“Imagine a Villanova that’s made up of multicultural people, that serves diversified food, that listens to all kinds of music, that can really transform the world in which it lives,” Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., said last Saturday night at the Multicultural Students League’s 12th annual MSL Night.
Donohue, who will be inaugurated next year as Villanova University’s 32nd president, served as the keynote speaker for the evening’s cultural event, which consisted of 10 uniquely choreographed or written acts of dance, music and spoken word.
Donohue recognized the efforts of the Multicultural Students League in striving to bring multiculturalism into the visible realm of student life. He also reflected on the University’s large-scale efforts to diversify students and staff on campus, as well as the need to continue these practices.
“We know about Villanova’s image to the outside public,” Donohue said, “but we are more than that. We are a group of men and women who come from different places, different economic backgrounds and different cultural and ethnic experiences.”
The assortment of talent in the evening’s acts exemplified the diverse backgrounds and experiences of Villanova’s students.
As the samosas, flautas and lo mein noodles served before the show began to settle in the stomachs of the audience members, everything from tinikling to salsa to hip-hop dances graced the stage of the Connelly Center’s Villanova Room.
Though the evening was entertaining for all who attended, MSL co-chairs Oscar Abello and David Heayn insist that multiculturalism is more than simply food and dance.
“Food and entertainment are readily-available methods of demonstrating culture, but they cannot define a person,” Heayn said. “Everyone thinks of MSL as a minority group, but culture is something that every Villanovan shares. Everyone comes from his own unique culture and background, and that’s what makes up this community.”
MSL asked some of Villanova’s most talented writers to perform in an effort to provide more than a visual and musical show.
Three performers addressed social issues through the spoken word. Will Sheridan, who was asked by MSL perform in place of a cultural group that cancelled two days before the show, spoke on education in a BET-watching generation with his piece entitled “Educate: Ignorance Is Ugly.”
“We need to feed our future, food for thought, food for the mind, body and soul, so we can improve our real culture, not just pop culture, as a whole,” he said.
In his keynote address, Donohue also spoke about students’ responsibility as individuals to reach out to those who do not have the means to educate themselves.
“We attend, work and live in an expensive environment,” Donahue said. “We need to take that expensive environment and bring it to those places far less fortunate than ourselves.”
Villanova’s continuing tradition of philanthropy and unity was mirrored in MSL Night’s theme, “Imagine.”
Derived from the John Lennon song, the words and atmosphere conveyed a hope that one day the “world will live as one.”
Ivanley Noisette, another performer of spoken word, relayed the sentiment of unity in his untitled piece: “Italians, Sicilians, Haitians, Nigerians, Koreans, Algerians, all earthly citizens, seem to be bound, and please correct if there’s an error in my sound, by governments that break covenants, wars we deplore, weapons galore, exploit the poor.”
Donohue encouraged the Villanova community to embrace the flourishing multiculturalism on campus as “who we are” and “what we are all about,” or in Will Sheridan’s words, to “move beyond tolerance.”
According to Donohue, recognizing the diversity of the community is the first step toward celebrating and reaping the benefits of a multicultural society.
“Imagine how different it would be if we embraced that notion,” Donohue said. “Imagine a Villanova not seen as a Western-centric world. Imagine a Villanova that is here tonight.”