Published 02/16/12

What is pluralism?

February 2012

David Hurley ’13 (Ashaway, RI) had personal reasons for entering last year’s "What is Pluralism?" competition. “I wanted to break through stereotypes,” says the performer, whose rap, “All Men are Created Equal,” took first place in last year’s contest. “People always tell me I’m too white, or that I’m not tough enough, or that I don’t dress like a rapper, and that has always motivated me to work harder to prove I deserve people’s respect.”

“People laughed, they cried, and they were motivated to continue the dialogue,” says Hurley. “Anyone who didn’t go to this event missed out on a moving experience.”

The accounting major has been rapping for three years and completed an album in the summer of 2011. “I’m writing music for a second album and seeking sponsors, but right now, I’m just trying to speak my mind and gain a following,” says Hurley. “Like everyone else, I’m trying to break through stereotypes and define myself as an individual.”

'Show your true colors'

Second-place winners Nikita Gittens ’13 (Bridgeport, CT) and Jodi Ricci ’13 (Lincoln, RI) started their performance with a spoken word piece that wove in the lyrics of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

“We chose those lyrics,” says Ricci, “because they portray how we can all unite as one and respect each other’s differences.”  Adds Gittens, “Both the words to John Lennon’s song and Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” really depict what our thoughts are about pluralism.”

After the spoken word piece, Gittens and Ricci performed an original dance to “True Colors,” in which they demonstrated the idea of pluralism by beginning their dance across the room from one another, performing individual steps, eventually moving closer and dancing together, acknowledging differences and coming together as one.

“I entered this contest because I wanted my opinion heard about an issue that needs to be addressed,” says Gittens. Ricci adds, “We have such great opportunities to meet new people on this campus, and students should take more advantage of them.”

‘Was it anyone’s fault?’

Brett Miller ’11 (Harvard, MA) wrote a speech, “What is Pluralism?,” that described his journey to find the answer to that question. “I learned quickly that I could get almost any information I wanted out of a stranger closest to my own cultural background; that is, young, white males,” he says. “The further away from this point my audience was, the harder the conversation became. Was this my fault or theirs? Was it anyone’s fault?”

He also mentioned how much he appreciated being part of this contest. “Being here, listening to everyone express their views…I’m getting so much more out of it than if I had just done my research and written my speech without hearing anyone else’s ideas.”

Miller tied for third place with Kelly McDonough ’12 (Wallingford, CT), whose presentation “Pluralism: One Year Later” took a self-deprecating look at her entry from last year while describing the epiphany about the real meaning of pluralism she had while studying abroad. “Leon from New Zealand licked his plate after the first dinner we had together,” she recounts, wrinkling her nose, while describing her roommates. “But Jorge from Chile is the one who made me understand what pluralism really meant. I didn’t like him at first; I thought he was less than me, but the great understanding and change that I experienced with him is irreplaceable.”

McDonough says that her moment of clarity came out of one of the late-night conversations that came to be a regular occurrence between her and Jorge. “One night, he said to me, ‘you know, Kelly, I never really thought you liked me because I was different from you,’ ” she recalls. “And it hit me. Hard. It was like a punch in the gut. He was right, and how close-minded was that?”

 ‘The journey is about the people you meet’

Taking home honorable mention last year was Kate Rosales ’11 (Dallas, TX), whose essay “Three Stories on Strays,” was a quietly reflective piece describing the people who have affected her in her life. “In my experiences, I have learned that the journey of life is not about the places you see but the people you meet along the way.”

All of last year’s participants spoke compellingly about the idea of pluralism. “Pluralism…is the ultimate goal of a civil society,” says Ariana Alicea ’12 (Providence, RI). Ashley Fullard ’14 (Brockton, MA) questioned why no one is discussing the “Pluralism in Beauty.” Magazines and television show only one ideal of beauty, she says, when, in reality, there are so many different types of beautiful women.

The “What is Pluralism?” Contest brings together a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds discussing why their uniqueness should be celebrated and enjoyed. In other words, the contest is, in itself, pluralism. Even if you don’t enter the contest, come view the presentations and be part of the dialogue.

The "What Is Pluralism?" Contest is sponsored by the Diversity and Inclusion Council at Bryant University.