The 11th annual Diversity Monologues took place tonight, from 5:30-7 p.m., drawing a large crowd of Zoom attendees to witness the sharing of personal narratives based on the theme “Empowering Our Truth.”
Diversity Monologues was put on by the Unity Multicultural Education Center (UMEC) and was livestreamed from the John J. Hemmingson Auditorium, where performers shared their stories for their audience on Zoom. Performers who were not able to perform in-person prerecorded their monologues, which were then shared at the event.
The event began with a welcome from Tere Graham, program manager for social justice programs and one of the advisors for Diversity Monologues, and a land acknowledgement from Asha Douglas, one of the members of the Diversity Monologues committee.
Josiah Saifoloi, another one of the committee members, then explained how the theme of “Empowering Our Truth” was chosen. Saifoloi said the committee wanted a theme that would be accessible to everyone at Gonzaga, and the experience allowed the committee members to reflect on their own experiences with assimilation as well as reclaim their truths.
The other two committee members, Marianne Nacanaynay and Vanessa Kunakornvanich, also gave thanks to the faculty members who assisted with Diversity Monologues by helping the performers edit their monologues and run performance workshops.
Christian Paige, an Emmy-nominated poet, keynote speaker and educator, was the emcee for the event. Paige described Diversity Monologues as an essential program and said the truths the performers were about to share are not up for debate.
“We learn so much through story and art that allows us to widen our aperture and understanding,” Paige said via email. “I’ve wanted to be a part of the program for years and am honored to be here now.”
The first performer of the event was Miranda Abunimeh, who opened her monologue with a story about dressing up as Sleeping Beauty one Halloween when she was a child. Abunimeh described how she searched for someone on TV who looks like her, but wasn’t able to find anyone, leading into her own realizations about her worth and how women are viewed as objects in movies and in society.
Abunimeh concluded her piece by coming back to the theme of Disney characters and fairy tales, and the realization that she only loves women and was trying for too long to fit into the wrong shoe, she said.
“What if when I kiss her for the first time, it’s like I’m the one who is gasping awake?” Abunimeh said in her monologue.
The next performer of the night was Taryn Lewis, who shared her monologue via video. Lewis spoke about reconnecting to forces of power, discovering that our truths are within us and around us, and using what she has to keep going and pushing forward.
“And still I rise, because what’s most important to me is the choice and the voice,” Lewis said.
After Lewis, Emily Livingston performed her monologue. Livingston said she was told to shrink her body size, and so she did. But after she had done so, she felt that she had nothing left to share, and she felt she was too much for her shrunken body, so she rebuilt herself, Livingston said.
Livingston called out fat-shamers and concluded her monologue by sharing the realizations and truths she has gained, emphasizing she will not shrink, but she will take up space because she would rather be too much instead of shrinking to meet the expectations of others, she said.
“I breathe in the audacity to live in the only body I will ever have,” Livingston said.
Paige then spoke to the audience, encouraging them to share their appreciation and cheer for the performers. Throughout each performance during the event, the Zoom chat was overflowing with support for the performers and the stories they shared. Paige then thanked the performers for sharing and introduced the next performer, Trish Alvaro.
Alvaro told the story of how she believed in magic when she was younger, but as she grew up, colonization, white supremacy and patriarchy impacted the way she thought, and she began wondering if the American dream was really a nightmare.
The monologue ended with Alvaro proclaiming a spell to reclaim the magic given to her by her ancestors, honoring it by existing as she is and as she needs to be.
Jacquelyn Gaither performed after Alvaro, sharing a monologue via video in the style of a poem about her experiences as a Black, biracial woman.
“The Black woman is unstoppable,” Gaither said in her piece.
Gaither shared the ways she has been labeled and the challenges she faces, including that college once seemed like an impractical dream, she said. However, Gaither ended her monologue by speaking about her resilience and determination to get her degree as well as how she has made her place in this world unimpeachable, she said.
The last two performers at Diversity Monologues were Joan Iva Fawcett, the assistant dean for diversion, inclusion, community and equity, and Paige.
Fawcett’s monologue was also done in the style of a poem, and a story of her search for home, tracing her history and her own journey and learning to resist.
“I am exactly who and where I’m meant to be,” Fawcett said.
In Paige’s poem, which he shared via prerecorded video, he said the truth has always been given to him and he has always been asked to accept the dominant narrative, and how oppression can take away one’s agency on the truth.
“Now my truth lives at the intersection of defying and defining,” Paige said, concluding his poem with his belief in the version of the truth he was taught – that everyone is created equal – and how he is now testing that with his own truth.
After Paige thanked the audience and performers, Graham ended Diversity Monologues with some closing words. Graham encouraged the audience to hold onto the moment and allow it to resonate and shift their mindsets, and to come back for next year’s Diversity Monologues.