Tomorrow marks the 20th annual Festival of Cultures (FOC). Students from 32 countries will attend and participate in this spectacle, including the Bahamas, a country I am proud to say I am from. There will be food sampling, student performances, and even a cultural fashion show.
If you are reading this, I hope you attend the Festival of Cultures, but my culture is more than a food item to be tasted, enjoyed, digested, and forgotten about the next day.
As a Bahamian, I love the idea of FOC. Culture should be celebrated, and FOC offers a platform for that to occur. I am a senior now, and this will be the fourth FOC I attend. I’ve participated as an observer, as well as a booth organizer for my native Bahamas. As I look back at my college experience here, a part of me wonders what the point of this event is.
The performances are breathtaking, and the food is great, but why, on just one day, does the CSB/SJU community suddenly care about culture?
I have served on both the Archipelago Association’s board, as well as the Cultural Affairs Board, and there is a question that often comes up when intercultural clubs are organizing events: how do we get the white majority to attend?
I remember attending, and organizing, such events and marveling at the lack of white participants. Over and over again, I saw the same students, students of color, like me, show up. And yet, every November comes around, and the HCC is full for FOC.
Friends, we pride ourselves on having a community that is inclusive, and diverse, and welcoming, and whatever buzzword sounds good on a particular day. We say a lot of good things about ourselves, but I wonder how accurate they are, when one actually takes the time to stop, look around, and see what’s going on.
Community and a liberal-arts education are essentially the pillars that CSBSJU stands upon; they are our calling cards; they are often the reasons people choose to come here in the first place.
And yet, I see not one community, but many little sub-communities, or cliques, of the majority that are more than eager to keep to themselves. It’s hard to step out of one’s comfort zone. I get that. I find it quite strange, however, that we speak so highly of ourselves, and of this “community,” knowing that this is the case.
If you’re going to FOC this year, by all means, enjoy the food, the drinks, the performances, and the atmosphere. But if you do care and want to assist in fostering an inclusive CSB/SJU community, go deeper than that. Engage with the elements of culture presented at FOC, but understand that my culture is not a one day experience. I challenge you to go beyond FOC and have discussions with persons from backgrounds different from your own. CSB/SJU affords you the opportunity to learn about so many different nations and ways of life.
Don’t waste it.
There is more to diversity than FOC.