“To humanize each other is for us to actually talk to each other and learn about what [one another] is about,” alumnus Gail Batac said at the 2017 Cal Poly CultureFest. “Because we are all the same inside.”
During Batac’s undergraduate years at Cal Poly she served as the Associated Students, Inc. ethnic and cultural relations director. In response to negativity regarding a proposition that ended affirmative action, she founded CultureFest.
CultureFest is a day-long festival filled with different ethnic and cultural performances food, people and the goal is to bring people together, environmental management and protection senior and Multicultural Center student assistant Crystal Van said.
Batac returned to Cal Poly to speak at CultureFest Saturday, Oct. 14. She spoke about the importance of embracing and learning about different cultures. Batac said the event was as she had hoped it would be when she first started CultureFest and she hopes it will continue to grow.
“There are all these people that come from different cities and backgrounds and we think it’s a really good opportunity to bring not only the campus together but also San Luis Obispo County, community as a whole,” Batac said.
“Happy ReBirthday, CultureFest!”
The theme of the CultureFest this year was “ReBirthday” in celebration of the event’s 20-year anniversary. However, according to liberal studies senior and Multicultural Center student assistant Raha Haghnia, the idea of re-birthday went beyond the annual celebration. The theme was also a call for a societal rebirth.
“People kind of feel like they’re hopeless, that everything that they are doing is not helping in any way in … the world, but we just kind of want to change that. Not [the] mentality, but change the way we look at problems. It’s like a re-birth of our ideas and the way we see things,” Haghnia said.
Haghnia said in the current political climate it is important for students to celebrate their diversity in a safe and fun environment.
“Putting an active effort into celebrating people from different backgrounds and different cultures is really really important,” Haghnia said. “And, it’s always important, but I think especially when you don’t feel like you belong here.”
It was the first year CultureFest took place in the University Union Plaza. The change in location from Dexter Lawn to a more central part of campus allowed for more visibility, Haghnia said.
Prior to 2014, CultureFest took place in Mitchell Park and was more oriented towards San Luis Obispo community members. Now, although non-student community members are still welcome to come, the festival is on campus and centers around students.
“I think Cal Poly campus itself lacks a little bit [of] diversity and culture and the thing is there is a lot of culture and diversity within Cal Poly but it is kind of hidden,” Van said.
By showcasing cultural clubs and performance groups to students and other community members, CultureFest aims to get more people involved in minority-based clubs on campus.
“A lot of people want to just be a specific identity, but you know, everyone is like filled with a lot of different identities,” Van said.
Both Van and Haghnia said they hope CultureFest, specifically the theme of rebirth, would start a bigger discussion among students and connect clubs to students directly. Batac also stressed the importance of building networks between cultural clubs.
“It’s one thing to even have your booth out here, but we actually have to get up out of our booths even and talk to each other and learn about each other,” Batac said.