Originally posted November 19, 2014.
Every year, Millersville shows off their diversity and pride in the form of a Multicultural Showcase, which celebrates cultures from around the world. The Center for Student Involvement and Leadership (CSIL), as well as the University Activities Board (UAB), came together this year, combined their missions and coordinated the 2014 Multicultural Festival, held Nov. 13 in the SMC.
The festival featured many presentations about countries from around the world. Many stations had food, games and other relics that are important to each culture, and were made possible by our school’s very own organizations. Some of the countries featured were China, Brazil, Germany, Russia, Poland and Colombia, though there were many others featured.
Performances were given by award-winning poet and teacher Joaquin Zihuatanejo; our student guitarist from Pakistan, Yousaf Sethi and the belly dancers that graced the stage. The festival also featured henna artists, origami lessons from student Quang V Chu and a photobooth from SACA Broadcasting, which allowed participants to take free photos at the event.
“[The festival] was an absolute success! Even though there was an unexpected snowfall on the day of the event, we had over 250 attendees! This was more than we anticipated,” said senior Shaq Glover, Multicultural Affairs intern for CSIL. “It was an amazing feeling to walk into the MPR and see it packed with students, faculty and members of the community partaking in the various activities that evening.”
The volume of the audience for this festival has an impact on how future festivals are going to be set up. “For the upcoming Multicultural Festivals, I would accommodate for a larger audience. There was a point where we had to bring more tables into the MPR, which is a great problem to run into,” Glover said.
The headlining performer of the night, Joaquin Zihuatanejo, captured the audience’s attention as soon as he appeared on stage. Zihuatanejo has been travelling the world as a published poet since 2008, though he said his roots run much deeper, as he has been writing since he was a young child. He writes and performs about the everyday struggles of life, as well as the struggles of growing up and facing dualities in a Chicano culture.
“Joaquin has a remarkable ability to connect and resonate with individuals of all walks of life through his slam poetry. His performance was phenomenal,” Glover said. “His performance, followed by that of student guitarist from Pakistan, Yousaf Sethi, concluding with a performance by belly dancers, showed just how important it is for institutions to have this kind of cultural representation.”
“It’s festivals like this that show the brilliance of our diversity, but at the same time connect us to our shared humanity,” Zihuatanejo said. “I love seeing the students engaged with one another.”
“Speaking in Tongues” was one of the poems Zihuatanejo performed at the festival, and it featured strong messages about how English has many derived words from Spanish, and how it angered him that a man had told him to only speak English at the mall while he was with his daughter. But the message was not of hate, it talked about how we need to come together as brothers and sisters. Many of his poems have similar tones and implications.
“I do feel we are making strides, but that does not mean that we do not still have a long way to go. If you look only at the educational system, which I was a part of for years, you still have [schools that have] every advanced form of technology available to their students in close proximity to schools that are using outdated textbooks with not nearly the access to technology that richer school districts have. There is still work to be done,” Zihuatanejo said.
Zihuatanejo encourages people to celebrate their differences, and embrace what they have. If he could give one piece of advice to those struggling with their cultural identity, he said, “It gets better, and there is strength in numbers; find others like yourself and take great joy in those things that make you unique. Believe if you speak a foreign language and are just mastering English now, that foreign language will be an asset to you and make you even more marketable in our ever-changing work force.”
If anything, the 2014 Multicultural Festival showed Millersville that it was okay to be different, and it was okay to embrace said differences. Next year, there are hopes that the Festival will become even bigger, and showcase more talents, cultures and organizations.
“I was happy to see that Millersville, or the subsection of the student body that I interacted with, was diverse, respectful, and working to make this world a better place,” Zihuatanejo said.
“Millersville University strives everyday to ensure that our community is diverse, inclusive and accepting of all individuals. As a catalyst towards the fulfillment of that mission, events such as the Multicultural Festival help us realize how interconnected we all are, in ways the eye can’t always see,” Glover said.