Minorities urged to take action

The College’s Delta chapter of the Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority recently hosted its 13th annual Minority Achievement Conference. On Saturday, Nov. 10, a day-long total of 95 attendees filled the conference rooms of Brower Student Center.

For nearly eight hours, guests sat in on lectures and seminars, ate breakfast and dinner, gave blood and registered for bone marrow donation and participated in networking workshops.

This year’s conference was coordinated by Wendelin Regalado, a member of the sorority, chapter president Stephanie L. Natera and vice president Martha Perez.

According to the sorority, the purpose of the conference, titled “BE the Change You Want to See: Empowerment in Action,” was to foster a more proactive attitude in, and impart tools for social change to, the community.

“We wanted to encourage people to take action in our community,” Natera said. She said she also wanted attendees to leave the conference with a feeling of empowerment. Natera, who felt “discouraged by last year’s attendance,” thought that this year’s attendance was phenomenal.

David Abalos, professor of religious studies at Seton Hall University and visiting professor at Princeton University, set that tone when delivering his keynote speech.

“Each of us are the personal, political, historical and sacred faces of our community,”Abalos said. “You are the community.”

Abalos described the drama or journey of transformation, the integration of cultures and the college experience. “Sometimes education means a deeper socialization into the structure of power,” Abalos said. “(We have been told) ‘I’ll accept you if you accept your inferiority. I’ll accept the better of you if you assimilate.” Abalos reminded students not to forget where they come from.

“Take the best of our background, the best that’s here, and out of that create a culture of transformation,” Abalos said. “Be in (the College) but not of (the College) … (don’t) share in the elitism.” In qualifying his remarks, Abalos said, “When you criticize something, it’s because you love it, you want it to live up to its potential.”

The lectures, which included “Power Tools: Giving Back NOW” and “Building a Foundation: Helping Yourself First,” embodied that theme.

Diana Bates, professor of sociology at the College, presented “Consumer Culture: The Power of $1,” a lecture aimed at correcting the disparities of wealth in minority populations, which consisted, in part, of conservatively building credit, and buying a home as soon as possible. And “read The Wall Street Journal,” Bates said.

Hector Bonilla, former history teacher and principal, and current member of Perth Amboy’s Board of Education, showcased in his lecture the mostly unknown and uncelebrated contributions of those hailing from the Americas, including the fact that Mexican-Americans are the ethnic group to which the largest number of Congressional Medals of Honor have been awarded for bravery.

Carlos Avila, founder of the Immigrants’ Public Advocacy Coalition of Trenton, gave a lecture that stressed the importance of voting, especially with a strong, unified voice.

“Latinos are going through tremendous struggles,” Avila said, comparing it to the civil rights movements of the 1960s and the immigration experiences of Irish, Italians and Germans.

He stressed that there are a number of states which both are important to presidential elections and their primaries, and have dense Latino populations.

Manuel Segura, councilman for Trenton and the first Latino to be elected to public office in Mercer County, expressed similar sentiments about the importance of voting.

“Legislation changes the course of our lives,” Segura said. “And if (elected officials) don’t deliver at the end of the day, tell them ‘No.'”

Avila agreed. “This is something we have here that we may not have or our parents may not have where we come from,” he said.

Victor Coronado, the lecturer who also spoke during the closing ceremonies, summed up the feel of the event.

“We do this because we understand the long struggle. Activists, we’re not normal people. And that’s OK, that’s good,” he said. Coronado encouraged the dining guests to be those kinds of activists.

“We must become a generation of angelic troublemakers,” Coronado said, and paused a beat. “I didn’t make that up. I stole that.”