Hundreds gathered for the sights, scents and sounds of different cultures and background at CultureFest in the University Union Oct. 13. Some went for the fun. Others went to find a place on campus to call home.
“I feel like CultureFest is important for us to show that even when you’re far away from home or you’re close to home, or wherever you are at, you can find a home anywhere you’re at,” civil engineering senior Carlos Ambriz-Carreon and member of Gamma Zeta Alpha, a Latino Interest fraternity, said.
Sponsored by the Multicultural Center, the event promoted inclusivity and diversity on campus. Many clubs on campus gathered for the event and put on events for students to share pieces of their cultures and identities.
“The importance of CultureFest is to bring culture and diversity to campus, knowing that we are a predominately white institution, representing our cultures and who we are as a people,” construction management junior Christian Ayala said.
Ayala is one of the co-leaders who was instrumental in organizing the event.
“It opens everyone’s eyes and teaches others through our food, through our music and through our performances,” Ayala said.
Some clubs sold food and drinks to both share their cultures and fundraise for their organizations.
“CultureFest is kind of our way, I guess, to spread cultural awareness through food,” business administration junior Melanie Tran said. “We feel as if food is something everyone can enjoy and appreciate.”
Foods being sold at CultureFest included wontons, nachos, shaved ice, Thai iced tea, boba, pandan waffles and lemonade, among others.
Other clubs hosted activities, songs and dances relating to their cultural identities in the plaza. The Muslim Student Association (MSA) had traditional henna tattoos for guests.
The Pride Center hosted a tie-dying event for guests. But before they could tie-dye, students had to read and sign a pledge of inclusion.
“With pride, the rainbow flag is a symbol of diversity, and with tie-dye, that is a way to get our symbol out into the community,” Lead Coordinator for the Cross Cultural Centers Samuel Byrd said.
Many student leaders saw CultureFest as an opportunity to not only connect with other cultural organizations, but also to connect with students looking for a safe space to express their identities.
For instance, the Indian Student Association (ISA) was represented at the event, and many members were eager to share thoughts and opinions. The club has been on a campus for decades and is focused on allowing students of South Asian backgrounds to feel comfortable and welcome.
“It’s a safe place for international students to come and feel more at home,” ISA President and computer engineering senior Ayusman Saha said.
Students performed in the plaza to show aspects of their culture through songs and dancing. The Lion Dance Club took the stage with their traditional costumes and sound. SLO Breakers, a hip-hop and break dancing club, broke up into smaller teams and took each other on in a dance battle, something that the club’s president, mechanical engineering junior Ivan Yen said is a large part of their group’s culture.
The legacy of CultureFest continues as more students of diverse backgrounds make strides toward greater visibility on campus.