A day in diversity

The reds, greens, whites, and blues of country flags waved to greet the incoming participants of the Annual International Food and Cultural Awareness Festival.

Students and staff members gathered to appreciate the diversity of food, music, and the art of dance from different countries on Friday.

Individuals stood in line committed to feast on the vast variety of cultural delights in front of them.

With trays of food lined against the back wall of the Hansel Tookes Student Recreation Center, participants could jump countries through food choices.

Plates filled with baked chicken from the U.S. also carried Curry Chicken from Jamaica and Jollof Rice from Jamaica. Country flags hung with pride side by side near the entrance of the usual basketball court which was transformed into a melting pot.

Feet moved to the cords of Bachata, the drums of Kompa, and the bongos of Reggae music. Students partnered together and danced to their favored style of music and even took part in learning how to dance to another form of music from a different country.

As food was devoured, Salsa dancers took center stage and performed a fast paced number encased with turns, dips and fluent footwork.

“We live in a global society and while HBCUs have a historical mission to reach underserved individuals in the U.S., there really is a much broader community,” said Tanya Tatum, director of student health services.

The festival was held for the fourth year in a row and Tatum has seen an increase in participation from the students and community. Over the course of four years, the festival has served to bring cultural awareness to the campus and it’s surrounding area through the arts of music and dance.

It has promoted the importance of education and healthy lifestyle choices while partnering the lesson of cultural acceptance.

“This is the fourth year we’ve done it so we have some things in place, there’s been an increase in participation…,” said Tatum.

Boards sat up and displayed facts about the culture and lifestyles of various countries such as Trinidad, Haiti, Africa.

Other boards along with pamphlets and flyers laid across tables focused on the promotion of healthy living and the importance of cultural diversity.

Vendors came and showed their support to participate in the growth of the festival and cultural acceptance.

Davis served as a representative for the Frenchtown Heritage Hub, his table and team passed out free samples of an all natural smoothie with ingredients from their garden to promote healthier living.

“Overall the different types of foods at the tables that was the biggest surprise, the different textures of everything  was really interesting, and getting to see the different styles of music and dance,” said Demetruis Davis in regards to what captured him the most at the festival.

With an increase in participation from students, Chase Barry decided to take part in the celebration of diversity.

“If I could change anything it needs to be on a bigger scale for people who don’t go to HBCUs to get them involved,” said Chase Barry, a graduating health leisure and fitness senior.

Barry is from Lake City, Fl and refers to his home as less than diverse, which reinforced his statement for the festival on a larger scale.

Participants walked away with full stomachs, and a lesson in the acceptance and appreciation of  different cultures outside of their own.