Diversity Monologues

Fese Elango shares a diversity monologue from last year.

It’s a new year, which means another round of Zags sharing their stories that don’t always get told. 

Gonzaga will hold its 11th annual Diversity Monologues (DM) on March 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Zoom. This is an annual spoken word poetry event put on by the Unity Multicultural Education Center (UMEC) Programming Pillar and serves as an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to share their stories and experiences through spoken word. As the name of the event suggests, there is an emphasis on spotlighting voices that are underrepresented. 

“I think it gives members of the GU community an amazing opportunity to speak their truths and share their experiences with others in such an artful and moving way, and I’m so glad to be on the committee this year while we navigate through these challenges brought upon us by the pandemic,” said Josiah Saifoloi, a sophomore who is on the committee planning this event. 

Despite the pandemic altering what is possible when putting on these events, the committee has found a way to host the event while keeping everyone safe. In fact, the pandemic has allowed them to invite a wider range of participants. 

“We have participants from the west side [of Washington] and some who are locals,” said Program Manager for Intercultural Development SR Gibson, who is also on the planning committee. “We have some folks who are filming their pieces and some will be performing live on the stage. We will be alternating between filmed pieces and live performances and the event will be streamed for folks to watch on Zoom.”

Each year, a theme is selected for all of the participants to focus the messages of their performances on. The theme they picked this year seems to be in response to recent events that have highlighted ongoing issues. 

“This year’s theme for Diversity Monologues is Empowering Our Truths,” said Vanessa Kunakornvanich, a sophomore who is also on the committee behind this event. “The committee put in a lot of time and thought behind this because 2020 highlighted so many of the existing issues within our country. We wanted to hear what their experiences were and for DM to be a safe space to share their truths.”

Gibson echoed Kunakornvanich’s comment about the past year being an unprecedented one, and expanded upon their reasoning behind picking the theme.

“We can look at how inequities have been exposed in so many ways,” they said. “We’re asking folks to talk about how they have defied norms and have transcended history books. How have they connected or reconnected with the truths of their identities and how are they working toward healing and finding hope in the challenging times we have experienced this year?” 

Not only will students and faculty speak, DM has acquired Seattle-based spoken word poet and speaker Christian Paige to emcee the event. He will also perform some of his own pieces.

“He’s really passionate about talking about identity, creating inclusive environments and encouraging leaders,” Gibson said. “We thought this would be a great opportunity for him to connect with our students. He is also an Act Six scholar graduate so that was just a great connection to some of the identities we support in our program.”

Act Six is a leadership and scholarship program that links local faith-based community affiliates with faith and social justice-based colleges. It is Spokane’s only full-tuition, full-need scholarship. It brings together a diverse community of young people from different backgrounds who want to use their college education to make a difference on campus and in their communities.

Diversity Monologues is a chance for Zags to educate themselves by hearing from their peers’ underrepresented experiences.

“It is an opportunity to hear from voices that aren’t always amplified,” Gibson said. “It is always great to hear from our new and upcoming artists that haven’t had the opportunity to be featured. I have been here for five years and every year it’s a wonderful night of poetry, performances and art.”

Saifoloi also expressed the significance of putting on this event each year.

“Being able to create spaces for our community members to be vulnerable and powerful with their stories is so fulfilling and I’m looking forward to what comes next.” he said.

If you are interested in attending the event on March 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., you can sign up for the event on UMEC’s Zagtivities page. Make sure you are logged in so you can view and reserve a spot.

Marissa Conter is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @marissaconter.


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