The Ethnic Fair taking place in the Mini-gym this Saturday is a great opportunity to experience different cultures through food, dance and other activities. But the Multicultural Awareness Department hopes that you will take home more than just a full stomach and a few new dance moves.
“Now is the time for Northwestern to move into the next level,” said sophomore Nicky Dutt, one of four Multicultural Connection Interns (MCCI) on campus employed by funds from the Lilly Grant, working to promote a deeper level of multicultural awareness among students.
“The MCA [Multicultural Awareness] Club and the I-club were united under the umbrella of Leom [Hebrew word for “the people”] this year. Our mission is to broaden perspectives of students and make them more aware,” said Dutt.
There are three levels of culture that the Multicultural Awareness department wants to stress on campus: concrete, behavior and symbolic. Moving students, faculty and staff beyond the first level of the concrete interaction, where one interacts with songs, food or dancing from a culture, is the new focus of the department.“Levels two and three are much deeper; they explore social roles, language, values, beliefs . . . it’s not just identifying the difference, but finding out why they’re different,” explained Dutt.
The Multicultural Affairs Department, now in just its second year, is working to orchestrate this journey into the deeper meanings of culture.Through the Lilly Grant, they have contracted Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil, president of Overflow Ministries, to work with our campus to accomplish these goals. Salter-McNeil focuses on racial reconciliation on campuses across the nation.
Dutt and the other MCCIs, juniors Angie Nearpass, April Olivares and Shahyan Qureshi, will be presenting this weekend at a workshop for the Leadership Conference held on campus. They will discuss why now is the time for NW to move beyond this first level of cultural engagement and tell leaders on campus why it is their duty as leaders and as Christians to work towards this.“The world is changing,” said Multicultural Affairs coordinator Anila Karunakar. “Our world is such a blend of cultures and its important to know what colors the world. It’s high time that we reach beyond, ‘Oh, that’s a cool outfit, or ‘I like that music.’ Music and food is a part of you, but doesn’t tell anyone who you are.”
“The first level of cultural interaction is ‘essential,’” said Dutt. “The ethnic fair is a good way to do that, but after that, we need to move beyond. It’s a part of this whole education for your whole life that we’re getting at NW.”
As Dutt and the other MCCIs prepare to partake in the Ethnic Fair festivities and talk to students at the Leadership Conference this weekend, one verse is guiding their ways, Matthew 5:24: “Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
“This is not speaking just about your neighbor, but everyone throughout the world. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ. It asks you to look past your differences, past what your country is doing to their country and vice versa, but reconciling so that you can go to God.”