Lauren Robitaille wears a lot of hats. The student of Elizabethtown College is at the same time an intern at Office of Diversity, Equity and Belonging, Bowers Writers House and the High Library.
On Monday, September 20, these three organizations collaborated to sponsor a Mosaic Unbound Dialogue Series meeting to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month at the College. As an intermediary, Robitaille hosted the event.
She began by admitting, “I’m by no means an expert in this area, but I want to learn. “
The members of the NOIR dialogue club, the staff of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Belonging and interested students sat in an alcove on the long top of the Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Well-being. The group sat in a loose circle, most of them in bean bags. Nichole Gonzalez, Dean of Students and Executive Director of the Diversity, Equity and Belonging College, was also in attendance.
Robitaille begins the discussion with a little history. She explains that many Latin American countries celebrate their Independence Day from mid-September. in mid-Oct. This explains the “blockage” of Hispanic Heritage Month.
To recognize the second half of the month that lasts until October, Robitaille finds it appropriate to tell a story about the popular Latin American tale of La Llorona, the mother who wanders the river bank, weeping and seeking the children she she drowned.
After that, she moved on to the centerpiece of the dialogue – a personal essay “Girl’s Guide to Sexual Purity” by Latin writer Carmen Maria Machado. Machado is best known for her short story collections, but her essay describes her attempts to reconcile her bisexuality with the beliefs of her community’s religion.
Machado’s attempt ultimately failed and she became an atheist.
Gonzalez commented on the writer’s conflict.
“It is not always possible to reconcile [one’s religion and other identities] and stay true to who you are, ”Gonzalez said.
More broadly, Robitaille asked: “Does religion hold back our evolution as human beings?
Associate Director for Office of Diversity, Equity and Belonging Ellis Bonds said that when he asks religious people to tell him what they think is wrong with homosexuality but “don’t use the Bible” they can’t do it.
Robitaille said she believed religion was compatible with social justice, but for the most part not “religion as it is now”. While she believes organized religion as it stands has too much baggage, she also believes that individual experiences of faith can aid the mission for righteousness.
In the same vein, Robitaille felt: “There is a balance between celebrating heritage and abandoning toxic cultural norms”.
Bonds agreed and spoke of his own heritage.
“We are very homophobic in the black community,” Bonds said.
However, he feels he can be proud of his identity because he wants to “advance this culture”.
Robitaille attributed sexual prejudice in the Latino community at least in part to outside influence.
“Everything goes back to colonialism like everything else,” she said.
Gonzalez also added: “And the patriarchy.”
At that moment, Robitaille nodded fervently.
Concluding the event, Robitaille thanked his guests and named some of the other upcoming events in the Mosaic Unbound series.
On October 18, they will cover LGBTQ History Month and on October 15, a discussion on Native American history.