By ETHAN BLOUCH
The James Farmer Multicultural Center’s Cross-Cultural Barbecue was held on August 30, as one of many social events held on campus to reach out to new students. A number of tables were set up in the Chandler Ballroom, where the various multicultural club executive board members served food and gave out information about their respective organizations.
The scents of various fried foods filled the room, while Childish Gambino’s “This is America” played over the speakers. Most of the students were preoccupied with getting food, though a few chose to play cornhole in the corner.
There was an enthusiasm and energy present among the club representatives.
“We’re a bunch of happy people waiting to meet more happy people,” said Tatiana Aleman, co-president of the Latino Student Association, while serving Brazilian Chicken Stroganoff to a student.
The goals of all of the clubs are fairly similar in spirit to celebrate ethnic heritage and/or religious traditions that are minorities on campus through weekly meetings and various events throughout the semester. The Latino Student Association has a salsa night, a film screening, a band performance and a dance workshop scheduled in September alone.
In some cases, the clubs are actively attempting to make changes to the UMW curriculum and policies, specifically the Black Student Association (BSA) and Talk to the Hands, the American Sign Language club on campus.
Some members of the BSA are worried that the school as a whole exploits minority students in order to gain attention and cultivate a positive image. They believe that real social change and diversity on campus is not very developed, and hope to bring this change about by educating students on black history.
Talk to the Hands wants UMW to offer ASL as an option for the language requirement, said president Melissa Pampel. “As a club, we believe that language transcends verbal communication,” said Pampel. She also mentioned past activities of the club, such as trips to Gallaudet University, a private university for the deaf and hard of hearing.
As most of these groups haven’t had a chance to get together as of yet, they are only able to give outlines for their semester plans right now: weekly meetings, fundraising opportunities, events such as Muslim Student Association (MSA) week and Gender and Sexual Minorities and Allies (GSMA) week and other events to promote cultural awareness. A common sentiment shared among presidents of these clubs is that they want everyone to feel welcome to join, even if their identity might make them seem exclusive.
The barbecue is organized by the James Farmer Multicultural Center. Named after former UMW professor and civil rights activist James Farmer, this group is responsible for organizing most of the events on campus concerning ethnicity and culture.
“This event represents how we celebrate and show appreciation for the different cultures and heritages we all bring to campus. It is an opportunity for us to embrace the spirit and value of inclusion where every member of the campus community feels welcome and respected at UMW,” said Dr. Marion Sanford, the Director of the JFMC.