According to Josh Gonzalez, the Student Association vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA) and a senior on a 3+2 fast track to a M.S. in geography, his role is often misunderstood.
“People think that it’s just that you handle all the racist and problematic incidents that happen on campus and run the [Intercultural Awareness Committee] and just sit in the office,” he said. “But it’s so much more than that. For me personally, I wanted to be a VPMA that people can trust and feel comfortable going to at all times.”
During the weekend of March 23 through 25, PRISM caught up with Gonzalez, the self-proclaimed “flyest” VPMA, to get the true meaning of what his position entails. We shadowed Gonzalez as he attended a series of multicultural events.
The first event was the African Student Organization’s (ASO) Fashion Show. This year’s theme was based off the 1988 hit film, “Coming to America,” a story about a prince from Zamunda, a fictional African country, who flees his home in search of real love. The fashion show featured a rendition of the movie through skits all while displaying fashion from designers who incorporated African cultural elements into their clothing. Taking place in the Mandela Room in the University Union, roughly 250 students were in attendance.
The event was a lively celebration of African culture. The room was so packed that many audience members — including Gonzalez — weren’t able to get a seat. Sporting Balenciaga Triple S Trainer sneakers, a Burberry sweater and Marc Jacobs earrings, Gonzalez stood in awe of the fashion on display.
“I’m a fashion lover, so ASO definitely was my favorite,” Gonzalez said. “I was in love with the whole show. It was the best show since my sophomore year. I think Fatima [Kane, president of ASO and a senior majoring in political science] did a great job. Amazing, amazing job. It was high-energy, it was dope and all the attractions were crazy — and plus, my outfit was crazy.”
Gonzalez’s cultural experience continued on Saturday night with Barrio Fiesta. Hosted by the Philippine-American League (PAL), Barrio Fiesta happens every spring semester. The show celebrates Philippine culture while telling a story using various art forms, from skits to traditional Philippine dances. As the U.S. national anthem was sung, Gonzalez took a political stance by taking seat for the duration of the performance, honoring Colin Kapernick’s movement to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
“As long as this country continues to perpetuate the very evils it swears it does not stand for, I will not stand for a hypocritical message,” Gonzalez wrote in an email. “This country does not give liberty and justice for all, and until it does, I will not stand for the anthem.”
Through it all, Gonzalez was fascinated with the show as he continuously commented how entranced he was by PAL’s creativity in presenting Philippine culture.
“[My] favorite part of Barrio was when they tackled DACA and ICE,” he wrote in an email. “People tend to think it’s just Latinos getting deported, when the dismantling of DACA and other programs effects all minority groups.”
The weekend came to a close on Sunday with Japan Night, hosted by the Binghamton University Japanese Association (BUJA). A showcase of Japanese culture, the show was composed of musical performances, choreographed fight scenes and a video story chronicling a fictional story of the club’s president, Toshihiro Yatomi, a senior majoring in business administration, and his journey to Japan Night.
“I loved the e-board’s dance,” he wrote in an email. “They were so hyped up and looked like they were having fun it was great.”
Although Gonzalez enjoyed the evening, it was clear that the event-packed weekend was taking a toll on him. Slouched in his chair, Gonzalez’s eyes lowered and though he wasn’t asleep, it was obvious that he needed rest.
“It’s difficult being on the fast track, being a 3+2 student, while being the VPMA because sometimes I find it hard to concentrate on my own work,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of students actually forget that I’m a student. Sometimes you advocate for student groups, you do a lot of things for students but they don’t really know. It’s not necessarily your fault or their fault. But you do it for the love of the culture and the community even if the culture and community don’t see that.”
Read more about Josh Gonzalez here