The Culture Fest returned to UNA on Tuesday, Sept. 24.Office of Diversity and Institutional Equity (ODIE), Diversity Student Ambassadors (DSA) and the University Program Council (UPC) sponsored the event.
At 6 p.m. dozens of students lined up for free shirts and food from various vendors including Texas Roadhouse, Umi Japanese Steakhouse, Casa Mexicana, 306 BBQ, Rice Box and more.
This year’s festival kicked off with music from a lively Mariachi band that played several songs, including the popular hits “La Cucaracha” and “Macarena.” The band encouraged students to take to the stage to dance the Macarena, and several participated, earning restaurant gift cards from the night’s MC.
Following the opening performances, UNA students who signed in with their student IDs hoped to hear their ticket number called during a drawing for a prize. Three winners received $5 gift cards to Sam’s Sports Grill during the first drawings and giveaways that night. At the end of the festival, one student received a $500 book scholarship.
Along with vendors and sponsors, UNA students set up booths to promote their various organizations and businesses. James Traywick, UNA senior and Foreign Languages major represented the Japanese Student Organization (JSO). He dressed in a Yukata, a garment similar to a Japanese Kimono but typically worn in the summer.
Traywick enjoyed the performances, the charismatic MC and the overall display of diversity, which he believes is important on college campuses. He said that part of American culture is people coming from different places and sharing their side of the world.
“Because of my interest in learning other languages or meeting new people, I usually tend to hang out with a lot of the international students,” Traywick said. “I never did that when I was in high school, but coming here to UNA, I have had opportunities where I can meet people who are not from the U.S., people who come from different backgrounds and other sides of the world.”
For several years, discussions about diversity have come to the forefront of campus. Diversity inclusion is something that UNA strives hard to ensure with every year that passes. Student organizations such as DSA, BSA, ODIE, Global Lions and others make it possible for cultural events to occur at UNA.
Participation in the cultural events that happen on campus can be a definitive way for students to show that they want to continue to express themselves through their various cultures and backgrounds in a place that openly welcomes diversity.
As the night progressed, there were more giveaways and even a dance battle which earned roaring applause from the crowd. Freshman Laurel Hannah competed. She said that even though she was pretty nervous, she has no regrets about taking the stage.
“Just gotta get rid of that weird insecurity from high school,” Hannah said.
Hannah mentioned how when it comes to overcoming a fear or taking risks like jumping up onto a stage in front of so many people, it is a good thing to have supportive friends around. She said, “It’s been a really welcoming experience here.”
Sankofa African Dance and Drum Company out of Nashville, TN performed last. They impacted the crowd with their live drums and danced to display a part of West African culture. Each of the group’s seven members performed dance or drum solos as they were introduced. One of the members walked and danced while on stilts.
The founder of Sankofa stated that their art is “a celebration of community, of who we are as people.” This is what makes diversity so important to students across campus. Different parts of different cultures, religions, family backgrounds and more are what allow people to form their identities. When these components merge, they can unite people who may not have realized how their differences can bring them together.