Ryan Chartrand

Students thought about and discussed the multicultural community in San Luis Obispo during a retreat held by the Multicultural Center Sunday in University Union room 220.

The event included activities that made students consider their own cultural identity and the cultural identity of others.

“It gave us a relaxed environment to talk about sensitive issues,” graphic communication sophomore Kimberly Yu said.

The theme for the retreat was “Searching for SLO Culture” and it focused on showing participants the multicultural happenings both on and off campus.

One of the event’s organizers, soil science senior Britani Harris, said that the retreat was “to get the students of Cal Poly and anyone in the community and have them see where the culture is in San Luis Obispo.”

“We’re getting the students talking about what’s here and how you can find it,” she added.

One way they did this was in a community panel discussion where cultural leaders from different places in San Luis Obispo talked about how they contribute to culture here. Some of the organizations represented in the panel were a group living community called the Establishment, the women’s antiwar group CodePink and the local public access channel.

“The people who came were leaders in the community, so the quality of input was high,” business administration senior Eduardo Rangel said.

The discussion was a way to point out the relationship between community and cultural identity.

“It’s about the synergy between the two; how does community influence cultural identity and how does cultural identity influence community,” Harris said.

The keynote speaker at the retreat was Fidel Rodriguez, who encouraged people to learn about their own culture. He suggested videotaping older family members talking about how their cultural influences them in order to preserve it for younger generations.

Another activity that involved students was a question-and-answer section where questions from one cultural group to another were discussed. Many of the questions were from Lee Mun Wah, who made the documentary film “The Color of Fear.”

Some of the questions were between ethnicities. For example, European Americans asked people of color if they would accept an apology on behalf of all whites for racism. Other subjects discussed were gender, developmental disabilities, culture vultures and sexual orientation.

“I liked the question activity because it got so deep into the issues,” Yu said. “We were getting it into the open and hearing all these other perspectives.”

The students at the retreat sat in a circle and took turns drawing the questions out of a box and reading them out loud.

The point of the activity was not to answer the questions, but to speak frankly about what was being asked.

Psychology junior Jenn Ledbetter said the retreat gave her a different perspective on cultural identity and showed her more about the issues that happen in different communities.

“It was a way to talk freely in an open environment,” she said.

The last activity at the retreat was an African dance lesson. A man from Ghana played the drums while his wife taught everyone at the retreat how to do a traditional dance that was originated by Ghanaian fishermen in the 1940s.

Breakfast and lunch were provided for the participants with a variety of food from different cultures. All the food, cups, plates, napkins and utensils were turned into compost in an effort to create zero waste and inform students about sustainability.

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