GV hosts annual Intercultural Festival

GVL / Amanda Greenwood

Henna was a popular booth during the Intercultural Festival

Amanda Greenwood

GVL / Amanda Greenwood Henna was a popular booth during the Intercultural Festival

Becky Spaulding

On March 26, Grand Valley State University held its annual Intercultural Festival in Kirkhof’s Grand River Room. Students and staff gathered to watch traditional dances, enjoy a variety of food from different cultures, and learn more about the different cultures at GVSU.

“The goal is to expose our guests to a variety of different cultures,” said Aris Montopoulos, cultural and campus programs graduate assistant in the Office of Student Life or organizer of the event.

Different on-campus organizations had tables at the event, including Students for Haiti, the Padnos International Center, Study Abroad Alumni Association, the Chess Club, the Japanese Culture Club, the GVSU Team Against Bias and GVSU’s gay –straight alliance, Out ‘N About. The members of Out ‘N About worked for three weeks on their club’s presentation, said Leslie Boker, who is on their E-Board.

Their tables were filled with information about types of sexual identities – some that not everyone may be aware of.

“I think (the information table) is the most important part of (the event) for us,” said Amanda Grant, vice president of Out ‘N About. “Because people don’t know how to interact with LGBT people sometimes, they can’t face us in the real world until they meet us. It’s making us human to some people.”

The event featured a variety of dances from different cultures, including Capoeira Mandinga, Okinawan dance, Ghanaian dance-drumming – where members of the crowd were able to join in, and belly dancing, among others.

There was also a world trivia segment, hosted by the Padnos International Center’s Marvis Herring.

The trivia event included questions about different countries’ leaders, sports and traditions, and all attendees were invited to participate. The event is about more than entertainment, though, said Alissa Lane, outreach coordinator for the PIC.

“I think that everyone recognizes how important diversity is, but we don’t always get a chance to celebrate it,” Lane said. “So I think something like this takes it beyond just diversity for diversity’s sake – it’s actually getting to celebrate each other’s cultures, and learn about things other people are interested in, and really just recognize how far Grand Valley has come as far as what the cultural opportunities are on campus for students.”

It gives people a chance to get involved with other areas of interest, or just to see that it’s out there, Lane said.

“For us (the PIC) the study abroad aspect fits in,” she said. “We’re always trying to send people away to get them out into the world, to go out and experience other cultures first hand – but a lot of that can be done right here at Grand Valley as well.”

The event allowed an open dialogue between groups and attendees about culture and identity, and exposed some to food, music and ideas they may not have known about previously.

“Sometimes people just stick with who they’re familiar with, but I think events like this kind of gets you out of that comfort zone,” Lane said. “You don’t just see people just sticking with their own organization, they have friends in other organizations … (it’s about) running into things you wouldn’t have otherwise, and it’s way beyond just a celebration.”