Establishing an inclusive campus community demands intercultural dialogue, cross-cultural interactions and an appreciation for the diverse experiences that each student brings to Geneseo.
The Geneseo Alliance for Community Enrichment, Student Association and leaders from various on-campus special interest groups presented their annual Intercultural Dinner in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom on Saturday Oct. 21. The evening—which concluded Cultural Harmony Week—had a “War and Peace” theme and emphasized unity.
Represented groups included: Shakti, Caribbean Student Association, Black Student Union, Women’s Action Coalition, African Student Association, Chinese Culture Club at Geneseo, Korean American Student Association, Latino Student Association, Japanese Culture Club and Pride Alliance. Each organization provided one menu item for the dinner and presented a performance for entertainment.
“[This event] is a fun way to feel at home,” ACE vice chair senior Nydia Constantine said. “Every organization involved brings a little to the table—literally.”
Constantine and ACE chair senior Alberto Alonso began planning Intercultural Dinner—along with envoys from each multicultural group—at the beginning of the semester. With Constantine and Alonso as facilitators, the leaders coordinated skits and recipes representative of their organization’s larger purpose and message.
“This event is important because it offers exposure to other cultures and shows the different communities within Geneseo,” Alonso said.
The Intercultural Dinner functioned as the culmination of Geneseo’s annual Cultural Harmony Week. The 13 committee members responsible for the Intercultural Dinner are encouraging the campus community to keep the spirit of cultural harmony alive—even beyond the week’s end.
“Be aware and open to learning about other cultures and experience new or unfamiliar things,” Constantine said.
Alonso similarly echoed the importance of using lessons from Cultural Harmony Week’s programming to continue fostering intercultural unity on campus.
“Don’t be afraid to expose yourself to the new,” Alonso said. “Immerse yourself even if it seems scary at first.”
ACE itself remains committed to promoting cultural harmony throughout the year. In the spring semester, the group plans on presenting a curated film festival, and many members have expressed interest in hosting a social justice-oriented speaker series, according to Alonso. Furthermore, the e-boards of each special interest group represented at the Intercultural Dinner coordinate both informational and entertainment-focused programming on their own.
Even before the event began, participants filled the ballroom and sat at their tables, waiting with anticipation for the dinner and performances.
“Events like this are important so that people have knowledge of other cultures,” pre-biology major freshman Genesis Williams said. “These things give people the opportunity to experience something new.”
Throughout the evening, attendees lauded the dinner for not only its entertainment value, but also—and perhaps more importantly—its educational significance. Indeed, several students reiterated their own personal commitments to diversity, while others positioned themselves as constantly learning more about various intersectional issues—from those concerning race and class to those with gender and sexuality in the foreground.
In their remarks, Constantine and Alonso highlighted the promotion and encouragement of diversity, in addition to the need for increased representation of marginalized groups and amplified dialogue on cross-cultural issues within the campus community.
The menu for Intercultural Dinner featured specialized dishes planned by members of the various multicultural groups, including: curried chicken from Caribbean Student Association, fried rice from Chinese Culture Club at Geneseo and “unicorn cookies” from Pride Alliance. Besides dinner, performances ranged from Black Student Union’s presentation of “War on Drugs” to Shakti’s “Peace Will Conquer: A Bollywood Fusion Dance.”
“War and peace come in cycles,” Shakti co-president junior Rohan Bhuchar said. “Our performance, however, shows that there is meaning there between acts of war and peace.”
ACE plans to donate proceeds from the ticket sales to the Puerto Rican Family Institute’s hurricane relief efforts. The Intercultural Dinner served as both a celebration and a meaningful culmination of Cultural Harmony Week.u