I am TCNJ monologues offers uncommon perspective

By Miguel Gonzalez and Emmy Liederman
News Editor and Features Editor

Students shared their perspectives on what sets the College apart as a diverse institution at the inaugural “I am TCNJ monologues” on Thursday, Oct. 18 in the Brower Student Center Room 100.

Students take the stage and discuss what they contribute to the College. (Miguel Gonzalez / News Editor)

As part of Student Government’s Diversity and Inclusion Week, both SG and the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion encouraged students to share why they chose to attend the College and to what extent they feel accepted here.

The event was hosted by senior philosophy major Eashwayne Haughton, who collaborated with Sean Stallings, the interim Vice President of Student Affairs. The concept for the event was inspired by Charles Bennefield’s poem, “I Am Diversity.”   

Stallings said that the purpose of the monologues was to emphasize the importance of diversity and that students of different backgrounds should celebrate and take pride in their cultures.  

Joseph Ballesteros, a senior nursing major and the vice president of Barkada, took the stage to showcase his Filipino pride. Being a second generation Filipino American, Joseph discussed his parents’ efforts to assimilate him into American culture. He believed that he has become more culturally aware and confident since he came to the College, and encouraged other students to do the same.

“Get over the fact that you’re the only one that understands that being Filipino is not the same as being Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Cambodian, Tai, Gintalense,” he said. “I laugh when you slant your eyes. I laugh at the small penis jokes. I laugh when you said you wouldn’t date me cause I’m Asian. I laugh daily at the dog-eating jokes.”

Brooke Chlebowski, a senior special education and iSTEM double major and executive president of SG, spoke about the rejection she faced before securing her leadership positions at the College, such as losing an SG election and being denied a position as a student ambassador. As president, Chlebowski is proud to represent such a diverse and capable student body.

“We all deserve to be here,” she said. “We all have to work to be who we are. We have to continue to strive in order to improve this institution so it becomes better than when we found it. We’re all capable leaders and determined visionaries. We are TCNJ.”

Lloyd Padmore, a junior finance major and baseball player at the College, spoke about being the only African-American member of the 33-person team.

“Being the only kid that looks like me was something I never had to deal with,” he said.

In the past, Padmore has struggled to identify with a single ethnic group, which he always felt pressured to do.

“I was too white to fit in with the black kids, but I was too black for the white people,” he said.

Padmore emphasized the need to connect with a variety of students on campus, regardless of  their identity or cultural background.

Yvonne Njoku, a senior nursing major, talked about her religious journey and struggle to completely identify as a Christian. Her mother is a pastor and she grew up in an African-American church, and she viewed religion as a restrictive culture.

“See, I find myself doing things not because I want to do them, but I think that’s what God wants me to do,” she said. “Because as a Christian I can’t do what I want, right? No, that wouldn’t be religion.”

Don Trahan Jr., the director of the College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, ended the event by remarking on the student body’s need to come together as a community, despite their differences.

“The purpose of (the event) is to recognize and understand that it does not matter what your major is, it does not matter where you come from and it does not matter if you believe if its Taylor Ham or pork roll,” he said. “You’re TCNJ. I’m TCNJ. We’re TCNJ. Your voice matters.”