Intercultural Dinner explores Geneseo's minority scenes

The scents and sounds drifting through the streamers on the doors of the College Union Ballroom last weekend were produced by the fusions of numerous cultural groups found at Geneseo.

The Student Association-funded Intercultural Dinner on Sunday Oct. 24 was the collaborative effort of most of the culture-oriented clubs on campus. Participants included Geneseo Chinese Culture Club, Womyn's Action Coalition, Slavic Club, Black Student Union, Shakti, Korean American Student Association, Latino Student Association, Japanese Culture Club and Pride Alliance.

The night began with a palate of ethnic foods prepared by the respective clubs. Among the spread were spring rolls, Batata Bhaaji and green tea ice cream. Dinner was casual and light, and above the lull of conversation were declarations of astonishment at how great everything tasted.

Those whose attention was not completely held by the food might have looked up and seen the rush of people amidst bubbles of conversation. Skit performers huddled together reviewing lines; Campus Auxiliary Services employees hurried to clear leftovers; Bhangra dancers weaved in and out of tables in their bright garb. Senior Will Labate, SA director of student affairs, hurried around talking into his headset to ensure that every aspect of the event was orchestrated properly. All of the excitement was in preparation for the featured performances.

This year's theme was "Our Neighborhood," and the program included short movies, live skits, cultural dances and even a song. The performances explored the issues faced by minority groups on campus. Labate, opening the second act, told the audience, "No matter where these problems have originated, they are now affecting our community right here in Geneseo."

None of the groups were shy about addressing the more common stereotypes associated with their cultural or social label. Most labels were, in fact, displayed in a bold and comical way. Each group ended their segment by telling the audience about their choice to positively address typecasts within the respective community.

The performances for this year's event were conceived in the first weeks of this semester and hours of rehearsal have been put in each week since. Junior Hamza Murtaza was there to support the cultural groups and oversee his Bhangra team. "We've been practicing for about two months now, three times a week. It usually was six hours a week," he said.

The night's overall significance was not in the differences between the groups, it was in their unity. Even though each group was there to express the qualities that make it distinctive from other groups, they were all there together, creating a majority.

"This is the biggest event of the year," said Vishu Rajput, a junior Shakti member in attendance. "Throughout the year, there's LSA Night, Shakti Night," he said. "But this is the only night we all come together and you can see us all here."