“Acknowledge those that fought to get you where you are. There is a lot of work to be done to fight for those marginalized and voiceless. Always give and always mentor. And never think that planting one seed of hope or knowledge or kindness won’t multiply.” – Silismar Suriel, ‘03

My name is Silismar Suriel, pronouns she/her, and I graduated from Livingston College in 2003 with a degree in Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caribbean Studies and Political Science. Meeting folks like Cheryl Clarke and the leadership of LLEGO, the LGBT People of Color Union at Rutgers University, as well as the many liaisons that worked on campus, like Sandra Rocio Castro, shaped not only my feminism, and activism but also opened doors that helped in my self identity journey. I was welcomed as an ally to the community. At my first Latino Student Council Retreat I met Adriana Garriga Lopez and Edgar Rivera Colon. That weekend changed my life. At the time Adriana was LLEGO co-president and Edgar was a PhD student.

They ran workshops on Machismo and gender inequity. I’m forever grateful to them. When I finally had the courage to come out to myself I already had a familia and a community that had welcomed me as an ally. However, doing this work, you meet a lot of challenges; the death of friends, the silence of folks with privilege and access. I certainly experienced all of this during my time at Rutgers.

After graduating, I stayed at Rutgers as an employee at The Center for Latino Arts and Culture. I advised LLEGO for ten years, have been an LGBTQIA liaison since 2004, and have been the Program Coordinator at the Center for Latino Arts and Culture since 2005.