The proud flags of Hispanic countries waved in the wind and the marching band’s pounding drums marked the start of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month.
Hispanic students carrying the flags marched into the Sidney Gelber Auditorium in the Student Activities Center, eagerly awaiting two speeches on the theme of “Justice For All.” President Samuel L. Stanley delivered the first speech, noting the importance of the Hispanic community to the campus.
“Given today’s political environment, it is more vital than ever that we unite to honor the contributions of those who have enriched American life and worked to rectify inequality and injustice in our society,” President Stanley said. “At Stony Brook, our diversity has always been one of our strongest assets, and the Hispanic American community is an essential component of our multicultural campus.”
Keynote speaker Sergio Argueta, Turner Fellow Alumnus and Founder and Board Chair of S.T.R.O.N.G. (Struggling To Reunite Our New Generation) Youth Inc., one of the leading gang prevention and intervention agencies in the northeastern United States, expanded further on President Stanley’s comments. He discussed the personal connection he had with Hispanic stereotypes, and the need for members of the Hispanic community to speak up and take action.
“My story does not begin on the day I was born,” Argueta said. “It predates that.”
He also spoke to the theme of “Justice For All” and the controversy surrounding the phrase.
“As we think about the words ‘justice for all,’ there’s a reality that most all of us know,” Argueta said. “Justice doesn’t exist for all.”
Argueta’s tone became more urgent as he discussed the need to break stereotypes surrounding the Hispanic American community.
“Familia, we need you now more than ever,” Argueta said. “We need you to get those initials now more than ever. We need you to understand that we’re all united regardless of what we look like.”
This is the 29th annual Hispanic Heritage Month at the University. The Hispanic Heritage Month Committee, composed of volunteers of University staff, faculty and students across both sides of campus, works hard every year to bring together all events that honor Latino history and culture. In addition to the celebration, Stony Brook also has a Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature and a Latin American Student Organization (LASO). Further information about Hispanic Heritage Month events can be found here.
—Scott Terwilliger ’20