The MLD Colloquium was established in March 1995. Bernard Picard, Chairperson at the time, Peter Consenstein, Donald and Shu Jenner, and myself were the first organizing committee. Our first Colloquium entitled “Identity and Exclusion. Foundations of Racism & Bigotry,” brought together speakers who discussed these issues in light of different theories, from Psychoanalysis to sexual politics. Stanley Aronowitz, Elena M. Martínez and Alfredo Villanueva, CUNY professors, and Bruce Benderson, writer and activist, were part of the roster of panelists. The Colloquium closed with a roundtable discussion on how to understand racism and bigotry.
Initially, the MLD Colloquium aimed to bring together scholars, writers and activists to discuss diverse issues, following an academic format. This format prevailed until 1998, when the Colloquium became an open ground that also included students and artists. The change in focus was due to the fact that, being a teaching institution, BMCC was in need of a yearly event in which the college community at large could participate.
The title of the first Colloquium following this new format was “Cultural Expressions of Asian Languages in New York City” in 1998. In this event, distinguished speakers and CUNY faculty and staff, such as Ping Xu (Baruch College), Michio Hayashi (Columbia University) and Russell Davis (CUNY China Programs Coordinator) discussed issues dealing with the Asian languages and their impact in New York media, business, travel and the arts industry. The faculty cafeteria prepared a Chinese menu and members of the New York People’s Peking Opera Troupe ended the Colloquium with a music and dance performance.
This new format attracted many students, faculty and staff. Also, MLD and other BMCC professors brought their classes to the event. We also made attendance leaflets for the students to sign and write their opinions in order to assess the learning component of the Colloquium.
In its twenty-first year, the Colloquium has grown in scope, bringing many speakers from multiple backgrounds to BMCC. In this sense, the V Colloquium entitled “Afro-Caribbean Connections,” saw, among others, the coming to BMCC of well-known writer Maryse Condé, Chair of the Center for French and Francophone Studies at Columbia University, and of ethnologist Henry Frank, Director of the Haitian Centers Council. And the VI Colloquium, entitled “Italian 2K,” brought a distinguished roster of speakers such as Giorgio Ridicati, Consul General of Italy in New York, Joseph V. Scelsa Director of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, and Paul Patanè, Art Director of the NYC Board of Education. Catherine Rovira, Chair of the Languages Department at John Jay College Co-Chaired with me this Colloquium.
The VII Colloquium “Visions & Voices: The Hispanic Experience in New York City” invited important journalists, media and business people such as Gamaliel de Jesús, Marketing Manager at El Diario La Prensa, Dennisse Pérez, Associate Director at Sony Music Entertainment and Patricio Lergundi, Director of the Multilingual Journalism Department at Lehman College. This Colloquium also marked the interruption of the event until 2005, following the September Eleven terrorists’ attacks and the conversion of the Richard Harris Terrace into classrooms.
In 2005 the MLD resumed the Colloquium with “Transatlantic Cultures: Spain in New York City.” Lidia del Pozo, Executive Director of the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce, and Raúl Alonso from the Executive Committee of the Cervantes Institute were among the panelists invited. A new section, “Languages in the Kitchen,” was fashioned in this Colloquium. Here, ethnic restaurants from the area sponsored typical dishes for the students to sample. They brought a chef and hot and cold dishes from Spain, France (IX Colloquium), Mexico (X Colloquium) and China (XI Colloquium).
Another important feature of the MLD Colloquium, is the visibility given to BMCC faculty and students. BMCC professors Maria de Vasconcelos (English Department) and Carmen Martínez-López (Business Department) participated in our panels in several occasions, and professor Martínez-López also invited her students to partake along seasoned speakers. For instance, in the X Colloquium entitled “Mexico & USA: Bridging Borders and Fences,” she organized a panel in which BMCC students shared the limelight with Gabriela Yzunza of the Mexican Trade Commission. And in the XI Colloquium entitled “Colombia & the American Experience”, she paired BMCC students majoring in business with María Catalina Colmenares Hernández, Colombia Consul of Legal Affairs, Linda A. Calvet, Executive Director of the Colombian American Association, and Diana Jurado, Assistant to the CEO of this organization. In all the cases in which students participated, outside speakers were very impressed with their presentations. Furthermore, while talking to speakers, several BMCC students also secured internships in their companies and organizations.
Perhaps the fondest memories of the Colloquia come with the closing performance. Actors, dancers, musicians and singers have been sharing their talents with the BMCC community throughout the years. For instance, in the XIII Colloquium entitled “Immigration & the Road to Success,” the Onez “Kongo” Lafontant & the Kongo Band arrived directly from Haiti, shortly after the 2010 devastating earthquake, to share their experiences and to bring the joy of their culture in spite of the harsh living conditions in the Island. The XII Colloquium entitled “China: Then and Now,” brought dancers, singers and musicians from the US-China Culture & Education Association, the XIV Colloquium entitled “Translating New York,” enjoyed the performance of Inma Heredia’s “My Audition for Almodóvar,” and the XV Colloquium entitled “Multiculturalism More than Ever: Global Exchanges in Troubled Times,” had a live performance of the Niall O’Leary Irish Dance Group in which MLD professor Kristina Varade also participated as a dancer and organizer.
BMCC students have also participated in this section of the Colloquium as performers and actors. In this sense, the XVIII Colloquium entitled “The Road to Fashion: Industry Challenges in a Global Economy,” had Dominican designer Laura Pou conducting a fashion workshop with students who also modeled their creations at the end of the event.
Last year, the XX MLD Colloquium entitled “World Cities: The Foreign and the Familiar” addressed the concept of the metropolis, and with it, the urban energy of the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
In all, the MLD Colloquium has been an important part of BMCC for two decades, and we hope to continue organizing it for many years to come.
How it all started…
I was approached by the Taiwan Economic & Cultural Office in 1994: Would BMCC be interested in hosting a visit from a group of ROC/Taiwan college students comprising the Chinese Youth Goodwill Mission. These young people were making a world tour’ at each hosting site, they put on a performance, met other college students and visited with members of the local Chinese community. BMCC’s location was ideal – close to Chinatown, easily reached from Chinese communities on Long Island and in northern New Jersey, and with an active, international student population. And of course, the college’s large Triplex I theatre was a perfect space. After some discussion, the college agreed. The event was a huge success. Theatre I was filled to capacity with students, faculty and folks from the community. The after-performance party hosted by the BMCC Student Government was tremendous.
Most especially, the ticket sales generated a tidy sum.
The college view was that this money should be folded into the BMCC Association kitty. I, with the support of the Modern Languages chair, Dr. Picard, took the view that this money resulted from Modern Languages staff efforts, and should be available for Modern Languages projects. After much (and somewhat heated…) discussion, the college agreed.
The following spring, Modern Languages hosted its first colloquium, on Identity & Exclusion. The day-long event presented three panels, including several noted speakers from outside the college. The entire event, from call-for-papers to program design and managing tea breaks and breakfast (we had an early starting time) was produced within the department, by college faculty. The Harris Terrace had a nice turnout for the event and there was money left over.
So, the Modern Languages department said, “This was sort of neat. Let’s do it again next year.” And that is how the department’s annual conference was born, over 20 years ago.
Sue begun teaching Mandarin at BMCC in Fall 1989. She introduced the first Asian Studies courses – Chinese History and Culture in 1993 and the Asian American History in 1994. She has been a catalyst, working with her colleagues throughout the college to expand BMCC’s multicultural focus to include the growing Asian American student population.
On Campus, Sue organized the Chinese Culture Association club (about 20 years ago), the New York Tribeca Campus Lions Club (2004 – present) and the Jewelry Making Club, selling its designs to raise money for charity (2014 – present). She is the organizer, coordinator and fund-raiser for promoting cultural events, young peoples’ leadership programs and various charity events to benefit homeless & needy people, children and natural disaster relief. On March 24th this year Sue is going to bring 20 BMCC students to attend Lions Day with the UN at the United nations.
Sue Jenner has degrees in Chinese Literature & Linguistics from National Taiwan Normal University and Education from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.