Twenty-one campus organizations participated in the first annual Community Roots Festival held on Ring Road on Nov. 5.
The event, which was hosted by the Cross-Cultural Center (CCC) and supported by the Office of Student Affairs and Student Life & Leadership, seeks to celebrate the diversity of UCI and to educate students about different cultures. Each year the festival’s activities revolve around a set theme and this year’s theme was “Uprooting our Stories and Planting Truths.”
“The festival has always been a signature program of the Cross-Cultural Center that began back in 1984,” said Jade Turner, Student Development Coordinator at the CCC. “Formerly known as Rainbow Festival, we changed the name this year to better reflect the goal of the festival and of all the organizations celebrating and educating the campus community about their cultural roots through food, murals and other displays.”
CCC Assistant Director Darlene Esparza added that the festival encourages students to learn about the values the different organizations represent. Students who went from booth to booth to ask questions won a free CCC plastic water bottle.
The highlight of the event for students was the opportunity to try different ethnic cuisines. The organizations either made their ethnic dishes together or supported local restaurants.
“We are selling corn-beef sliders, which we are preparing as a club at this booth, because we believe they represent our Filipino culture well,” said Amberleen DeLeon, member of the Kababayan Filipino-American organization. “We enjoy this event because it allows us to teach other students about our food and culture.”
The link between food and culture was also revealed by other clubs and enthusiastically enjoyed by participants.
“My favorite part of the event is selling and trying different cultural items and dishes,” said Sandy Johnson, who assists with the internal outreach efforts of the Black Student Union.
Dreams at UCI, an organization that serves to support the rights of immigrant students, sold out pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish made of corn tortilla, meat, beans and cheese, within thirty minutes. The selection of the dish not only reflected the cultural diversity of the event but also the relevance of immigration issues for South and Central America.
“We picked a dish from El Salvador because often times we think that students who are struggling with immigration are Mexicans, and although this is majority of the time, we rarely give focus to Central American or South American immigrants,” said Chris Galeano, who serves the education and advocacy efforts of Dreams at UCI.
In addition to selling samosas, the famous fried pastry of India, the Indian Sub Continental Club also applied henna designs.
“Henna is traditionally applied on very happy occasions,” said Shreya Patel, who directs traditional Indian dance for the club. “We wanted to share this joyful tradition with other students as well.”
At the end of the event, the CCC announced the winners of the mural contest, in which participating organizations interpreted and displayed the theme from their respective cultural perspective. The Hmong Student Association placed 1st and received a $250 prize, the Southeast Asian Student placed 2nd and received a $150 prize and Jodaiko placed 3rd and received a $75 prize.
“The best part of the mural was bonding with our club members, of course, and being able to show others the hidden stories of the Hmong people that not many know about,” said Melinda Vang, secretary of the Hmong Student Association. “We will be using the prize money for our high school outreach program, which empowers Hmong students to strive for higher education.”
“The Community Roots Festival really showed me just how diverse our campus is,” said Sabrina Kuo, a first-year Public Health Science major. “I am eagerly looking forward to next year’s festival.”