24th Annual CultureFest: The Importance of Representation in a Predominantly White Institute

Photos of Jackie Espitia

Siga aqui para leer este artículo in Spanish.

The University Union was packed with music, stalls and food to celebrate the 24th annual Cal Poly Culture Festival on Saturday, October 23. Aligned with Mustang Family Weekend, the students and their parents could be seen enjoying the day’s festivities hosted by the Multi-Cultural Center.

“I think it really does publicize the cultural presence at Cal Poly,” said Zoe Paris, junior in architecture and co-chair of the Multiracial Student Association. “Even though this is a predominantly white institute, the fact that we have these celebrations that showcase people of color and other organizations on campus is really nice.”

Cal Poly is the only predominantly white institution (PWI) in the entire Cal State University system, as previously reported by Mustang News. PolyView’s fall term 2020 census shows that 54.04% of students reported being “white” as their ethnicity.

“Especially since this is a PWI, it’s really important that students can see the different cultures on campus and the different identities they might belong to,” said Janet Velasquez, sophomore engineering student. biomedical. “I think it might help them feel more welcomed knowing that these people exist on our campus and that there are safe spaces for them to come and talk about their identities, to be with other people who match their identity.”

Velasquez was a student representing the Philippine Culture Exchange Club at CultureFest. She is one of the club’s membership coordinators and helps run their big-to-little program, which connects new students with “grown-ups” who can help them navigate the club and student life at Cal Poly.

“The goal is to be an exchange, so people of all identities and ethnicities are welcome,” Velasquez said. “I’m Hispanic myself, so I was a little nervous at first because I want to get into new cultural clubs, if you’re not part of that cultural identity it can be a bit difficult, but they make it such an inclusive place and a safe space for you to come and join in and get involved.

According to Ethan Nagamine, president of Hui O Hawai’i, their club has been preparing CultureFest since the start of the school year. With the help of their education advisor, Nagamine and her fellow club members were able to sell shaving ice, as many other kiosks also sold merchandise as a fundraiser for their individual club’s efforts.

Jenisa Nguyen, junior in computer science, is a web developer for Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, an Asian-interest sorority at Cal Poly. Proceeds from their booth went towards their philanthropy focused on breast cancer awareness. For CultureFest, the sorority was selling Spam Misubi, freshly prepared by its members and assembled at the event.

“We started getting ready roughly during the summer, just to be able to make sure we were organized with the food, and to get ingredients and understand the changes,” Nguyen said.

The Multicultural Center collaborated with ASI events to welcome guest musician Madame Gandhi to UU Square. The concert was followed by several performances organized by clubs, including the Kasa Dance Crew, a non-audition group affiliated with the Korean American Student Association. The club posted a full video of their CultureFest performance on their Youtube channel.

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