Moorpark College celebrates Latinx Heritage Month


The Performing Arts Center sits empty as Moorpark College breaks for the summer on Thursday, May 20, 2021 in Moorpark, CA. The Latinx Heritage Month finale on Oct.15 will be an in-person event in the PAC. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Shahbano Raza

In light of Latinx Heritage Month, Moorpark College hosted several virtual and in-person events that honored the occasion. Latinx Heritage Month is a celebration and recognition of the achievements and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans.

Latinx Heritage Month which began Sept. 15 and ended Oct. 15, is better known as Hispanic Heritage Month. As described by NPR, controversy surrounding the label “Hispanic” has caused some institutions to opt for Latinx Heritage Month instead.

“At Moorpark College, we refer to (National Hispanic Heritage Month) as Latinx Heritage Month,” the Moorpark College website explains. “It traditionally honors the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latino Americans as we celebrate heritage rooted in all Latin American countries.”

Moorpark College launched the celebratory month with a webinar on Sept. 15, introducing the school’s new ethnic studies program.

The webinar began with a video of faculty members honoring the Latinx heritage. During the video presentation, Moorpark College President Julius Sokenu brought attention to the fact that Moorpark College is a Hispanic-serving institute and therefore has a commitment to its students to provide equity and inclusivity.

“We need to do the work of making sure we have that representation in our campus,” said Sokenu. “And, our mission is such that we want to make sure we are representing an inclusive community of practice.”

Dean of Student Learning Monica Garcia also touched on the importance of representation and inclusivity.

“A sense of belonging is extremely important, and when you feel embraced not just by those students who know your life experience or at least can have a comparable life experience to your own, you have that sense of belonging,” said Garcia.

Dr. Farisa Morales, a STEM professor at Moorpark College, and Garcia moderated a webinar that took place on Sept. 27, titled “Latinas Leading the Way.” The online event featured a panel of Latina women with leadership roles in education.

Sokenu commenced the webinar with some opening remarks about the panelists and the significance of the event.

“This is an opportunity for us to learn and to embrace the stories of our Latinx brothers and sisters and particularly, the role of our women in Latinx leadership,” said Sokenu.

Dr. Daisy Gonzalez, the acting California Community Colleges State Chancellor, was one of the panelists who discussed the impact that culture and heritage can have on education. During the webinar, Gonzalez emphasized that respect is the foundation for all progress in the education system and the workforce.

“Every space that I want to enter, I want to redesign it, so that whatever it is, it is treating people with respect,” said Gonzalez.

The California Community Colleges Executive Vice Chancellor of Education, Marty Alvarado, was another panelist during the webinar. Alvarado stressed the importance of amplifying the voices of the Latinx community, specifically the voices of young Latinas.

“The world loses a lot when we silence ourselves because we have so much to offer,” Alvarado said.

Moorpark College also hosted other online, moderated events like the “Latinas Leading the Way” webinar. On Sept. 22, current and former Moorpark College students of Latinx identity voiced their experiences and shared their stories.

On Sept. 30, Dr. Alice Baumgartner, a history professor at the University of Southern California, discussed her book, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to Civil War. And, on Oct. 4, Garcia and Morales co-moderated a webinar titled “Women in Higher Education Breaking through The Adobe Ceiling.”

The Latinx Heritage Month finale on Oct.15 will be an in-person event. Students will have the opportunity to interact with Arturo Sandoval, a Grammy Award-winning musician.

Tamarra Coleman, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator on campus, alongside the rest of the Latinx Heritage Month planning team, is organizing the event, which will include a master class and a lecture.

“In the morning, at 10 a.m., there is a master class (on campus),” Coleman explained. “The music masterclass is open to all and is especially relevant to our music students.”

From 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., students who are not able to make it on campus will have the option to hear the lecture portion of the event through Zoom.

“Arturo will talk about his journey as a musician and also as a Cuban immigrant,” Coleman said.

More events celebrating Latinx Heritage Month and sparking discourse about Latinx history and influence are soon to come. Details on upcoming events, as well as the zoom links for upcoming webinars and the recordings of past webinars, will be provided here.