Differences Make Us Closer

Shades of Brown showcase celebrates Hispanic Heritage month


Last Wednesday, cheerful chatter, the chime of steel drums, melodic prose and smooth jazz drifted out from the back corner of the Johnson Center (JC). The crowd gathered in the JC bistro to celebrate a variety of cultures as well as Hispanic Heritage Month.

Shades of Brown is an annual open-mic event celebrating Hispanic Heritage month, hosted by the Mariposas Mentoring Program and the Latinas Promoviendo Comunida / Lambda Pi Chi sorority.

“This event is about coming together as a Hispanic community and talking and performing what we represent as Hispanics,” sophomore nursing major Valerie Grispo said. “I think this event just kinda brings us all together, for one purpose, which is supporting one another to just become better and stronger people in the future.”

The event was attended by curious passersby, friends of the organizers and some old friends and graduates coming back to visit. Everyone in attendance contributed to the positive atmosphere surrounding the Mason community.

“I have a friend who’s in the program, Elizabeth,” performer Eljhaie Brathwaite said. “She is from the same island as me. We’re good friends and she needed a performer. So I called my friends up so we could perform.”

Brathwaite, along with Domenic Lewis and Ronald Lee Jr., are music majors studying at Mason. Lewis originates from Barbados, and Brathwaite and Lee come from St. Thomas, one of the Virgin Islands. Known as The Fellas, the steel band ensemble performed two Caribbean songs to open the night.

“This is a cultural sharing event and I just wanted to be able to share a little of what I have,” senior Jamie Alvarez said. “The area we live in is a very diverse area, so the more that we’re able to understand and relate to other cultures, I think that it will just help us come together.”

Alvarez, a jazz studies minor, performed for the crowd on his keyboard. Other performers also read poetry and monologues to express their feelings and experiences in regards to their culture.

“I think we are ambassadors for our culture when it comes to people’s perception of not only the islands but people outside of the country altogether,” Lewis said.

One of the two organizations hosting the event, the Mariposas, work to pair underclassmen and transfer women with upperclassmen, usually of the same major or field, as a way to transition new students to life at Mason.

“We try to find common personalities because you want to help them build a relationship that can help them develop a stronger bond and help them empower each other,” Mariposas’ president, senior Gissela Sandoval, said. “I mean, sometimes upperclassmen need support from someone too.”

The Mariposas organization was originally founded by a member of Lambda Pi Chi, but eventually grew much larger and split off into its own organization, according to the president of Lambda Pi Chi, sophomore Selena Chagolla.

“The only event we have for Hispanic Heritage Month is Shades of Brown,” Sandoval said. “We wanted to create an event that shows not only Hispanic culture … I feel like we should be doing that all the time not just because it’s Hispanic Heritage Month … We need to celebrate all cultures; that’s why it’s called Shades of Brown.”

Together, the Mariposas and the Lambda Pi Chi sorority host an ice cream social event at the beginning of the fall semester, Shades of Brown during September, and Cupcakes and Cocoa at the start of the spring semester.

“It’s just a way for people to really learn about any type of culture and have an open mind about things,” Chagolla said. “One of the goals of our sorority is to enlighten our respective communities on Latinos cultural, political and social issues. I think it’s a really great way for people to have a better understanding of certain things and why certain people are so patriotic to their own countries.”

Lambda Pi Chi is listed on GetConnected GMU as “the first Latina-focused sorority.” The Mu chapter at Mason was started in 1999.

“It’s Latina focused but not Latina exclusive,” Chagolla said. “So we do have around 83 ethnicities. I think that it really shouldn’t be seen as just a Latina sorority. I was so in touch with the vision, mission and goals of the sorority. That’s really what kind of pushed me into joining it.”