Cultural Harmony Week speakers explore media, comedy, civil discourse

Geneseo's 12th annual Cultural Harmony Week, a series of events intended to raise our community's social and cultural awareness, kicked off on Monday Oct. 24.

A committee made up of faculty, staff and students planned out the week's activities. Fatima Rodriguez Johnson, coordinator of Multicultural Programs and Services, took a lead role in developing an agenda that would stimulate discussion.

"This year, we tried to focus on student and campus life and developing effective social and communication skills,"        Johnson said.

There were four main focuses to this year's Cultural Harmony Week: media influences, jokes and comedy, cultural permission and civil discourse.

Monday night's opening event was a film titled "Funny You Should Say That," which presented a collection of short comedic skits that addressed diversity and stereotypes. The film featured comedians such as Chris Rock, George Lopez and Margaret Cho joking about their own individual experiences with racial stereotypes. Following the film, the audience participated in a discussion with professors Wes Kennison and Atsushi Tajima.

"It was a really good conversation," Rodriguez Johnson said. "Both faculty members were great – Wes Kennison took the conversation in one direction, and then Dr. Tajima took it in a completely different way."

 "It was interesting seeing different perspectives on culture and stereotypes and to see if you could identify with any of them," said senior Naomie Francois.

On Tuesday, the keynote speaker Teja Arboleda addressed the sensitive topic of offensive language in his presentation titled "Crossing the Line: Comedians, Politicians & Shock Jocks."

Arboleda engaged the audience in discussion about which words they personally considerd offensive and when, if ever, it is acceptable to say potentially harmful phrases.

"I liked the presentation because it made me think of the use of our words," said freshman Tonye Jack. "You can never really judge a person based on their looks."

"I felt like this [presentation] gave us students a chance to be more aware of cultures," said junior Shamfa Tittle.

Rodriguez Johnson said that the topics discussed have deep meaning. "For me, it's worth it if the students stay engaged in these conversations, even after they leave," she said.

On Wednesday Oct. 26, Changkuk Jung of the political science department led a lecture in the College Union titled "Civil Society and Politics in South Korea."

On Thursday Oct. 27, Tajima will explore the media's influence on viewers' perceptions and beliefs in "Racializing Others: Minority Portrayal in Popular Media." Later in the day, professor Robert Goeckel will present a film titled "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," which will address a different form of prejudice in the medical field.

Throughout the week, Milne Library and the College Union are featuring a "Wall of Words," which allows members of the campus community to share their thoughts and beliefs on matters of diversity.

The week's activities will conclude on Sunday Oct. 30 with the annual Intercultural Dinner in the College        Union Ballroom.