Cultural program chair and sophomore government major Annie George had a week to budget and decide where to hold a showcase of campuswide multicultural talents after the previous chair of the Global Communities Living and Learning Program stepped down.
“This is big, how do I do this?” was her first question, George said.
George’s vision came to life Thursday night with help from other members of Global Communities Student Association.With only bright white lights and microphones on stage, students exposed aspects of their cultures to a crowd. Eight acts of Cultural Explosion, an event hosted by the Global Communities Living and Learning Program, brought to life the diversity Maryland prides itself in, bringing together as many diverse acts as possible.
“This is just a chance for me to celebrate one of the things I love most about the University of Maryland,” George said.
Students performed dance routines, songs and even beat boxed.
Each act presented, to approximately 50 audience members, gave a fresh perspective on their cultures. From Avirah, an Israeli dance team, to Anokha, a fusion a cappella of South Asian and American elements, Cultural Explosion let the audience experience many regions of the world.
“One of our main strengths, as a university, is how diverse we are,” said Sara Mahmood, the music director of Anokha.“If we don’t have opportunities like this, then we don’t get to show how diverse our community is and so I think it is a great idea to have events like this.”
Aduago Iwuala, a sophomore and member of dance team Afrochique, said handling racial problems on campus can be done by exhibiting different cultures.
“Lately we’ve been having a lot of racial tension and so I feel like events like this is really important because it is a fun way to spread awareness of different cultures,” Iwuala said.
During Afrochique’s performance, the African dance team kept the afro-beats light and bouncy with French elements.
“We want people to ask us questions about our culture because we love hearing stuff like that,” Iwuala said.
George said the event is supposed to welcome students to express themselves.
“It’s really cool that we say culture and then students interpret it in whatever way that it means to them and make it into a special performance,” George said.
“We don’t often get so many platforms to express our cultures in college, we talk about them so much but this is really special because it is so welcoming to other cultures.”
This welcoming atmosphere appeared to generate a sense of comfort for some performers.
The president of Anokha, Niti Dharwadkar, said the music her group performs is to unify two different cultures.
“It’s really important because there are so many people from so many places here and without events like this, we wouldn’t have an outlet to express or acknowledge other cultures,” Dharwadkar said.
Along with the performers, some audience members said they were ready and even excited to see the diversity. Rachel Prem, a freshman economics major, had never seen Japanese or Israeli dance but said the idea of seeing both made her excited.
“We are a melting pot of cultures,” Prem said. “I think sharing what each of us brings into this country can make our campus diverse.”
Katie Edwards, a sophomore and civil engineering major, went to Cultural Explosion last year and looked forward to seeing the variation of dance styles again. Edwards said watching the performances is a great way to expose oneself and allows students to examine their own culture
“It makes you think differently about your own culture. What can I learn about these people that have different experiences from me?” Edwards asked.
For junior philosophy and Jewish studies major Asher Meerovich, Cultural Explosion placed an emphasis on the importance of diversity and cultural awareness.
“When you have something like this, it is one of the concrete examples of diversity in not just students but students who are willing to embrace and show off their diversity,” Meerovich said, after he showcased music from his band Tomato Dodgers.
If anything, Edwards said, Cultural Explosion showed students there are many things you can learn from another culture – whether it comes down to style, music or language.
Naomi Harris is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.