DU’s Culture Fest celebrates diversity

While doing research for my issues story on the lack of racial and ethnic diversity and representation at DU, I discovered on DU’s “Quick Facts” page the Fall 2014 first-year class has only 20.5% students of color, with no further breakdown provided. This compelled me to dig deeper to try to understand what life at DU is like from the perspective of a student of color. I found that while it might be hard sometimes to have your voice heard, there are multiple diverse communities at DU that strengthen and empower these underrepresented student voices. One day that unites and celebrates the many diverse DU student backgrounds, organizations, associations, and alliances on campus is Culture Fest.

Culture Fest (formerly known as Festival of Nations) is an annual event held at DU that invites the DU community (and even the greater Denver area) to explore and gain insight in to some of the cultural backgrounds of students that you might not hear from everyday. Growing up, I had a Festival of Nations celebration at my elementary and middle school every year where students were assigned a country to research and present on, which was fun to do but limiting on firsthand experience of the assigned culture. Culture Fest at DU is much more knowledgeable and interactive because you can learn about various cultures from people who actually come from these places people are used to just Googling about to learn more information.

Culture can be embodied in many ways, but the people at the event were my main focus. Their sense of pride is what excited me the most and compelled me to talk with them about their origins and learn about the similarities and differences American culture might share with their own. It was hard to capture the entire event because there was so much going on at once! It almost made me forget how small their (people of color’s) presence is on campus, because there were so many people from the same country bonding over their culture and sharing it with the rest of the DU community.

I tried to capture just how busy the event was; it reminded me of a beehive because there were a ton of people weaving in and out of the different booths and stations, all with one goal in mind: learning about cultures different from their own (and eating a TON of foreign food)!  Culture Fest wouldn’t have been the same if it were just cardboard tri-folds with printed out information glued to the panels; the people made the event the success that it was.

It was difficult capturing some action shots like the belly dancing routine or the students playing in the ball pit because I used my iPhone 6 to photograph the event. I can’t set the shutter speed to slow down the camera, and sometimes when I tried to set the camera focus on a person or a booth, the camera would dim and a couple of shots turned out darker than I would have liked, such as the Driscoll Ballroom shot of the tabling student organizations.  I’m not very tech savvy (and have actually broken a friend’s Nikon before), but maybe next time I’ll try using a higher quality camera where I can set the shutter speed and more finely tune the brightness in a shot.

The students I interviewed for my first story talked about the sense of community they feel in the student alliances they belong to (Asian Student Alliance, Black Student Alliance, and Latino Student Alliance, to name a few) and it was a privilege to engage with them all in one day to learn about where they come from. I think culture, and sometimes diversity, can be taken for granted depending on one’s ethnic background because it’s not something that you realize may be missing from one’s everyday life. Culture Fest does a good job of bringing students’ ethnic and cultural backgrounds to light in order to unify and educate other DU students, albeit it being for one day. Although the event is held once a year, culture is lived, embodied, and practiced every day of the year.

2 Responses to DU’s Culture Fest celebrates diversity

  • Mackenzie Dykes
    Mackenzie Dykes says:

    All of your photos did a great job of showing the lively hood and variety that was at Culture Fest. You did an excellent job of capturing casual and candid moments of people interacting with each other, while your close ups of food and posters gave us a look at all the great details of the event. Your captions did an excellent job describing what was in the photo giving us a real sense of being at the event as well.

  • Kaylee Lino
    Kaylee Lino says:

    You did a great job, with the photos you took I could totally get the feel of the culture fest and I didn’t even need to go! So that’s great.The only thing I would have done differently is maybe change up the format of your captions. A way that put it more into the picture without the white box, just variety.

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