The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) hosted their first ever Culture Festival on Saturday, Feb. 19.
Having moved from country to country as a child, USG Associate Treasurer Lamisa Musarat said she got the idea of initiating a culture festival during her time in Japan, where a local university hosted an annual international festival.
“Basically, cultures from around that region would come together once a year, just to celebrate everyone’s culture. There would be a showcase of performances and singing. Then, they would also have food trucks … everyone would go around and try different foods from every local place.”
In 2020, USA Today ranked Stony Brook University (SBU) as the ninth most diverse university in America. In 2021 SBU recorded 7,592 Asian, 2,627 Hispanic or Latino and 1,670 Black or African American enrolled students.
With a large range of students with various cultural backgrounds at SBU, Musarat was “shocked” to realize that SBU didn’t have a large-scale culture festival already. Major events done by USG are not typically geared towards diversity and inclusion, says co-chair of the cultural event and Executive Assistant for the USG Office of Student Life Tanisa Rahman. However, she thinks initiatives like this coming directly out of USG will bring more students to diversity, equity and inclusion focused events.
“I think it’s nice that students are now heading this initiative and coordinating this for once,” Rahman said.
Cultures ranging from east to west and north to south can be found at SBU, yet many events geared towards diversity seem to be focused on one specific culture.
“Although we have so many different cultural events, it’s kind of secluded. So there might be an East Asian night or a South Asian night and whenever you do go to these events, it’s more of that demographic that goes,” Musarat said.
In hopes that this festival will bring multiple cultures celebrated under one roof, the event consisted of two parts: The Cultural Showcase and the Snacks Around the World.
Performances by Jubilé Latino, KBS Dance Team, SBU Bhangra, Philippine United Student Organization and more organizations occured in the first half of the event.
The performances were not only fun and entertaining, but also sentimental.
“You don’t want to lose yourself in a school like this, even though it is diverse. Just because you have diversity doesn’t mean that you’re celebrating diversity. So we’re gonna draw in on a lot of these messages throughout the show, ” Rahman said.
The second half of the day included cultural information booths constructed by various cultural organizations such as Caribbean Student Organization, Pakistani Student Association, Korean Student Association and many more, with activities originating from various parts of the world made available for students to explore.
Makeshift passports were given to students as they walked through the door, allowing them to “travel around the world” by touring the various cultural organizations’ information booths. Those who interacted with an organization’s activity were given a stamp on their passport. Once five stamps were achieved, students were able to make their way to the food section.
Prior to attending the event, students were encouraged to dress up in their own cultures’ traditional clothing. USG Sen. Nistha Boghra believes that the event gave students a good excuse to dress up for the day.
“For a lot of international students or students who have a history from other countries around the world, they’re living here and they don’t get to see their family as often. Now they get to bring that part of their culture and show it off, as well. So I think dressing up is just as important as anything else,” Boghra said.
Though there is a 500 person capacity, the Culture Festival was free to all students who were interested in attending. Within the first week of USG opening the tickets up to the student body the event sold out. Musarat, Rahman and Boghra hope the festival will become an annual event for years to come.