BY SAMANTHA MOULTON ’22
A group of community advisors from Wilder Hall gathered in the Great Room of Blanchard Campus Center to set up for Multicultural Night on Thursday, April 11. Several groups were responsible for making the evening possible, particularly Residential Life, who sponsored the event. The CAs planned the event in accordance with the College’s Living Learning Communities, (LLCs) including the Arts, Mi Gente, Mosaic and Shirley Chisholm floors, among others.
Zarrin Tashnim ’19, Multicultural Night’s head coordinator, said the initial idea for the event came from “a desire to celebrate our communities’ differences. We initially debated making it just for students of color but then realized we wanted it to be a space that was inclusive, but also allowed people to learn new things.” She added, “We want people to share histories and the importance of their identities. This is a space to be comfortable to celebrate people’s differences. We tried to get as many cultures as possible to be represented, from food to performances.”
The food came from a variety of local restaurants including Sabpor Latino, Pita Pockets, Prias Indian and Golden Crust, according to Tashnim. She also commented on the importance of giving students the chance to try new foods and the opportunity to provide connections between Mount Holyoke and local businesses.
Shreya Nair ’22 said of the friends she was in attendance with, “Well these three dragged me out, mostly for the food — that’s why we came.” She added, “This is just a nice space for students to mix from various LLCs and lots of different ethnic and cultural groups on campus.”
“I wanted to come for food and the performance[s],” said Zhané Bady-Puig ’22. “We miss our home food, we miss our culture. We miss the cultural music. It’s a different vibe being here tonight; the vibe is more inclusive and it reminds me of being home, which is a great energy.”
The night’s official performances included spoken word poetry and singing from students. The former Coordinator of Student Programs and Events, Ymani Francis ’16, spoke to start things off. “I am just really excited to be here,” Francis began. “One of the major things I’m excited about being back at Mount Holyoke [for] is to cultivate interactions outside of the typical actions that characterize our everyday lives which are so stratified.” Francis added, “Tonight, I will mostly be talking about the energy of community, and what it’s like to talk and interact with culture on a daily basis. I graduated in 2016. I came back because I wanted to share me and all the growing I’ve done outside of Mount Holyoke, and to let students see someone who looks like them in a position where they can be helped.”
It was particularly important to Tashnim that Francis was able to give remarks. “Her goal is to address how to put so many different cultures together and how we organize the conversations around this,” she said. “Having her speak at this event is so special. I hope that this will inspire people to feel like Mount Holyoke is their campus and feel that this community is not just 200-year-old traditions, but something that is inclusive and growing.”
Several more student performances carried the energy of the evening. Camila Blanco ’22, Anisha Pai ’19 and Mirushe Bora Zylali ’21 all performed powerful poems that spoke to their cultures and experiences as part of the Mount Holyoke community.
“I have spent the past year contemplating community; when do we enter it and when do we leave it,” said Francis for the closing remarks. “Lately I have stopped trying to define it. What I think is much more important is how we interact with it and how we show up. I am glad to be here to share this energy with you.”