Food for thought

By Senah Yeboah-Sampong

Laughter from dozens of students filled the multipurpose studio in the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building Sept. 26 during the Multicultural Affairs Office’s Family Reunion. The smells of fresh pita bread, kabobs and egg rolls melded with the steady stream of voices. While one band played, two staff members practiced salsa steps and twirls. Students lined up to sample cuisines of various cultures represented in the student body, from falafel and macaroni to guacamole and fried chicken.

Martin Lavern, film and video graduate student, and Maria Carrasquilla, AEMM graduate student and International Student Affairs assistant, serve food Sept. 26 at Family Reunion, the Multicultural Affairs Office’s annual event. James Foster| THE CHRONICLE

“[We wanted] to welcome back our returning students and invite our new students to learn about Multicultural Affairs, about what we do here [and] to welcome them into our family,” said Ramona Gupta, Asian-American Cultural Affairs coordinator.

In addition to multicultural food, the event featured diverse student performances. The talents on display included belly-dancing and an electric guitar duo. They were joined by a volunteer playing percussion on the Latin-American guiro, a gourd that produces a unique sound when a stick is lightly dragged across its ridged surface.

Staff of the participating offices served food between enthusiastic greetings. Daniel Aranda, Latino Affairs coordinator, hosted the event and introduced all of the performers, who came from the myriad clubs sponsored by Multicultural Affairs.

The department is composed of the LGBTQ Alliance and the Latino, African-American,Asian-American offices of Cultural Affairs and the Office of International Student Affairs. The staff works alongside these student organizations to create twice-a-day programming.

Other campus cultural groups like The Latino Alliance, Black Student Union, International Student Organization, Asian Student Organization and Common Ground all have close ties to the department, epitomized through the One Tribe program that addresses social justice and diversity on campus.

Latino Cultural Affairs has planned 20 events between September and mid-November to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, and the BSU will hold its study group in Multicultural Affairs, where it meets weekly.

JJ McNeal, sophomore audio arts and accoustics major, was drawn to the department’s collaborative environment.

McNeal knew about the offices through the BSU and felt the event gave him a reason to continue returning to Multicultural Affairs because he now knows people in other offices.

“There’s room to have your own ideas about the year,” McNeal said.

He added each year’s programming is different and reflects the input of new members.

Jovan Landry, junior film & video major, performed “Wake Up,” an emotive rap she set to a heavy drum beat.

“I felt like I had another family, just another nationality of family,” Landry said. “I feel like the connections I’ve made here have given me a different view on things.”

Taiwah Yip, junior arts, entertainment and media management major, sang Elvis Presley’s “Don’t be Cruel.”

The International Student Organization was one point of entry for Yip, who is a Chinese transfer student.

He said he feels Multicultural Affairs reinforces his belief that no matter where you go, building   lifelong friendships with people of various backgrounds is important.

“You don’t have to worry about [the] people [you’re with],” Yip said. “Just be yourself.”