Entertainer kicks off Latino Heritage Month
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 23:09
Joseph Hernandez-Kolski began the Latino Heritage Month kickoff event with Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” dance in Trabant Wednesday night. The actor, poet and comedian spoke about Latino heritage to the university community.
National Latino Heritage takes place Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 and the university will be celebrating the Latino culture this semester with salsa dance lessons, food festivals, voter registration, speakers, a Guallando and the Fiesta Latina on Nov. 9 in Trabant.
The kick-off included a spoken-word poem by Hernandez-Kolski and a reception after the speech.
Hernandez-Kolski’s speech and other events during the month are sponsored by the Multicultural Greek Congress, the Center for Black Culture, Chi Upsilon Sigma, HOLA, Black Student Union, Cultural Programming Advisory Board, Career Services Center, Dining Services, Office of Equity and Inclusion, Residence Life and Student Life.
Hernandez-Kolski is a half-Latino, half-Polish theatre actor and two-time HBO Def poet. His speech, “Cultural Collisions,” incorporated his personal struggle with his half-Latino background, advice for college students, laughter and jokes to help students understand and relate to cultural issues.
“Many times, when you’re half-Latino, you often feel like you’re not Latino enough,” Hernandez-Kolski says.
Hernandez-Kolski says he went to Mexico City for three months to live with his grandmother when he was 12, which was an important milestone because he learned to speak Spanish and recovered his Latino identity.
He grew up Chicago and went to a predominantly black high school and could have easily ended up in a gang, but joined theatre groups and eventually went to Princeton University, he says.
“You’ve never seen anything more absurd than two college Latinos trying to out-street each other,” Hernandez-Kolski says. “We were trying so hard to be hard. At Princeton.”
Hernandez-Kolski spoke about his experiences with overcoming stereotypes of sexual orientation, race and gender.
He highlighted Latino stereotypes with impersonations of how people typically categorize Mexicans, while still keeping the piece light and entertaining.
Hernandez-Kolski says he is a feminist and sarcastically portrayed a chauvinist trying to tear women down. He says people should realize how important women are to society and to appreciate all they do.
“Women constitute half the world’s population, perform nearly two-thirds of it’s daily operations, receive one-tenth of the world’s income and own less than one one-hundredth of the world’s property,” he says. “I challenge all men to think, would you want to change places for the day? We wouldn’t have the strength.”
Sophomore Jeremy Mathis says he loved the performance and as a male feminist, is now a fan. He says he thought Hernandez-Kolski was different than other lecturers in his performance style and interactivity.
“He was absolutely hysterical,” Mathis says. “I loved the way he engaged with the audience. He was a great speaker.”
Hernandez-Kolski recited his top 10 tips for college students, including getting off Facebook, making use of all the coffee students have, taking dance class and staying out of the friend-zone.
Along with his light-hearted remarks, he also included more important tips for life in general.
“Learn to accept people where they’re at,” Hernandez-Kolski says. “And number one, be patient with yourself.”
Hernandez-Kolski ended his talk with his favorite pieces of advice. He says students should live in the moment and never give up.
“All men are inherently good, treat people how you wish to be treated,” he says. “Give your own live the respect it deserves.”
Junior Binta Bah says she appreciated Hernandez-Kolski’s fresh perspectives.
“It was nice to see a guy talk about women in a positive light,” Bah says. “And talk about how girls may not be hot, but that’s still OK because they’re beautiful.”
Senior Emanuel Chacon, president of the Multicultural Greek Congress, introduced the acts. Chacon is also on the planning committee for Latino Heritage Month and says they chose Hernandez-Kolski because they though his upbeat attitude would allow students, especially new freshmen, to feel comfortable.
“In the past, the speakers have usually been more serious, so we wanted someone more fun who could show the celebration we’re starting,” Chacon says.