Exploring the intersection of being Latina in America

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By Gianna McGann
October 18, 2022

The event panel (left to ride); Reyani Perryman, Nikki Gillum-Clemons, Dr. Vivian Smith, and Angelica Martinez answer questions from students. Photo by Skyler Kellers.
The event panel (left to ride); Reyani Perryman, Nikki Gillum-Clemons, Dr. Vivian Smith, and Angelica Martinez answer questions from students. Photo by Skyler Kellers.

On Sep. 29, Cabrini University’s Office of DEI and Belonging hosted “Latina in America: Exploring the Intersection of Gender, Ethnicity, Race, and Class” to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

The event, moderated by ODEIB Director Lailah Dunbar, featured a panel of Latina women who are leaders in their specific fields. The four panelists from Cabrini included Dr. Vivian Smith, associate professor of criminology, Nikki Gillum-Clemons, director of human resources, Angelica Martinez, assistant director for first-year experience, and undergraduate student, Reyani Perryman, senior history major. Perryman was chosen to speak because of her role as a leader in the community. She led the Latin American organization, Pura Vida, and was an executive board member of the Black Student Union, BSU.

Event importance and lessons

The event began with these four panelists introducing themselves, their roles & positions on Cabrini’s campus, discussing their own self-identifications, and how long they’ve been in America. After introductions, event organizer and moderator Lailah Dunbar asked the four panelists a series of questions related to the Latina experience and allowed each panelist to elaborate on their answers.

Panelist Reyani Perryman shared her thoughts. Photo by Skyler Kellers.

Dunbar was satisfied with the outcome of the event. She said, “I believe that we accomplished our goals. We shared information about the intersection of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sex among the Latina/Hispanic community. Panelists shared personal insights, which deepened the discussion and made it more engaging for those who attended.”

The audience was involved in a discourse with the panelists about situations, such as struggles they faced in American schools and talking to their parents about the topic of being Latino/Hispanic. Dunbar hopes attendees were stimulated by the discussion and that they are now encouraged to research more on the subject.

“I hope that participants understand more about the multi-dimensions of systemic discrimination,” Dunbar said. Also, she thinks having this event taught others about Hispanic, Latino, Latina, and Latinx heritage through the lens of Latina discrimination. Discrimination that is based on the racial and gender hierarchy exists in our society and the world. Dunbar hopes that others will be inspired by the beauty, diversity, and spirituality of the Latino/Hispanic culture.

Pat Heavey, senior secondary education and history major and music minor, said “I learned the perspective and a little bit more of the background of Latina culture from the different kinds of communities and environments within the countries themselves, and how diverse they are from each other,” Heavey said.

Connection to real-world issues

There has been a debate about Latino vs Hispanic and the differences between these terms. The term Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking countries, while Latino refers to people who are from or descended from Latin America. This conversation is present in the world around us, not just on Cabrini’s campus.

Caroline Duke, junior criminology and business management major, said, “I think it’s crucial for everyone to really understand perspectives and cultures other than their own. I think predominately white institutions like Cabrini University have a responsibility to educate.”

Dr. Vivian Smith said, “I believe this event is a puzzle piece to the responsibility we have as a world to educate, accept, and diversify.”

Takeaways

Dunbar said “The journey of Latinas in the United States gives us one view of the nature of systemic discrimination in our society. We are a dynamic society that is rich with diversity, which makes us stronger, and we must search our hearts and minds to recognize the beauty and strength of our diversity and actively create a society that is free from marginalization that gives access, opportunities, and support to everyone. Our diversity is a gift and we all must learn to acknowledge and appreciate this.”

After the event concluded, attendees were encouraged to scan a QR code and complete the “Latina in America” feedback survey provided by ODEIB to garner feedback on the event to improve for the future. Cabrini wants to foster the best possible sense of community here on campus.

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Gianna McGann

Hello, my name is Gianna McGann. I am a sophomore majoring in digital communications and social media, and minoring in theater. My position this year on the Loquitur is reporter. A fun fact about myself is that I am on the Autism Spectrum. I have a condition called Asperger's Syndrome. My career goals are to figure out some way to combine my major and minor in a job field that I enjoy, whether it's an acting job or something relating to social media platforms. I don't have a particular kind of content that I want to report on. I am interested in learning about all the different categories, whether it's lifestyles, sports, or news.

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