In the midst of the turmoil surrounding the racist incidents on campus last week, the Undergraduate Student Government’s (USG) Student Development Committee is providing students with a positive avenue to express and learn more about students’ cultures on campus, starting with “Our Roots on Campus.” Yesterday afternoon in the Student Union, students were invited to a relaxing environment to create a painting celebrating their cultural roots and traditions.
“This [is] the kick-off event for the Cultural Appreciation Series,” Alexandra Aponte, a seventh-semester chemical engineering major, said. She serves as chairperson of the Student Development Committee, which works to raise awareness and increase pride in the diversity of cultures on campus. “We thought that the best way to start off [the series] was to bring to light all the different cultures that we have on campus…[there’s] no better way to do that than to have students paint them on a canvas and have them on an exhibition during the ‘Appreciation vs. Appropriation’ panel on Friday to show everyone all the different cultures that make up our campus.”
The event was packed throughout the paint session, with each chair occupied by students painting on provided canvases and easels. Drying canvases were on display, featuring themes like flags of students’ heritage, scenes that represent their homelands and other signs of unity. Latin music was playing in the background and students were clearly relaxed and enjoyed spending time with each other.
“[My friends and I] thought it was a great way to release some stress after all of the tension that was held at the march,” said seventh-semester communications major Yoseiris Castro. She, among many other students on campus, wore black for the March Against Racism event to stand in solidarity with black students. Her painting featured a warm sunset of purple, red, orange and yellow tones with an icon of a black woman with flowers threaded through her hair. “We thought this was a great way to integrate with each other and come together and paint and enjoy some snacks and just find things that are cultural appreciate instead of appropriate.”
Some students were not sure what the subject of their painting would be, but felt that the environment was conducive to expressing themselves.
“I honestly came and I didn’t know what to paint but then when they told us to paint something about culture, it all came together,” Castro said about her painting. “Seeing everybody’s paintings just brings a sense to me that everybody is going through the same thing and it kind of all helps us get together just to be as one on this campus. Even if it’s predominantly white, to know that other people relate is kind of soothing and relaxing.”
Turnout for the event was a hopeful indicator for the rest of the series and the support of the organization’s initiatives as a whole.
“I knew we were going to have a lot of people coming in, but I never thought we would have this many,” Aponte said. “The paintings are beautiful and it’s an amazing turnout, so we’re very happy about it. I think this is going to set a tone for the rest of the series and for USG in general, so we’re very excited.”
The Cultural Appreciation Series is an initiative by the committee to host multiple events throughout the school year with the focus of increasing cultural awareness and appreciation. After the “Our Roots on Campus” and “Appreciation and Appropriation” events, the next event of the series is “Illuminating the Path,” a collaboration with the Puerto-Rican and Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC) and the Student Union Board of Governors (SUBOG) that will feature actress Rita Moreno speaking about getting involved in social causes and being part of a minority. The “History of Reggaeton” on Nov. 7, will be another event in the series.
“We wanted to work more with the cultural centers because we know they work with a lot of students from a lot of communities and cultures,” Aponte explained about the Cultural Appreciation Series. “So in order to reach those students, we wanted to…do different events so they can show off their cultures, so hopefully we can work towards a more culturally aware campus.”
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.