Not many students coordinate cultural nights entirely on their own, but after receiving an internship position with the Geneseo Center for Community, senior Kevin Mejia made the decision to create what he believes to be the first Greek Night at Geneseo. And for a culture that’s given the world so much, a celebration was definitely in order.
“I’m not Greek,” Mejia said. “But in high school, a lot of my friends were, and I just fell in love with the culture.”
“I think that sometimes I’m a lot more into it than they are. A lot of the time, actually,” Mejia said. After working with the Center for Community this year, Mejia decided this would be the perfect opportunity to share that enthusiasm for Greek culture with others.
“It’s something I always wanted to try to do,” Mejia said, adding that Geneseo Late Knight’s mission statement “implies something along the lines of helping students do whatever they want to do – so I tried it.”
To kick off the celebration, keynote speaker and adjunct professor of English Glenn McClure reminded the audience of the educational relevancy Greek culture has to all of our lives.
In his lecture, McClure narrated a piece he wrote while teaching Humanities I in Athens over the summer, in which he compared Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” to what he termed “the digital cave” and our modern dependency on technology.
McClure noted how vital many Greek innovations and inventions are to our current society, saying, “It’s important to come back to these roots, whether or not they are ethnic roots or intellectual roots” because no matter what “we do with these old texts, they always call us into deeper parts of ourselves, even though they come from a place far, far away.”
Like McClure and Mejia emphasized, although we may not all have Greek heritage, we frequently engage in the traditions and mythologies of Greek history in our education – no matter our major.
The event certainly attracted people from all disciplines and backgrounds. Mejia said that, in total, over 150 people turned out to celebrate a culture that dates back to over 30 centuries ago.
According to Mejia, Greek pastries are some of the most traditional ways to celebrate at most Greek gatherings and festivals. The savory options offered at Geneseo Greek Night were spanakopita, a traditional spinach pie, and tiropita, a cheese pie, both well-known Greek dishes made from layers of delicately thin phyllo pastry dough, which provides a light, crunchy and flaky crust when baked.
Like most cultures, another key part to most Greek celebrations is dancing, and over the centuries, Greek people developed many specific regional dances.
During the night, both Geneseo Bhangra and the Rochester Greek dance troupe Nea Parea displayed a special blend of cultures and time periods by performing different styles of traditional and cross-cultural dance to Greek music.
“I think this is the kind of thing that can only be done this easily and [successfully] in college,” Mejia said of the event. “Everyone was so supportive, but I can’t say it would have been like this if I was doing this outside of school. I’m thankful […] and so happy.”