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  • Author: mhblanco

    Los Angeles, 1963

    I was born in Los Angeles, and in 1963 I experienced the greatest moment of my childhood when the Dodgers won the World Series in a four game sweep over the New York Yankees. The city was euphoric. Little did I know at the time that this joy was built on the pain of a once-vibrant Latinx community. Chavez Ravine would be the eventual site of Dodger Stadium. Through eminent domain and other coercive means, most of the ravine’s residents were dislocated for a housing project that eventually stalled. The land was later conveyed to the Dodgers in 1958. As a result, the authorities forcibly removed families from the homes built by their grandparents.

    We see life through our own lenses, and the only way to broaden our perspective is to explore the rich kaleidoscope of other cultures and worldviews. By doing so, we gain a context from which to better judge our own values and approaches to life.

    When my mom and dad first took me to Olvera Street, the birthplace of Los Angeles, it was then, as it is today, a tapestry of art, clothing, jewelry, food, music, and dance. My dad was born and raised in Ecuador, and it was fascinating to listen to him speak Spanish with the merchants as they exchanged greetings and laughter.

    Hispanic Heritage Month

    Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs September 15 through October 15, 2021, is a full exploration of Latinx culture including, of course, the small slice I experienced on Olvera Street. Yet, we can never allow celebration to obscure inconvenient truths. Spanish colonizers were obviously not the first people in California. Millennia before they arrived, over 100 Kizh (pronounced keech) villages dotted the LA basin. One of their largest villages, Yaanga, was located near Olvera Street. The story of Spanish migration into the region and throughout California, Mexico, and the Southwest has its own brutal tragedies, and before the Kizh, who occupied these lands? Who might the Kizh have displaced, and what might be their untold story? History, culture, and heritage are ultimately an amalgam of tears and joy, agony and elation. The gumbo always has some fishbones.

    The importance of heritage month celebrations is not to uncritically acclaim but to discover and reflect. To the degree that we can all learn from one another, we can make progress. We invite the Michigan Tech community to consider Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 as an opportunity to better understand others and ourselves. Consider joining the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion for the Parade of Nations, held on Saturday, September 18, beginning at 11:00 a.m.


    Meet Wayne Gersie,Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion


    Hi everyone, my name is Wayne Gersie. I’m the new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion here at Michigan Tech University. I’m excited to be a part of your community, and I’m looking forward to having conversations with you about diversity, equity, inclusion and sense of belonging. Since I have been here, I have had the opportunity to move around and interact with many of you and get a really great sense of what it’s like to be a member of this community. Your stories have made me better understand what it means to live and work at Michigan Tech. You shared what you love about the community—but also some of the challenges you’ve experienced in your time here. I know we have work to do.

    While I certainly acknowledge that we’ve had some challenges this past semester, I’m encouraged by the conversations I have had with many of you in the short time I’ve been here. One of the first initiatives my office is focusing on is a 120-day action plan developed by the newly formed President’s Council Task Force for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I’ve heard many of you ask for action. I hear you. And this Task Force and its 120-day plan are a great first step.

    With the support of President Koubek and the President’s Council, we will identify and develop solutions that can provide an immediate benefit to both the community’s employees and its students. Speaking broadly, this team will develop a constructive dialogue from which actionable items will be drawn. It will be hard work, but I’m confident that we’ll be able to do it.

    Our website, mtu.edu/diversity-inclusion, will serve as a hub for information about our office and our initiatives. It will also serve as a place where you can see the notes, progress and goals the Task Force develops throughout these critical next couple of months.

    In the meantime, if you have questions, suggestions, or just want to talk, please reach out to our office.

    Thank you for helping create a Michigan Tech where everyone feels welcome. Together, we are better.