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Students explore IU culture

Mary Katherine Wildeman

By Alyssa Schor

Freshman Haley Arger said her Chicago-area high school lacked diversity, but she attended CultureFest Thursday to embrace different viewpoints and experience a Welcome Week tradition.

“It’s a big difference,” she said. “There was a lot to learn about.”

Students packed the IU Auditorium and near Showalter Fountain  for live performances, henna tattoos, caricature drawings and food.

Sandy Britton, associate director for student life, said the idea of CultureFest is to showcase IU’s multiculturalism.

“This is a really nice way to introduce students to the diversity we have on campus,” Britton said.

The Asian Culture Center served dumplings, egg rolls and crab rangoon. GLBT Student Support Services gave students colorful sherbet. The Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center had barbecued chicken with beans and rice. The Office of International
Services served desserts like baklava and tiramisu.

CultureFest began in the auditorium with a step dance performance from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and an introduction to the IU Won’t Stand For campaign by the Commission on Multicultural Understanding. For the second year in a row, each student at CultureFest received a white shirt saying, “I won’t stand for ___” as part of the campaign. The blank spaces were filled with words like “hate,” “intolerance” and “bullying.”

COMU member Sarah Nagy said they distributed more than 3,000 shirts this year.
During the outdoor activities, students had the opportunity to participate in a sit-down demonstration with their shirts, representing the topics they won’t stand for.

“Get out of your box and learn about it,” Nagy said. “If you don’t see something right, do something about it. Don’t just stand by.”

The Mayhem Poets, a slam poetry trio, took the stage for the keynote performance.

Group members Kyle Rapps, Scott Raven and Mason Granger used elements of hip-hop, rap, poetry and drama to address topics like race, gender, insecurity, family and stereotypes.

Freshman Morgan Pries said Mayhem Poets’ performance was “phenomenal” and “powerful.”

“The topics they shared were so open,” Pries said. “They just drew you in.”
Raven said the performance highlighted the importance of bringing people together and positively expressing oneself, a message that fit well with CultureFest’s purpose.

“This is really important to put everyone in a positive frame of mind for the year,” he said. “You don’t know where people have been coming from. This gives people an environment to step out of their comfort zones.”

Follow reporter Alyssa Schor on Twitter @SchorAlyssa.

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