co-hosted the event along with the AHANA Leadership Council (ALC), is committed to educating the BC community about issues of race and identity and facilitating dialogues to eliminate racial polarization and discrimination. The concept behind “Speak for Your Change” was to share stories conveying individuals’ experiences with and feelings about race, as well as to feature artistic performances that honored various cultures.
Rusty Cosino, A&S ’17, began the evening with a spoken-word performance that reflected on his life growing up as a first-generation Filipino-American in San Francisco. Cosino shared that he felt caught between the older and younger generations of his family, calling himself the hyphen in “Filipino-American.” Although he often felt weighed down by expectations and external pressures, Cosino said he refuses to be Americanized.
“There’s nothing more American than being yourself,” he said.
Two songs from R&B and soul a cappella group B.E.A.T.S. (Black Experience in America Through Song) followed Cosino’s poetry. Andrea Alonso and Tom Evans, both A&S ’14, were featured soloists on renditions of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” respectively.
Alex Li, A&S ’14, then shared a poem entitled, “Letter to My 14-Year-Old Self,” which traced how his identity has changed in the seven years since the death of his father.
“Appreciate the silence of your peaceful soul, don’t be so eager for the future,” Li said. “The time will come when silence will feel like a fallen friend. You will yearn for the days when innocence was as familiar to you as your father’s laugh, and that too that will fade.
“Listen to jazz and remember that the best things in life are always improvised,” Li said. “Even in the darkest of days, remember you are never alone. Even in the darkest of days, breathe deep, and remember.”
Amanda Espiritu, A&S ’14, performed two pieces of slam poetry, both touching upon issues affecting women and their treatment in society.
“I’m sorry I’m having the time of my life being me, and that you think being single makes me lonely,” Espiritu said. “Honestly, being in a relationship with the wrong person is the loneliest thing in the world.”
Espiritu also spoke on the portrayal of women in the media, and how women are frequently made to feel inferior if their appearance does not match the cultural conception of beauty.
“No one looks their best all the time, but you can be your best self,” she said.
The event also featured dances honoring the Irish and Indian cultures, as members from both BC Irish Dance and Masti performed throughout the evening.
Danny DeLeon, A&S ’15, another spoken word performer, said, “My pockets may not be lined with gold or green, but I understand the power of a smile, I understand the power of hug, I understand the power of faith, of love. I understand that happiness cannot be bought. I wouldn’t change the world, but first, I want to see more of it.”
The final musical performance was by South Asian musical group Shaan, which performed several traditional songs as well as a rendition of Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors.”
Yanyi Weng, LSOE ’15, shared episodes from her experience as an immigrant, focusing on how she learned to speak up for her family and those who could not speak up for themselves. One of these instances involved writing a letter to her mother’s boss, as her mother did not speak English and struggled to communicate in the workplace. Weng now works as a translator for her mother’s company, using the position as an opportunity to speak for her fellow immigrants.
She also spoke about a trip she took to Jamaica and what she gained from the local people, discovering that everyone is afflicted by fears and uncertainties, whether this fear is manifested outwardly or not.
“While we may not struggle with physical deformation, we struggle with emotional and spiritual deformation,” Weng said. “We live our lives as though we were trapped in our bodies with our minds immobilized by fears.”
The final student performer was Franchesco Martinez, A&S ’14, who discussed examples of racism in his life.
“I was a dark piece of matter, insignificant thoughts that didn’t matter, sub-human existing in the subconscious,” Martinez said.
“They taught the student body with a book of lies that I was different. I never understood their violence so to them, I was ignorant.”
Lillie Albert, an associate professor in the Lynch School of Education and the faculty advisor for FACES, closed the evening by reflecting on her time growing up in the 1960s during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Rather than sharing an original piece of writing, Albert recited Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise,” which resonated with her because of her past experience. She also said that she has looked to the poem as a source of strength when she has felt challenged by racial issues during her 18 years at BC.
“You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise,” Albert read.