Social Justice Award Winners Announced at 9th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Center for Intercultural Learning and Inclusion hosts a series of events each year, all of which begin with the MLK Jr. Dinner. On Tuesday, January 21st the Saint Anselm College community gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King as well as the efforts of others who have been inspired by his message and his dream, including some of our very own.

The event began with students reading excerpts from poems that resonated with them when they thought about race and the world around them. One student’s poem choice resonated in particular with the audience. Larissa Charitable, ‘20, read aloud Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again”, a misnomer that aims to debunk the myth that America was never a fully idealized place and continues to need immense growth. Hughes’s poem asks, “‘to build a homeland of the free’ The free? Who said the free? Not me?” to which he answers “let America be America again- The land that never has been yet”.

Beautifully orated, Charitable’s choice of poem came as a needed reminder that we must never stop speaking the truth while injustice continues to occur, and that idealizing a place as having ever been perfect leaves out forgotten histories, making true progress all the more difficult.

One of the main events of the MLK Dinner is the presentation of the MLK Social Justice Awards. These awards aim to highlight one Saint Anselm College student and one faculty or staff member who shows great leadership, compassion, and courage when it comes to advocating for social justice in our community.

The faculty award was presented to Professor Max Latona from the Philosophy Department. Latona is the Executive Director of the College’s Center for Ethics and Business in Governance, as well as the co-founder of Inti Academy, a non-profit that serves refugee, immigrant, and underprivileged children in Manchester. Working in this capacity for 10 years, Latona provided immense resources for these underrepresented groups in the Manchester area, ensuring them a place to develop together.

The student award was presented to senior, Richard Cabrera ’20. Cabrera was selected for the work he has done advancing the rights, representation, and empowerment of his peers on campus. Despite the difficulty, Rich is persistent and demonstrates impressive and admirable dedication to his community. He is constantly presented with an uphill battle at our predominantly white college, but nonetheless he continues fighting for what is right. Despite this, he has continued to be a strong force for change, as well as compassion. Like Dr. King, Cabrera manages the paradox of both confronting the injustice and prejudice in the world while also maintaining a positive outlook on life and what things could become. This balancing act is a struggle for most people, however, Rich performs it with ease.

Not only does Cabrera advocate for social justice on campus, he is a Forensic Science major, pursuing his degree and accomplishing what he initially came to Saint A’s to do. Cabrera has also been involved with the Intercultural Center’s Transitions program, which is a pre-orientation program designed to allow students from underrepresented groups (and anyone else who wants to apply) the opportunity to arrive on campus early to prepare themselves for the adjustment to college. In this capacity, Cabrera served as a mentor for three years, both to his mentees and also the rest of the program and the campus.

Cabrera is a Resident Assistant and has been for two years, serving the college in yet another capacity. In this role, Cabrera has continued to stand up for his ideals, even when it was made difficult or uncomfortable for him to do so. He shows great courage in ensuring that all Anselmians are not looked over, forgotten, or disrespected, whether it be by fellow students, faculty, or staff. Cabrera serves as the President of our school’s Multicultural Student Coalition, a student group that provides a safe space for all students to gather, develop, and address change that needs to occur on campus.

College students normally have a lot to manage on top of their academics, but someone like Rich shows a kind of strength that is rare and should always be highlighted. Not only did he move from California to New Hampshire, heat for cold, home cooked meals for Davison, a community that understood and respected him to one that needed a LOT of work, but he also never let that defeat him. He had the option to return home and end his time at Saint A’s, but he decided to stay and work to make this new home as good as it could be, and our Anselmian community is forever thankful.

I have known Rich personally and have seen the work he has done on this campus firsthand. He goes out of his way consistently to make sure that injustice anywhere is stomped out. He has advocated for all underrepresented communities on campus equally, but the most inspiring for me to have watched is the role he plays for the LatinX community on campus. He has mentored these students to believe in and advocate for themselves, helping them succeed on campus and showing them what they are capable of. We still have a lot of work to do on this campus, but there is no doubt in any of our minds that because of Rich’s legacy the path to get there will be much less rocky for the people who follow in his shoes.

Saint A’s Encourages Students to “Just Take the First Step” During MLK Celebration

As students return to the Hilltop from their winter break, the Intercultural Center is hard at work in preparation for its Black History Month celebrations. The College is celebrating the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other champions of progressivism from a variety of ethnicities.

These celebrations, coordinated by the Intercultural Center, are focused on the mentality and theme of “Just Take the First Steps.” The theme is meant to facilitate dialogue and inspire action in students to work towards equality for all people. Wayne Currie, Director of the Intercultural Center, hopes students and attendees will take advantage of the opportunities and events being offered by the College. He continued that he hopes “attendees will feel empowered to embark on a journey toward progress and change by taking the first step.” 

Some of the events being offered include the Martin Luther King Jr Dinner on Tuesday, January 22nd, featuring keynote speaker Melanie Levesque, New Hampshire’s first African American senator.  The Intercultural Center will also be teaming up with the Gender Studies Department to commemorate the works of poet and activist Audre Lorde on Wednesday, January 23rd with a showing of the film The Edge of Each Other’s Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde. The documentary will be followed with informal dinner and discussion of Lorde’s book Sister Outsider. The College hopes for these events to spark meaningful and productive dialogue.

A full list of the month’s events are below.

  • 01/22: MLK Dinner with State Sen. Melanie Levesque (NHIOP Auditorium @ 4:30pm)
  • 01/23: A Celebration of Audre Lord (Jean Auditorium @ 5pm, followed by a discussion in the LLC @ 7:30pm)
  • 01/24: Lucubrations Open Mic (LLC Classroom @ 7:30pm)
  • 01/25: Will the Poor Really Always Be With Us? (Joseph 005 @ 12:30pm)
  • 01/25: Philosophy Club discussion on race (Bradley Lounge @ 3pm)
  • 01/28: Latinxs, the Bible, and Migration (Perini Lecture Hall @ 7:30pm)
  • 01/30: A Talk by Dr. Jennifer Thorn: “Blackness and Boyhood in New England” (NHIOP West Wing @ 1:30pm)
  • 01/31: Mary Church Terrell, African American Women, and Suffrage (Dana 1D @ 4pm)
  • 01/31: Debate Team public debate on whether or not undocumented immigrants should be granted amnesty (Perini Lecture Hall @ 7pm)
  • 02/04: Showing of The Great Debaters (Koonz Theater @ 7:30pm)
  • 02/06: Showing of The Climb/L’Ascension (Perini Lecture Hall @ 6pm)
  • 02/07: Race and Baseball in the U.S. with a showing of 42 (Dana 1D @ 5pm)
  • 02/13: March and Vigil (Abbey Church @ 8:30pm)
  • 02/13: Campus Mass (Abbey Church @ 9pm)
  • 02/16: CAB Trivia on MLK and Black History (C-Shop @ 8pm)
  • 02/21: A Lecture by Debby Irving: “I’m A Good Person, Isn’t that Enough?” (Dana Center @ 7pm)
  • 02/22-23: Unity Retreat sponsored by the Intercultural Center
  • 02/27: Community Conversation on Race (President’s Dining Room @ 12:30pm)
  • 03/20: Conversation on Equity with community partners (NHIOP West Wing @ 6pm)

(Photo from

Students Uncomfortable with New Name of Multicultural Center

The inauguration of the Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex has come with a slew of renamings of campus offices to reflect the valued contributions of the many benefactors who made the new Complex possible. The most substantial renaming is that of the office previously known as the Multicultural Center.

As students began flocking to the building, some noticed that the office they affectionately knew as “Multi” was branded with a new name: the “Fr. Jonathan Center.” The full name of the center is the The Father Jonathan, O.S.B., Center for Intercultural Learning and Inclusion.

In an email to the school community, Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Ande Diaz explained the name change, “In 2013, donors honored Father Jonathan DeFelice O.S.B., ’69, whose groundbreaking work for diversity and inclusion as president of the college laid the foundation for the continued work of the center.” She continued, “We are blessed to have Father Jonathan’s continued support for our commitment to serving diverse students; and while the Center’s mission remains unchanged, the new name reflects a 21st century approach.” Her email also explained that the name of the new Intercultural Center was being shortened on some signage to the “Fr. Jonathan Center.”

As Dr. Diaz mentioned in her email, the full name of the former Multicultural Center has included Fr. Jonathan’s name since 2013. Previous signage and on-campus references to the Center did not refer to it as the “Fr. Jonathan Center,” however.

The new abbreviated name reflects the work of the former president of the college, Jonathan DeFelice O.S.B. ‘69. When he served as president, Fr. Jonathan helped to spearhead efforts for diversity and inclusion on campus.

President Emeritus Fr. Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B. ’69, for whom the new Intercultural Center is named. (Photo taken from Saint Anselm College)

In a written statement to The Hilltopper, Fr. Jonathan explained the importance of the Intercultural Center, saying, “The Center for Intercultural Learning and Inclusion is the result of a great deal of thinking and planning on how to best implement the call of Catholic Social teaching concerning reaching out to all.” He called the center a “tangible way of exercising Benedictine hospitality.”

Sheila Ramirez ‘18, who frequents the Fr. Jonathan Center, explained that Director of the Fr. Jonathan Center Wayne Currie and Dr. Diaz informed her of the name change, citing recent donations made to the center. “The donors chose to give towards the multicultural center to honor the legacy of Father Jonathan who was a beloved president of the college and the founder of the multicultural center,” Ramirez explained. She went on, “At the end of the day, Saint Anselm College is a business and the renaming of the center is up to those who have the most money.”

Ramirez’s experience, however, was atypical. Gabriel Lopez ‘20 said, “Initially, we weren’t told anything about the name change until we saw the plaques on the walls and questioned it ourselves.” According to Lopez, Director Currie explained the name change to the students who are involved in the Fr. Jonathan Center after they discovered the change.

While understanding the realities of the renaming process, Ramirez voiced concerns about the new name, specifically the decision to abbreviate the name to the Fr. Jonathan Center as opposed to the Intercultural Center. “I believe advertising the multicultural center as the Father Jonathan center does not correlate with the mission of the multicultural center.” Citing the center’s emphasis on inclusivity, Ramirez does not believe that the abbreviated name should reflect one individual.

She was quick to point out that Fr. Jonathan’s legacy should be honored by the center, however, and she seemed appreciative of Fr. Jonathan’s work on behalf of inclusivity and diversity. “Should we honor the legacy of Father Jonathan? Of course. A sign that speaks in depth to the legacy of Father Jonathan should be displayed in the center, but the first part of the name of the center should not be a person’s name,” she said. “The mission of the center is inclusivity and welcoming while having the name of the center be after a person who is an ally takes away from our mission and is separatist.”

Lopez said he, too, understands the contributions Fr. Jonathan made to the center, but he is not enthusiastic about the decision to abbreviate the center’s name to the “Fr. Jonathan Center.”

He explained, “I didn’t agree with the change to ‘Fr. Jonathan Center,’ though I know of his importance, involvement, and how he is the reason we exist and have the opportunity to promote diversity, his name on the forefront takes away from who we are and only added confusion to people [who are] part of the center or not.”

Lopez said he is, however, supportive of the decision to refer to the center as the “intercultural” center instead of the “multicultural” center. Dr. Diaz explained the change in her email, saying, “The term ‘multicultural’ means ‘many cultures’ and was popularized in the 1990s; ‘intercultural’ symbolizes that today, these many cultures are now interacting and engaging across cultural differences.”

Ramirez and Lopez did not believe that students were consulted at any point in the renaming process. The decision seems to have been made for them. However, their voices have been heard. On Thursday, May 3, when additional signage was installed in the Jean Complex, the abbreviated sign for the Intercultural Center was changed from the “Fr. Jonathan Center” to the “Intercultural Center.”

When asked to comment on the process, Director Currie declined to speak with The Hilltopper about the issue. So, too, did Dr. Diaz. In her declination to comment, Dr. Diaz cited the fact The Hilltopper is an independent newspaper not recognized by the College. She made clear, however, she was happy to have a conversation about the process with interested students.

Other students declined to comment on the issue, and Fr. Jonathan, while happy to share insight into his work at the college, respectfully declined to comment on the renaming process, citing the fact he was not intimately involved.