As he’s begun working on how to bridge cultures at Bethel, Caleb Lázaro has found one of the most effective tools to be salsa dancing.
Lázaro just finished his first semester as Multicultural Student Union adviser -- not a new position, but a greatly expanded one.
I came into a program that had been largely focused on fellowship, Lázaro says.
We’re now trying to get at it from more angles -- trying to find diverse ways of engaging marginalized populations on campus.
marginalized populations, he says, he means
students from other cultures, particularly inner-city or large-city, unfamiliar with the dominant culture -- which is white and rural/small-town. They are often underrepresented here because of how they communicate, the music they listen to, a very different worldview.
The Multicultural Student Union is a safe place to voice some of that.
Though the formal MSU group that meets monthly is not large -- 9-10 at most -- one of their goals is
to engage all cultures on campus, Lázaro says. To that end, they planned several events during the fall, including the salsa dancing, when Lázaro’s sisters, Daniela and Myriam, came from Colorado Springs one weekend in September to lead dance instruction.
About 60 students showed up for salsa, cumbia, merengue, bachata (a traditional dance from the Dominican Republic) and open dancing with recorded music.
The public event for October was a mini-concert at Bethel’s Fall Festival, with a half-dozen students performing in their preferred styles, ranging from gospel to hip-hop to slam poetry.
Lázaro sees music as an essential way to foster student communication.
Engaging with the musical culture that comes from being in an urban context has been important to us in the MSU, he says.