By Oscar Docavo
In honor of the diverse cultures that make up the Brooklyn College community, a Cultural Explosion event was thrown by the Student Activities, Involvement, and Leadership (SAIL) Center on Thursday, Sept. 7. Over 190 attendees were greeted by the aroma of food from Latin America, the Caribbean, The Southern United States, the Middle East, Italy, and West Africa.
“The event was really cool. In general, you don’t really get exposed to different cultures that often, or you might know someone from a different culture but you might not know their cultural food,” said Basamat Hamdan, a sophomore at BC and a member of the Muslim Women Educational Initiative.
The sixth floor of the Student Center was packed with 13 participating clubs and departments. The student-led clubs in attendance included the African Student Union, Black History Month Committee, Black Student Union, Caribbean Student Union, Muslim Women Educational Initiative, and the Russian Speaking Jewish Club. There were also five departments from Brooklyn College present: the Black and Latino Male Initiative, CUNY Edge, the Immigrant Student Success Office, the LGBTQ Resource Center, and Tanger Hillel.
The event began with a few words from Charles Amerson, the director of SAIL, before the dancing started and the food was served. Assistant Director for Student Diversity Initiatives Renée Straker made it very clear that it was a top priority to make students feel welcomed back to campus – not only as a member of the Brooklyn College community, but as a member of whatever culture they are from.
“For the past six or seven years, we’ve been hosting the Diversity Awareness Fair to bring awareness of the diversity that’s represented in our campus community,” Straker said in a written statement. “Each year, there’s a theme selected to emphasize the goal of the event. This year, I wanted to highlight how rich the campus is with cultures and ethnic backgrounds and religious affiliations.”
Attendees were treated to a live DJ playing music that featured genres such as Afrobeats, dancehall, bachata, and contemporary American music. The smell of the fresh food filled one room, while another room was filled with dancing and music right across the hall. There were also designated tables for each of the clubs and departments in the room where the music was playing.
Justin Howard, a Puerto Rican and Black American who is a sophomore at BC and a member of the Phi Sigma Chi multicultural fraternity, was pleased with the music and the food being served. “So far, the highlights have been the music choice. It’s been a variety. We have some Spanish. We had some Socha. We had some dancehall,” said Howard. Additionally, the falafel and jerk chicken options seemed to be two of the most popular items on the menu. “The food is bussin’!” Howard said.
Though the event itself was a success, there were obstacles along the way. A surging heat wave in Brooklyn forced organizers to change locations. Originally scheduled for the outdoors on the West Quad lawn, SAIL had to move the event indoors for the safety of all those attending.
For Yemeni American Mohamed Ghaleb, a freshman at BC, the event was a resounding success. “I like the dancing, the music, the hecticness,” he said, gleefully describing the Cultural Explosion. Ghaleb was born in Yemen but has lived in Brooklyn for almost his entire life. When asked if he felt that Brooklyn College supported his culture, Ghaleb responded enthusiastically, praising the college’s commitment to groups like the Muslim Women Educational Initiative. “I just learned about it and it’s beautiful. I actually gave them a round of applause!”
Now that the campus is once again as lively as it was before COVID-19, Brooklyn College’s eager students can look forward to more events hosted by organizations like SAIL.