• Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
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Lawrenceville Honors National Hispanic Heritage Month

From movie nights to a special guest speaker, Lawrenceville community members have been celebrating Hispanic culture across campus in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15, an annual celebration recognizing the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans.

Lawrenceville’s Latinos Unidos student club kicked off the celebrations in mid-September with an announcement about upcoming programming including events planned for weekly School Meetings as well as links to educational resources. The club also created a Spotify playlist featuring songs and artists that represent the expansive styles and diverse talent of classic and current Latinx music.

"Hispanic Heritage Month is important because it highlights all the contributions that the Latine and Hispanic communities have given to the United States,” said Marlene Guadian ’22 and Alexis Gonzalez ‘22, co-president of Latinos Unidos. “We as Latinos Unidos want to highlight these contributions but also highlight the vast diversity within the Latine and Hispanic community, communities of people that are often mixed up and made to fit a model that only captures a small percentage of our diversity.”

On Friday, October 8, Lawrenceville’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Hutchins Center for Race and Social Justice hosted New York State Poet Willie Perdomo as Lawrenceville’s Hispanic Heritage Month Speaker. Perdomo spoke at School Meeting in the morning and gave a poetry reading at the Hutchins Center for Race and Social Justice to current community members in the evening.

Perdomo is the author of “Smoking Lovely: The Remix,” “The Crazy Bunch,” “The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon,” and “Where a Nickel Costs of Dime.” Winner of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Cy Twombly Award for Poetry, and the PEN Open Book Award, Perdomo was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award. He is co-editor of the anthology, Latínext, and his work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poetry, Washington Post, “The Best American Poetry 2019,” and African Voices. He is an instructor in English at Phillips Exeter Academy.

“Willie Perdomo, our speaker for Hispanic Heritage Month, has a gift of speaking to the truths and experiences of folks across ages and multiple spaces in the Latinx and African Diaspora,” said Cameron Brickhouse, Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement. “His work is anchored in the beauty, joy, rhythms of Afro-Latinx folks that counter the impact and trauma of structural racism and disenfranchisement. His work will always be relevant and timely across generations.”

During School Meeting, Perdomo answered questions shared by Nuri Friedlander, philosophy teacher and director of equity and inclusion. Perdomo shared how his experiences growing up in East Harlem, New York inspired his writing and poetry, and talked about his goals for the next two years serving as poet laureate of the state.

“It’s not about the city anymore, now you are representing the state as a poet,” he said. “The bigger piece is how to be a poet laureate of the state in a time where we’re living with extreme economic disparity, living in the middle of a pandemic with extreme anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-queer racism. How to be a poet in that particular space is something I'm really interested in pursuing for the next two years - spreading the world of poetry throughout the state.”

“I would throw a reading in a community center or on a street corner because that’s where I learned how to be a poet, where I picked up my language to write poetry, and picked up my images and language,” he added.

Cutting his teeth at the famed Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Perdomo said, “we wrote poems as a way of survival - it was a tool. It was decolonized outlaw poetics.”

“Coming down to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe was exciting because so many other great writers were coming through at that time,” he said. “It was a vibrant scene for me. You learn how to read a poem, you learn how to be a poet in that environment when the audience is quiet and when they are with you. That's where I learned how to read poems out loud.”

The Bunn Library hosted a Hispanic Heritage Month “takeover” in its weekly newsletter, highlighting a display of books by Latinx authors in the Library lobby, and sharing additional book recommendations online. In partnership with Latinos Unidos, the Library hosted a movie night on September 29 featuring Lin Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights.”

Lawrenceville alumni are also joining the celebrations with a student-focused virtual panel discussion on October 14 hosted by the Latinx Alumni Association titled “Navigating the College Application and Transition Process as a Latinx Student.”

Alumnus Barry Gonzalez ‘82 says he “loves that [the event] is tied to our heritage month. It’s a culmination of the heritage month - we can celebrate, educate each other, share our culture - talk and connect. At the end of the day, let’s get down to business on what we need to do to get you to the next level.”

“For me it’s been a way to reconnect with Lawrenceville after 40 years, other than the really good friends I made who became family,” Gonzalez says. “To me, this is connection in a meaningful way.”

For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard Hanson, director of Public Relations, at lgillard@lawrenceville.org.


Photo: New York State Poet Willie Perdomo (top) spoke to Lawrentians Friday evening, hosted by Lawrenceville’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Hutchins Center for Race and Social Justice. This was the first event held in the new home of the Hutchins Center for Race and Social Justice.