Oakton College celebrates Hispanic heritage with free events

Oakton College in Des Plaines is marking Hispanic Heritage Month by holding free public events and supporting local Latino food vendors and business owners.

"Almost 20% of our students identify as Latinx," said Gabriel Chacon, equity coordinator for ¡ANDALE! "We invite all community members to attend our events to learn more about the Hispanic history and culture and celebrate with us the achievements and contributions Latin Americans have made not only on the global stage but in our community."

Here's the lineup of events:

• History of Lotería, 1-2:30 p.m. today: Known as "The Mexican Bingo," La Lotería is a tradition passed on from generation to generation for many Mexican and Central American descendants. Speaker Gloria Arjona teaches Spanish language and literature at the California Institute of Technology. She is the author of "¡Lotería! The Origins and Practices of the Mexican Bingo."

• Kayden Phoenix, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday: A queer Chicana writer and director from California talks about how she became an advocate for diversity. She created the Chicana Directors Initiative to support Latina directors and directors of photography. She created the first Latina superhero team in comic books with her "A LA BRAVA" graphic novels.

• Mercado de Cultura Latine, 5-9 p.m. Friday: Meet local Latino food vendors and business owners, listen to a DJ playing reggaeton, cumbia, merengue and bachata, and experience traditional Ecuadorian dance performances and food.

• 1-2 p.m. Oct. 2: Sylvia Rosillo, librarian for student engagement and an assistant professor of Library Services at Oakton, will explore the Americanization movement's lasting impact on the educational experience of Chicago's Mexican Pilsen community. She will delve into the evolution of bilingual education policies.

• Latin Representation in Media, 3-6 p.m. Oct. 5: Oakton Equity Coordinator Gabriel Chacon and ¡ANDALE! students will talk about Latin representation in the media, including music, news and movies.

• Brave Voices Author Event: Celebrating Latine Narratives, 11:10 a.m. Oct. 12: Alma Zaragoza-Petty, Mexican American author of "Chingona: Owning Your Inner Badass for Healing and Justice," will headline the event that aims to spotlight authors of color and amplify their stories.

For more information, visit

Inclusive center

Elmhurst University recently opened the Center of the Blue Promise/El Centro de la Promesa Azul, a culturally inclusive space and gathering place aimed at nurturing student success among the university's Hispanic, underserved and first-generation college students.

"This center is a space, a place, where everyone on this campus is welcome, and where we are centering our intentionality about serving our fastest-growing population, our Hispanic students," said Bruce King, vice president for equity and inclusion. "We want to make sure the work we're doing is moving from enrolling our Hispanic, Pell Grant-eligible and first-generation students, to making sure we are serving them in every way, every day, and in every corner of this campus."

The center is funded largely through a $3.4 million federal Title V grant, which the university received in the fall of 2022 within months of being designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.

Colleges and universities can gain the status if, over at least three consecutive years, more than 25% of their full-time undergraduate students identify as Hispanic or Latinx.

Services provided by the center include programming, leadership development, connecting students to campus resources, and greater engagement with students' families.

Grant funds also will support faculty development, changes to the First Year Seminar program, and greater opportunities for Hispanic and Latinx students to study abroad, do undergraduate research and take part in internships and service learning, said Karina Rivera, grant project director.

Normalizing disability

The Islamic Society of North America recently held its 60th annual convention in Rosemont, drawing roughly 20,000 attendees over Labor Day weekend.

The event featured more than 200 speakers including scholars, roundtable discussions, an interfaith dinner, a bazaar with 550 booths, a film festival, and entertainment.

It's the largest annual gathering of Muslims in America that also attracts people of other faiths, international delegations and local, state and federal government officials.

"Our goal is to unite people across different faiths and backgrounds in the spirit of peace and better understanding," said society President Safa Zarzour. "This is not just a Muslim event, but this is an American event."

This year's convention theme largely centered on how faith can inspire the community to bring positive social change.

Sara Minkara, the Biden administration's special adviser on international disability rights, spoke during the interfaith banquet.

"We're all individuals comprised of visible and invisible identities," said Minkara, who is blind. "But we, as humans, all across the world share one common thing, that is the desire to be seen, to be heard and to be valued."

That's not the reality for the 1.3 billion people with disabilities, she said.

"We are not yet at a point in society ... where we expect people with disabilities to be out and about going to schools, having jobs, having family. We have not yet normalized the identity of disability," Minkara said. "I'm a person with a disability. I cannot see. Don't change that about me, accept it ... change how you look at my disability."

Comic relief

ICNA Relief will host a comedy night Saturday, with Preacher Moss and Jeremy McLellan at Benedictine University in Lisle.

Doors will open at 7 p.m. with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. at the university campus, 5700 College Road.

Bryant Reginald Moss, who goes by the stage name Preacher Moss, is an American Muslim stand-up comedian and writer best known as one-third of the comedy trio "Allah Made Me Funny." McLellan is a Catholic writer and politically focused stand-up comedian who tours globally.

Tickets are $30 online or $40 at the door, and 100% of sales benefit ICNA Relief food pantries in Glendale Heights and Chicago's Rogers Park to help feed neighbors in need. There will be no fundraising at the event.

For tickets or more information, visit

State of Muslims

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar will deliver the keynote speech at the Indian American Muslim Council's annual dinner Saturday.

The theme for this year's fundraiser is "One Ummah, One Struggle: With hardship comes ease."

Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, will discuss the conditions of Muslims globally, focusing on the deteriorating human rights situation affecting minorities in India, particularly its population of 200 million Muslims.

Tickets are $100 per person. On-site registration for the event will begin at 6 p.m. with the program starting at 7 p.m. at Shalimar Banquets, 280 W. North Ave., Addison.

Register online at

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From left, Bruce King, Elmhurst University vice president of equity and inclusion, Karina Rivera, Hispanic-Serving Institution project director, and Elizabeth Quirarte, wellness case manager, led a celebration earlier this month for the opening of the Center of the Blue Promise. Courtesy of Elmhurst University
The Islamic Society of North America's recent 60th annual convention drew more than 20,000 attendees to Rosemont. Courtesy of Syed Ullah
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