BY KAINE ENE
Everyday in the cafeteria sits a very special table covered in red with beautiful flowers beckoning us to get involved in with the Latino Heritage Event that will take place on April 8. We all see this table in the middle of our school cafeteria everyday, and we’ve heard the mid-lunch announcements about it from our teachers (my favorite being Mr. Huber’s), but what does the event mean?
One of the faces you might see in the cafeteria selling ticket. He’s been very involved in the set-up and organization of the event, and he’ll be setting things up the day-of, too. This is an event he holds close to his heart. “It actually means a lot because it’s us Latinos showing our heritage, what we’re here to do and what we can bring to this country,” Renteria says. “And also what different types of stuff we do, how we do it, how we dance, and what food we eat. It’s pretty important for people to know what that actually means to us.”
Cultural events like this can make a great impression on Truman and potentially change how cultures are seen for the better. February’s Black Excellence Dinner was an event with a different style that reminisced on the past more than the present. Student counselor Mr. Deallon Walton brought this idea from Northwest Missouri State University to Truman, noticing that Black History Month isn’t a topic that receives a ton of attention here.
“The Black Excellence Dinner was to show recognition to African American human beings through history that fought for freedom, rights and everything that we have now. It was supposed to bring and put into hindsight that it’s still important to this day, and we have come a long way, and we have changed history for a long time,” says Mr. Walton. “I just wanted to show how excellent we are as a people, not even just with the night, but with all the things we’ve done, like GPS: made by a black woman. People wouldn’t know that.”
I didn’t know this either, but I believe he’s talking about Gladys Mae West, who became the second black woman to work in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) in 1956 through her hard work. It was there that she collected data from satellites, leading to the creation of the GPS, but her humility kept people from knowing how instrumental she was to its creation for decades. And it’s interesting that even Google has yet to make a tribute to her via Google Doodle. Anyhow, Gladys West is still standing strong at the age of 91 today.
Gladys Mae West (Public Domain)
Both Renteria and Mr. Walton have similar reasons for why they think their respective events will have an impact on Truman and they both fall under one thing: identity. Renteria thinks the Latino Heritage Event is really going to impact the school and especially how other students see Latinos. “It’s going have a really big impact because they’re going to see our culture,” he says. Mr. Walton says the impact the Black Excellence Dinner has on Truman is “to show students of color that we can be somebody.” He goes on to say: “There’s not really a lot of black students here that I’ve noticed—I might be wrong but I just haven’t seen a lot of students of color—[the impact is] just to show them that we are able to do things and we are able to reach heights that people don’t think we can reach. So just give them an outlet and show them that you can be somebody. You can be an inventor, you can be a poet, you can be a speaker, you can be whatever you want to be. And that’s what I want to bring to Truman High School.” That’s what it’s all about: who we are and who we can be.
I believe a good amount of who we are is how we have fun, and the Latino Heritage Event certainly reflects that for the Hispanic community. It’s also a celebration, meaning anyone can go for a fun dance with an exuberant atmosphere on a Friday evening, where you can enjoy the food people have poured their hearts into. “It’s gonna be a fun dance, everyone is going to most definitely have fun, and there’s gonna be lots of different food as well that we’re selling,” says senior Vanessa Conejo. “Different Hispanic countries make different things, so there’s gonna be a variety.” The original March 11th date for the event may have been pushed back due to snow days, but you can still purchase the tickets on sale in the cafeteria to join the celebration on April 8th from 6pm to 10pm. “The last time I went it was really fun and I enjoyed the experience,” Conejo says. “So I really liked it and I wanted to do it again and bring people out of their comfort for them to have fun.”