Last Saturday, April 8th, 2017, Loomis students and faculty celebrated the the annual Cultural Outburst, a tradition where students with different backgrounds dress up in their native outfits and set up tables that represent the food and traditions of their hometowns. Delicious food, amazing music, colorful posters, and interesting decorations at the Cultural Outburst turned the snug into a collective melting pot for various cultures.
To many international students on campus, Cultural Outburst is an opportunity to reintroduce their home countries, cultures, and identities to the community. This cultural experience tightened the bond among students by allowing them to learn more about the cultural origins of each other. “I thought it was very colorful, fun, and bright,” said Kalina Szemraj’19, “it seemed like a cool and inclusive event.”
The creative designs of each cultural display delighted every sense of our spectators. Ifteda Ahmed-Syed ’17, who directed the South Asian booth, described in detail, “I wanted to try a few new ideas, such as changes in food options and the Bollywood Dance mini-lesson. But I also want to enhance some “tried and true” features of the booth: samose, traditional attire, and mehendi.” Ifteda’s booth and dance lessons surely won her an enthusiastic crowd, but she hoped to accomplish more than that. “I enjoy expressing my heritage regularly, and [I want to] make an active effort to educate others on mehendi/henna to reduce false appropriation and increase a precision. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to represent Bangladesh at Loomis,” said Ifteda.
For students who were not hosts for any table, a common first impression of Cultural Outburst is “a place for more food.” Food is indeed an important part of almost every culture, and it soon attracted many students to the snug and filled the place with a hungry, excited crowd. However, besides filling their stomachs with special, authentic treats, the students also learned about the traditions or customs of different cultures. “The Cultural Outburst event fun and eye-opening,” said Lily Verna’19, a native New Englander from The Pine Tree State. “It was so cool to see many different countries and cultures represented,” Lily reflected. Walking around the carefully decorated tables, talking to students from different regions, enjoying the food and music, students submerged themselves in a diverse environment as if they had taken a cultural journey around the world. “I felt like I entered my own wonderland that allowed me to stuff my face with delicious food,” said Kelsey Lee’20.
The guest musicians’ performance brought the evening to its pinnacle. “I wanted performers who were dynamic and who would invited audience participation, so I reached out to percussionists who know their craft very well and who know rhythms from many places in the world,” said Elizabeth Parada, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, who invited these passionate music-makers to the Island. “I loved their work, and it was especially glad to locate a female percussionist. There are not many women who are professional percussionists and I was glad to be introduced to Lisette Santiago and her work!” Ms. Parada was especially excited to invite Mr. Heshima back, who hosted a series of workshops and concerts on the Island back in the fall over the Hispanic Heritage Month. “He made a great and positive impression among those he worked with, so it was easy to invite him back as well,” said Ms. Parada.
With delicious food, cultural exchanges and vivid music, Loomis students eventually left after a meaningful night with a memorable experience.